The Beast With a 27-litre Spitfire Engine Sells for $90,000

The Beast is a legendary 1970s muscle car powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 airplane engine that can produce over 750hp and has a fuel consumption of around 2.35 mpg. 

The tale of The Beast began in 1966 when English engineer Paul Jameson decided to find out what would happen if someone put a tank engine in a street-legal custom car. As one would!

Jameson hand-made a custom rolling chassis for the car. He fitted it with a Rolls-Royce Meteor tank engine. Then, Jameson turned to transmission expert John Dodd to commission an automated transmission for the unique vehicle.

Dodd was fascinated by Jameson’s idea. Hence, when their original creator put the project on hold, Dodd bought it from the creator and finished it himself. As a result, the passion project became known as one of the most impressive automotive projects in English history.

The Beast
The Beast powered by a Spitfire Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 airplane engine. Impressive.

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Dodd completed The Beast in 1972; this was after he completed the transmission for the car. After that, he ordered a custom fiberglass body with a hood – almost as long as the rest of the vehicle to accommodate the giant engine. 

The unique appearance of the car and its technical specifications made it an absolute beauty. It drew the attention of both passers-by and seasoned motorists.

The Beast was featured on many television shows and at various events across Europe. However, disaster struck in 1974 when returning from a trip to Sweden when this one-of-a-kind vehicle caught fire.

The Rebuild: Bigger is better

While being transported from a car show, The Beast turned to flames. The damage was so extensive that Dodd had to rebuild virtually from scratch. But Dodd did not give up. 

He fitted the car with a Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 airplane engine which had powered the Spitfire and Hurricane fighter aircraft during World War Two’s Battle of Britain!

Merlin engine
A look under the hood. The Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 engine that powered the Beast.

Moreover, Dodd commissioned a huge fiberglass body from Fibreglass Repairs, which had also built the first one, and created a custom grill for The Beast. 

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The rebuild was named the most powerful car in the world by the Guinness Records in 1977. There were rumours that The Beast could reach a top speed of up to 260 mph (418 kph). However, its actual performance is still unknown.

Rolls-Royce takes Dodd to court

In both incarnations, the car used Rolls-Royce grilles, badges, and hood ornaments, none of which were authorized by the company.

The Beast was brought to the attention of Rolls-Royce, who took Dodd to court after he refused to remove their radiator grille, badges, and the Spirit of Ecstasy. 

After a heavily publicized trial, Dodd lost the court case. As a result, Rolls-Royce’s trademarked features were removed. The grille was replaced with one bearing Dodd’s “JD” initials.

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Around this time, Dodd moved to live in southern Spain, continuing to use the car and regularly driving it long distances to automotive shows until his death in December 2022.

The Aftermath

Eventually, Dodd fled Britain and settled in Spain after Rolls Royce won a lawsuit against him for describing The Beast as a Rolls Royce. But unfortunately, he also took his unique project with him. 

Dodd never sold it. After he passed away last year, his family decided to auction off The Beast. It has over 10,000 miles (16,093 km) on the odometer and is in perfect working condition.

1974 The Beast
Dodds’ Beast in its earliest form showing the Rolls-Royce grill and badge which landed him in hot water.

“Well, we can tell you firsthand that the earth shakes when The Beast fires into life. No hyperbole, no sales talk; you can feel it shake everything around it. It is LOUD,” the Car and Classic auction house said about the unique car.

“The engine is the symphony of mechanical noise you would expect from a war-era engine. It’s exciting, captivating, and even slightly scary, but in a good way. Like a 183 mph roller coaster, if you will.”

The Swandean Spitfire Special
The Swandean Spitfire Special built with a Merlin XXV engine acquired from a scrap yard for a mere £140!.

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The online auction for The Beast ended with a winning bid of £72,500 ($87,800). 

The Swandean Spitfire Special 

Dodds was not the first creation of this type however. Michael Wilcock of Sussex, England, built the Swandean Spitfire Special using a Merlin XXV engine acquired from a scrap yard for a mere £140!.

The engine was installed in a home-made chassis made of two Daimler Dingo scout car chassis. The car was run in the Brighton Speed Trials in 1953 and sold to James Duffy of St. Louis, undergoing restoration.