autoevolution
 

John Dodd's "The Beast" Is a Unicorn Custom Car Powered by a 27-Liter Merlin Aero Engine

Custom cars are a dime a dozen, but none is as special as John Dodd’s The Beast, one of the most famous custom cars ever built in Britain and a legend in the international automotive world.
The Beast by John Dodd 29 photos
Photo: Car and Classic
The Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John DoddThe Beast by John Dodd
A one-off build, The Beast became a legendary classic car due to its bonkers specifications, including a 19-foot-long (5.9-meter) body, a 27-liter aircraft engine guzzling eight pints of fuel per minute, and a weight of two tons (4,409 pounds).

Built in an era when no one bothered about “numbers matching” and enthusiasts building custom cars only cared about following the latest and craziest trends and outdoing the next guy, The Beast was even recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most powerful car in 1977.

Famous for its monstrous 27-liter (1,650 cu in) V12 Rolls-Royce Merlin engine - the same used in the Spitfire and Hurricane fighter aircraft that played a crucial role in the air victories in the Battle of Britain - the car also impresses with its unusual looks and elongated proportions.

The Beast by John Dodd
Photo: Car and Classic
It might sound like a crazy idea today, but putting an engine designed for aviation in a road car was not something that unusual in the 1970s. If we dig even deeper in history, we find the 1905 Darraq V8 Special or the 1933 Napier-Railton that prove the idea has been an appealing one for a long time. However, John Dodd’s creation is different because he didn’t build it with the intention to enter races or break records but purely as a personal project.

The Beast you see in the photos attached to this article is actually the second iteration of the one-off car. The original one suffered extensive damage to the body and engine in a fire in 1974 whilst Dodd was returning from a visit to the King of Sweden, who wanted to see the bonkers vehicle in person.

The Beast started life in 1966 as a custom rolling chassis created by fellow engineer Paul Jameson and initially featured a Rolls-Royce Meteor tank engine. Dodd was the man contracted to build an automated transmission for the car, and he ended up buying the project and finishing the vehicle himself.

He endowed it with a huge fiberglass body made by a company named Fibre Glass Repairs and painted it red, along with a Rolls-Royce Corniche grille and emblem. Because the engine and the grille up front were bearing the Rolls-Royce brand, Dodd called the resulting car a Rolls-Royce (what else?), which didn’t sit well with the luxury car maker who later filed a lawsuit against him.

The Beast by John Dodd
Photo: Car and Classic
After the fire incident, Dodd decided to rebuild the car using the insurance payout. He basically had to build every part of the car from scratch, and this time, he fitted it with the aforementioned Merlin V12 aero engine and a Silver Shadow grille. The car’s body was built by the same Kent-based company that made the first one. This second fiberglass body features a unique front end, while the rear takes inspiration from the popular shooting brake designs of the era. It also got a fresh paintwork in the iconic beige it boasts today.

When Rolls-Royce won the court case, Dodd flew to Spain. His beloved creation joined him a few years later, and that’s when the grille was changed to what you see on the car today, with John’s initials front and center.

Equipped with the new Merlin V12, the car was rumored to be capable of making between 750 hp and 1,000 hp (761 and 1,014 ps), with 760 lb-ft (1,030 Nm) of torque. It is also said to be capable of double that amount if refitted with the original supercharger. When the Guinness Book of World Records named it the most powerful car in the world in 1977, it said The Beast “exceeded 200 mph [322 kph] on many occasions on Continental roads.”

What we know for sure is that the RAC measured the car at 183 mph (295 kph) in 1973, but there are reports claiming it could hit a maximum speed of 260 mph (418 kph). The exact performance in its current state is not known.

The Beast by John Dodd
Photo: Car and Classic
As for the interior of the car, it features just two bucket seats, and given that the rebuilt body is longer than the first, there is plenty of rear load space. There is also a custom sculpted dash, a bank of red rocker switches to control the massive mill, and a bespoke steering wheel with the “JD” letters embossed in the center.

John Dodd passed away at the end of last year, and his family is now looking for a new home for his beloved car. Showing just over 10,000 miles (16,093 km) on the odometer and in full running condition, The Beast is scheduled to roll across the auction block on March 9. We certainly wish the highest bidder would regularly use it on the road as John Dodd did, but we can’t help but pity them for the dent gas expenses will put on their finances.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram X (Twitter)
About the author: Ancuta Iosub
Ancuta Iosub profile photo

After spending a few years as a copy editor, Ancuta decided to put down the eraser and pick up the writer's pencil. Her favorites subjects are unusual car designs, travel trailers and everything related to the great outdoors.
Full profile

 

Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories