The Rolls-Royce Merlin, a 27-liter V-12 initially developed in the 1930s and made famous as the most iconic engine of World War II, is a particularly nice thing to look at. The 1800 pound Merlin makes a great collector's piece on its own, which is the duty RM Sotheby's recommends for a non-running unit restored for display set to sell in June. We have a more interesting idea.
The world of engine swaps is an adventurous place, and few engine swaps are more adventurous than combining military-spec power to a car, any car at all. But, for the ultra-committed, the project is possible. On at least two separate occasions, someone has successfully put a 1930s Rolls-Royce V-12 into a road car. Jay Leno's car, a 1934 chassis with a custom aluminum body, features a Merlin just like this. The other, a Ford Crown Victoria, is powered by a related Rolls-Royce Meteor sourced from a tank. Now, this brilliantly-restored Merlin V-12 offers the blank slate opportunity to create a car just as absurd as those.
There are, of course, some issues with this plan. Both Leno and Daniel Werner, the Crown Victoria's owner, quickly found that putting an engine with industrial goals into a road car is significantly more difficult than simply dropping the motor in and calling it a day. Leno's car was a 25-year project that effectively required a ground-up build around the engine, while Werner claims that his Crown Victoria will simply burn through its own coolant if it runs for too long. Any project built around this engine will inevitably require some serious sacrificing of the elements that make a car useful.
There is also the matter of the engine itself. This unit is currently built for display, with camshaft damage noted in the 1980s relegating it to non-running duty. Serious mechanical work may be needed in addition to the purchase price, but "serious mechanical work" is the central theme of a Merlin swap anyway.
RM Sotheby's estimates that this Merlin will sell for between $22,000 and $33,000, although shipping the behemoth from where it is currently listed in Liechtenstein is likely to be no small expense, either. If you had the time and money to commit to the project, where would you put this absurd feat of interwar engineering?
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