Ultimate Toy: 1949 Rolls-Royce Merlin Engine

It is hard to know whether this 1949 Rolls-Royce Merlin engine would rate as one of the ultimate man-cave items that we’ve seen here at Barn Finds, or whether an enthusiast is likely to buy the engine for use in a classic plane restoration. Either way, someone is potentially about to become the owner of one of the most iconic aircraft engines ever built, which is currently located at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, Cambridge, in the UK. The Merlin is listed for sale here at H&H Classics and is scheduled to go under the hammer on October 16th. The guide price for the Merlin is between £35,000 and £45,000, which on current exchange rates, converts to between US$44,100 and US$56,800.

First seeing production in 1936, the 27-liter, or 1,650ci V12 Merlin engine initially produced a “mere” 890hp. However, the ongoing development of the engine accelerated during World War II, when it was the staple engine for the majority of British combat aircraft. This development saw power soar to 1,800hp, while later developments saw power outputs exceed 2,000hp. The Merlin is most commonly associated with use in the Supermarine Spitfire, but it did see service in a multitude of other craft. Its uses weren’t always confined to aviation, with a modified version of the engine called the Rolls-Royce Meteor (later the Rover Meteor), seeing service in British tanks until 1964.

This particular engine was produced in 1949 and saw no combat duty. It was fitted to either a Canadair North Star, or to the North Star’s BOAC variant, the Argonaut. This was a development of the Douglas DC-4 and saw significant civilian use. Since its flying days ended, the engine has been painstakingly rebuilt over a 2-year period and has then been mounted on a custom trailer, complete with radiator, engine controls, and a Hamilton 3-blade propeller. It can now be fired-up in its current guise and is guaranteed to attract attention wherever it goes. However, starting the engine inside a man-cave would probably be a fairly unwise move, unless you have the intention of relocating the cave’s contents to the next town rather quickly!

It is hard to know just what the next owner will eventually do with the mighty Merlin. With close to 160,000 engines being built during the production life, they were an enormously successful engine. The jet age soon rendered them obsolete, and while it isn’t clear just how many engines remain in existence today, it is known that the numbers have dwindled significantly. My own feeling is that the ultimate destiny of this engine lies in a museum somewhere, although, with the growth in popularity of classic and vintage combat aircraft, it could well find its way into a restored Spitfire. Whatever its ultimate destination, I just hope that this beautiful piece of engineering gets kicked into life once in awhile.


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  1. John

    Drop that as a rear mount into a Vista Cruiser.😁

    Like 8
  2. Don H

    Rat Rod , mines bigger😁

    Like 6
  3. MorganW Morgan Winter Member

    Thousands of these were built by Packard during the war, mostly for use in P-51 Mustangs.

    Like 17
    • 86_Vette_Convertible

      Didn’t they also use the Packards in PT Boats?

      Like 3
      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        Yes, along with Allison’s at one time I’m told..the Allison was used in the first versions of the P51 but couldn’t fight at higher altitudes as well as the Rolls.

        Like 4
      • BR

        Yes, but Allison’s were never used in PT or AVR boats. Just hydroplanes afaik.

        There was also a diesel variant used in minesweepers, V-12 and V-16.

      • geomechs geomechs Member

        The Brits were actually the ones to fit the Merlin into the Mustang. They said that the Mustang was a wonderful airplane but needed ‘A Little More Poke.’ North American caught on right away and that’s when Packard was contracted to build the Merlin. The last of the Razorbacks and all of the Bubblebacks had this engine. They say about $55K to rebuild one of these; the prop will probably cost another $15K to certify–not cheap.

        Go north of where I live, into Alberta, Canada, there’s a museum called the ‘Bomber Command.’ They have restored a Lancaster bomber and numerous smaller airplanes. They are working on many more projects as well. It is a worthwhile trip if you’re ever headed up toward Calgary.

        Like 10
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        About four times a year they pull that bomber out and fire those engines up. It always gathers a crowd. They’ve got this one restored to taxi status but due to the fact that there are only two in the world in flying status, plus the massive amount of red tape, not to mention that there are very few who would have the qualifications to certify it for flight, the decision has been made to keep it in taxi condition. And I guess that’s OK with me. It reduces the risk and allows many to see it. https://www.bombercommandmuseum.ca/

        Like 10
      • Terry R Melvin

        Yes, also they are also still being used in piston unlimited hydroplanes, being more powerful than the Allisons.

        Like 1
    • Ken

      The Tillamook Air Museum had a Packard Merlin on display both times I was there (2002 and 2013). All of the World War II planes on display there were relocated to different museums several years ago, so I don’t know if it’s still there.

      Like 4
      • fcs

        FWIW a good number of the Tillamook Air Museum exhibits ended up at the Erickson Aircraft Collection in Madras, Or.

        Like 3
  4. Gaspumpchas

    Knew a guy who had a similar aircraft engine that he took to engine shows. Bolted to a trailer, prop out in the open. An amazing thing to see run, but when the fairgrounds operators saw this thing in action, all they could see is liability. Shut him down for the operation part, left for static display. Don’t know what ever happened to it.

    Like 8
  5. Dave

    Needs to have a cage built around the propeller so no one can lose a limb or worse. We had a top ranking golfer here in Australia lose his arm 25 years ago leaving his private plane one night

    Like 6
    • JBP

      so it dosnt run decent.. so u could just as good put a flywheel, or transm. behind it..but no Cage….

      • JBP

        And when they drive These engines, at Show, there is Always a safety fence around, and staff to Keep People away..

  6. Dean

    This is the ad I’m seeing

    1 Simple Trick To Easily Remove Musty Smell In Older Homes Built Before 1995

    This would do it

    Like 11
    • schooner

      But Wait There’s More! If you order right now…

      Like 1
  7. Doug

    The Merlin engine turned the P-51 from a dud to a rock star – the V12 Allison just couldn’t cut it… Putting the Merlin engine in was what saved the P-51 .

    Like 8
  8. John Holden
  9. James HGF

    Adam Savage’s “Tested” has a good article by Terry Dun published in 2015 on the Packard Merlin and the production mods/details (hand fitted vs. mass production) of the Rolls Royce, Packard, and Ford versions.

    Short section on turbos vs supercharges and space not available for turbos that hampered Allison V1710 performance in some applications though not on the P-38s.


    Like 3
  10. James HGF

    For those who want to slip a Merlin V12 into a road machine, it’s already been done. Well not a Merlin, but the Meteor tank engine version which was designed for use on roads and in forests, etc.

    Haven’t followed Charlie Broomfield’s exploits in recent years nor have I heard of him clocking 200 mph in his Rover. Think he may have sold it. Nevertheless his home built SD1 Rover is a thing of beauty…o.k…that may be a stretch, but it was driven once at the Nurburgring.

    Take a runway ride with Charlie in this “Driving a Rover SD1 with a plane engine – 5th Gear” video:


    Like 2
  11. JBP

    Put it in a old Mahogany Yard.. that would justify that fine engine

    Like 3
  12. ken tilly UK Member

    This will definitely end up in an airworthy Spitfire or Hurricane IMO. There are people here in UK that are restoring several Spitfires and at least two Mosquitos and although they may currently have engines the chances of them having back up engines is fairly remote I would think. I remember aTV episode by Guy Martin (An English nutter that does lots of TV shows, an Isle of Man TT racer, worlds biggest Wall of Death builder etc. and a great guy) where he built a Merlin engine, mounted it on a trailer as in this article, but something went wrong and it ended up going out through the garage wall!

    Like 6
    • Gianni

      Video from Guy’s yootoob channel about his Merlin:


      Like 3
      • ken tilly UK Member

        Thanks Gianni. Great stuff, although I wonder if Americans can understand his dialect? I have trouble and I live in the same country.

        Like 2
  13. Newport Pagnell

    Spitfire low pass. Careful with the audio on this as it gets a little “colorful” at the end.


    Like 3
  14. Comet

    Wanna get noticed at the local cruise in? Add a ball hitch on the front of your car, install a really long throttle cable, and let this rig drag you around.

    Like 4
  15. Mountainwodie

    Best shown on Bring A Plane…………..

    Like 1
  16. Marko

    Now THAT is a leaf blower.

    Like 6
  17. Hemidavey

    A guy on Lake St Clair has one in an old Hackercraft, he drives around looking for offshore racers to stomp on…lol
    Its crazy fast even in that old hull. Two big chrome leevers coming out of the floor, one for in-n-out and the other for reverse
    Has a throttle control and a mixture control too
    Its moored in a slip with a tin roof overhead, just imagine the thunder when he switches on the mags
    It was a religious experience…OMG
    Some of the best machinists/mechanics in the word designed and made those- with no computers!

    Like 5
    • Wr HALL

      The people sitting at their computer terminals today would have ZERO clue how to design much less make it work well.

      Like 2
  18. arizman2

    Rolls-Royce Merlins were used quite a bit in hydroplane boat racing. Remember the sound they would make on Lake Washington

    Like 4
  19. TimM

    That is sweet!!! I’d love to put that in my 82 Toyota!!! If I had the money laying around!!!

    Like 2
  20. Kelly Breen

    What a beautiful bit of machinery. I’m sure there is a Lanc or some other deserving bird that could use this: P-40F P-51, Mosquito, Hurricane Spitty, Halifax, Beaufighter……..

    Like 2
  21. jerry

    for anybody thats interested there is a lancaster bomber at the hamilton ontario airport in ontario canada that they fly on special occasions they also have spitfilre or hellcat that is air worthy as well and the fly it too

    Like 2
  22. Sheffieldcortinacentre

    Charlie has finished an ohc conversion on his & is now looking for a supercharger for it he has a regular feature in practical performance car magazine here in the UK.

    Also world champion motorcyclist guy Martin has a running one mounted on a trailer, with an hilarious story in his autobiography of it carearing across a workshop taking out a semi tractor cab door & a wooden staircase before crashing into a wall when he blipped the throttle a bit to much!

    Like 3
    • James HGF

      Thanks for the update on Charlie’s endeavor’s. Nice to know that he’s still beavering away in order to have the fastest tank in the in the UK.

      Dropped my subscription to Practical Performance Car a few years back as the US landed price couldn’t be justified for what in essence is a boutique motor mag. It would be great if one could pick it up at a local US news agent for £5.49 ($6.95), but single issue orders from PPC are $17.99 (£14.30) and a years subscription is $197.00 (£156.50). For comparative purposes “The Automobile” offers a superb classic pre 1960 automobile magazine @ £88.00 ($111.00) via airmail to the States backed up with excellent customer service. Articles, photos, and videos can be found @ theautomobile dot co.uk.

      Guy Martin’s videos are always entertaining what ever the end result of his daring-do may be.

  23. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Needs to be in a plane !!!!

    Like 1
  24. JohnS

    My father-in-law had around 600 hours operational, ’41 to ’45 on Hurricanes and Spits in North Africa, Malta, Sicily and Italy, including conducting an emergency landing of a Spit IX on Anzio beach during the battle.
    Looking at those stubs, I can see why he became hard of hearing in his later years.
    He passed only a few months back. One of the good ones.

    Like 6
  25. Michael Streuly

    Would be very cool to have. There is only one unlimited hydroplane that still runs piston power and thats ed coopers U-3 the big red turbinator. He only ran one race this year. Back before all the other teams went to turbine power they where called Thunder Boats. Not any more. I now call the unlimiteds whoosh mobiles.

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