John Dodd's airplane-engined 'Beast' headed to auction for first time

John Dodd's airplane-engined 'Beast' headed to auction for first time

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What has eight headlights, four taillights, an odd greenhouse, overdone bodywork punctuated by ridiculous side vents, and an eccentric owner getting into eccentric adventures? It is, of course, the Family Truckster made famous in National Lampoon's Vacation movies. That could also describe, however, the most excellent vehicle pictured above, called "The Beast." Unleashed on British roads eleven years before Vacation hit theaters in 1983, its unusual proportions and 19-foot length are partly explained by the 27-liter Rolls-Royce Meteor V12 engine crammed under the hood. The Meteor was the naturally aspirated version of Rolls-Royce's turbocharged Merlin engine; the Meteor served in British tanks and armored vehicles, the Merlin served most famously in the wonderfully proportioned Supermarine Spitfire plane.


The Beast isn't armored, but it probably qualifies as a tank. A gent named Paul Jameson began a personal project in the late 1960s to put the biggest engine available to him into a car. Military surplus stores stocked a more esoteric selection back then, Jameson picking up the Meteor V12 for £20. He built a box chassis for the car he planned around it, then got in touch with automatic transmission specialist John Dodd about getting power to the ground. Dodd sorted out a GM TH400 for the purpose. But before Jameson finished, he sold the rolling chassis to Dodd.

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