The Beast: 1972 one-off car with a 27-LITRE plane engine is for sale

The Beast: 1972 one-off car with a 27-LITRE plane engine is for sale

A classic car like no other is set to go under the hammer this month.

John Dodd’s ‘The Beast’ is heading to auction, offering collectors and enthusiasts the opportunity to get their hands on a British legend.

The one-off creation is adored in the automotive world for its bonkers specification, which includes a 27-litre V12 Rolls-Royce Merlin plane engine, a weight of two tons, a 19-foot-long body and the dubious ability to gulp eight pints of fuel per minute.

Having shot to fame in a late nineties episode of Top Gear and still considered today as one of the greatest unicorn cars of a generation, The Beast’s sale at a Car & Classic auction starting on 9 March is set to generate plenty of interest.

And if its eventual buyer chooses to use it regularly, it’s guaranteed to keep petrol station operators in business for the foreseeable.

The Beast: 1972 one-off car with a 27-LITRE plane engine is for sale

‘The Beast’ could be yours! This incredible one-off classic car is going under the hammer this month. The winning bidder will need a long driveway or an enormous garage to store this British legend

Dodd, the man behind the incredible vehicle, died in December at the age of 90. 

His much-loved – and often fettled – car is now being offered to the highest bidder by his family who have chosen to part with his pride and joy.

Running on a specially created chassis built by Paul Jameson, The Beast began life in 1966 with a 27-litre Meteor tank engine produced by Rolls-Royce under its extensive bonnet.

Such was the level of power and torque generated, a bespoke gearbox was required to handle its enormous grunt.

That’s where Dodd – a transmission specials – came in to help the project, and he would later buy the vehicle from Jameson with the intention of turning it into a monstrous road car.

John Dodd's one-off creation is adored in the automotive world for its bonkers specification, which includes a 27-litre V12 Rolls-Royce Merlin plane engine, a weight of 2tons, a 19-foot-long body and the ability to gulp eight pints of fuel per minute

John Dodd’s one-off creation is adored in the automotive world for its bonkers specification, which includes a 27-litre V12 Rolls-Royce Merlin plane engine, a weight of 2tons, a 19-foot-long body and the ability to gulp eight pints of fuel per minute

Having shot to fame in a late nineties episode of Top Gear and still considered today as one of the greatest unicorn models of a generation, its availability at a Car & Classic auction starting on 9 March is set to generate plenty of interest

Having shot to fame in a late nineties episode of Top Gear and still considered today as one of the greatest unicorn models of a generation, its availability at a Car & Classic auction starting on 9 March is set to generate plenty of interest

Dodd, the man behind the incredible vehicle, died in December at the age of 90. His much-loved - and often fettled - car is now being offered to the highest bidder by his family who have chosen to part with his pride and joy

Dodd, the man behind the incredible vehicle, died in December at the age of 90. His much-loved – and often fettled – car is now being offered to the highest bidder by his family who have chosen to part with his pride and joy

The mechanical whizz set about creating a fibreglass body to cover the chassis to give the appearance of conventional car with elongated proportions.

Painted red and fitted – controversially – with a Rolls-Royce Corniche grille and the brand’s Spirit of Ecstasy emblem (which we’ll cover again later), the jaw-dropping car quickly did the rounds on television screens and magazine pages.

Unfortunately, during a drive back from visiting the King of Sweden (who reportedly wanted to see the car in all its glory) in 1974, The Beast caught fire and its engine and bodywork suffered significant damage.

Yet Dodd decided against scrapping it, instead rebuilding the chassis and restoring the car using the insurance payout of £17,000, which in today’s money works out at around £121,000.

This saw the installation of a different 27-litre powerplant, this time a Rolls-Royce-produced V12 Mk35 Merlin plane engine  – famously used during World War II in the Spitfire and Hurricane – linked to a three-speed automatic gearbox. It is said to return – at best – between one and two miles to the gallon.

The Beast as it is seen today is the second iteration of the bonkers car. The original was partly destroyed in a fire during a trip back from visiting the King of Sweden in 1974

The Beast as it is seen today is the second iteration of the bonkers car. The original was partly destroyed in a fire during a trip back from visiting the King of Sweden in 1974

Instead of scrapping the damaged motor. Dodd decided to rebuild the chassis and restore the car using the insurance payout of £17,000, which by today's money works out at around £121,000

Instead of scrapping the damaged motor. Dodd decided to rebuild the chassis and restore the car using the insurance payout of £17,000, which by today’s money works out at around £121,000

The rebuild saw the installation of a replacement 27-litre powerplant, this time a Rolls-Royce-produced V12 Mk35 Merlin plane engine - famously used during World War II in the Spitfire and Hurricane - linked to a three-speed automatic gearbox

The rebuild saw the installation of a replacement 27-litre powerplant, this time a Rolls-Royce-produced V12 Mk35 Merlin plane engine – famously used during World War II in the Spitfire and Hurricane – linked to a three-speed automatic gearbox

It features panels and body parts from a Ford Capri, steering and front suspension borrowed from an Austin Westminster and independent rear suspension from a Jaguar XJ12.

With Rolls-Royce already unhappy about the original car sporting one of its grilles, Dodd chose another one of the British company’s front ends for the reborn version of The Beast, this time from a Silver Shadow.

In 1981, disgruntled Rolls-Royce bosses issued a High Court writ, accusing Dodd of trademark infringement. 

Dodd prodded the luxury car giant by attending hearings in the very car that was the reason for him being there, including ‘accidentally’ breaking down in the vehicle outside the Daily Mail’s office on Fleet Street, which – unsurprisingly –  generated plenty of media coverage.

The judge accused him of having a ‘cavalier attitude’. 

The judge eventually ruled in Rolls-Royce’s favour and Dodd was fined a pricey sum of £5,000 and banned from driving it. However, the fine was doubled when, just two days later, he drove the vehicle with its Rolls-Royce grille to a Southend car show.

Dodd has rattled Rolls-Royce with the original car for using one of its grilles and its Spirit of Ecstasy emblem. Despite this, he chose another one of the British company's front ends for the reborn version of The Beast, this time from a Silver Shadow

Dodd has rattled Rolls-Royce with the original car for using one of its grilles and its Spirit of Ecstasy emblem. Despite this, he chose another one of the British company’s front ends for the reborn version of The Beast, this time from a Silver Shadow

In 1981, disgruntled Rolls-Royce bosses issued a High Court writ, accusing Dodd of trademark infringement

In 1981, disgruntled Rolls-Royce bosses issued a High Court writ, accusing Dodd of trademark infringement

The judge ruled in Rolls-Royce's favour and Dodd was fined a pricey sum of £5k and banned from driving it. However, the fine was doubled when, just two days later, he drove the vehicle with its Rolls-Royce grille to a Southend car show

The judge ruled in Rolls-Royce’s favour and Dodd was fined a pricey sum of £5k and banned from driving it. However, the fine was doubled when, just two days later, he drove the vehicle with its Rolls-Royce grille to a Southend car show

Unwilling to pay the fines and a warrant for his arrest, Dodd fled with the car to Spain to avoid extradition. The Rolls-Royce grille was later removed so the car could return to the UK without any legal fracas

Unwilling to pay the fines and a warrant for his arrest, Dodd fled with the car to Spain to avoid extradition. The Rolls-Royce grille was later removed so the car could return to the UK without any legal fracas

Having lost his appeal and refusing to pay the fine, Dodd was sentenced to six months in prison. However, with a warrant issued for his arrest, he fled to Spain with the car in tow to avoid extradition.

The anti-establishment motor eventually had its Rolls-Royce grille removed and replaced with the one it sports to this day so it could return to UK soil without anther legal fracas. 

As well as featuring in an episode of Top Gear some years later, The Beast was also named in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most powerful car in 1977, saying it ‘exceeded 200mph on many occasions on Continental roads’. 

Other reports said it could reach a top speed of 260mph, though in 1973 the RAC measured the car at 183mph. 

In its current guise, there is no claim about its outright performance… though there had been plans to prove its speed in 2023. 

The Beast was named in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's most powerful car in 1977
It said the car had 'exceeded 200mph on many occasions on Continental roads'

The Beast was named in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most powerful car in 1977. It said the car had ‘exceeded 200mph on many occasions on Continental roads’

The V12 Mk35 Merlin aircraft engine installed in the car is famous for good reason. This Rolls-Royce powerplant was the engine used in the Spitfire and Hurricane in WWII

The V12 Mk35 Merlin aircraft engine installed in the car is famous for good reason. This Rolls-Royce powerplant was the engine used in the Spitfire and Hurricane in WWII

Other reports said the car with the Merlin engine could reach a top speed of 260mph, though in 1973 the RAC reportedly measured it at 183mph

Other reports said the car with the Merlin engine could reach a top speed of 260mph, though in 1973 the RAC reportedly measured it at 183mph

Before Dodd died last year, he had made changes to The Beast as part of an effort to take it to Santa Pod and set a blistering quarter-mile time he hoped would clock under 10 seconds.

Among the modifications recently made was a new rear axle, which was delivered from the US and cost over £7,000 to install. 

Unfortunately, Dodd passed before he and his car could be put to the ultimate test.

The vehicle’s start procedure is as long-winded as you’d expect from a motor with an aircraft engine and includes a sequence of engaging fans and fuel pumps before the thudding powerplant can be fired into life. 

That means this is a car not for automotive novices that will need lots of knowledge and maintenance skill. 

The V5 is still present and John Dodd is still listed as the owner. 

The cabin features just two seats, while a bank of red rocker switches controls the starter functions for the huge engine. The steering wheel is bespoke to The Beast too and features a ‘JD’ boss in the centre.

In full running order, Car & Classic says it ‘believes’ that it qualifies for MOT exemption. 

It currently has just over 10,000 miles on the clock.

The vehicle's start procedure is as long-winded as you'd expect from a motor with an aircraft engine and includes a sequence of engaging fans and fuel pumps before the thudding powerplant can be fired into life

The vehicle’s start procedure is as long-winded as you’d expect from a motor with an aircraft engine and includes a sequence of engaging fans and fuel pumps before the thudding powerplant can be fired into life

The cabin features just two seats, while a bank of red rocker switches controls the starter functions for the huge engine

The cabin features just two seats, while a bank of red rocker switches controls the starter functions for the huge engine

The steering wheel is bespoke to The Beast too and features a 'JD' boss in the centre. The same logo appears on the non-Rolls-Royce grille

The steering wheel is bespoke to The Beast too and features a ‘JD’ boss in the centre. The same logo appears on the non-Rolls-Royce grille

In full running order, Car & Classic says it 'believes' that it qualifies for MOT exemption. It currently has just over 10,000 miles on the clock

In full running order, Car & Classic says it ‘believes’ that it qualifies for MOT exemption. It currently has just over 10,000 miles on the clock

It will go under the hammer in a seven-day online auction starting 9 March at 13:00.

‘Car & Classic was the logical choice for the first sale of The Beast in its 50-year history,’ says the auction house’s CEO, Tom Wood. 

‘Our online auction is now the largest in the UK and the site attracts millions of people monthly. 

‘Not that this car will need much promotion – it is so famous it can be referred by its nickname, 

”The Beast’, and classic car enthusiasts will immediately know which example of eccentric motoring heritage we’re talking about.

‘This is a genuine once in a lifetime opportunity and I hope the lucky new buyer continues to use and enjoy the car the way John did.’ adds Wood.

Such is the uniqueness of the motor, there’s no suggestion of a guide price. With this in mind, it could be one of the most exciting online car auctions to watch this year.

Car & Classic has released an extensive video of the car today with former Top Gear host Steve Perry (who drove the car on the show) and John Dodd’s son, Paul. You can watch it in full below. 

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