1934 Rolls-Royce Merlin touches down in Jay Leno’s Garage

Period-correct British roadster is powered by a historic aircraft engine

If it’s an oddball kind of car, chances are, it will have its time in the spotlight on Jay Leno’s Garage. On the latest episode, Leno doesn’t welcome a guest, but instead pulls a labor of love from his own collection.

It’s none other than a 1934 Rolls-Royce powered by the historic Merlin aircraft engine. Like so many of the stories featured on JLG, it’s far from conventional. Leno says he heard of a gentleman in England who built a handful of cars with aircraft engines under the hood.

The comedian and car collector supposedly shocked the man when Leno said he’d buy it. In its original state, the engine sat on a Rolls-Royce P2 chassis and had a very basic wood frame. The restoration, Leno shares, took around 20 years to complete.

Part of the challenge was finding a gearbox that would work with the engine. The engine makes 1,750 pound-feet of torque and about 1,000 horsepower, which is more than enough to rip through just about any transmission. When Leno brought it home, a Jaguar XK120 manual transmission was hooked to the engine. Leno says he took the car for a ride, put it into second gear, and ripped the teeth off of the gear.

He put in a second Jaguar gearbox and, not shockingly, it happened again. The solution came from friend Gale Banks of Gale Banks Engineering, who suggested a New Venture NV5600 manual gearbox. Good for Jay for sticking with a stick.

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The other challenge was designing and engineering a period-correct car, even though this isn’t officially a Rolls-Royce. Part of the work included the radiator. The component is actually a modern unit, but the JLG team designed it to look like a period-correct Rolls-Royce radiator.

Electric cooling pumps, disc brakes, custom headers, and rebuilt wheels with heavy-duty spokes were some of the other modern parts Jay’s crew came up with for the impressive build.

Much more went into this car, and the completed beast is a work of art and a nod to history.

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  • Randy Fitz
    May 1, 2019, 8:19 PM

    I really enjoyed this episode. Mr Leno shows particularly good self restraint in operation of this grand speedster.

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  • Ryan Corman
    May 26, 2019, 10:28 AM

    I remember seeing a Merlin powered custom bodied ’60’s-’70’s Rolls in a magazine (C&D?) when I was in high school in the ’70’s. Front end looked very much like a Lagonda from the period. As I recall, this one used a built GM TH400.
    Jay’s Merlin is cool & all, but not as cool as the Blastolene special. That’s wretched excess in the raw.
    Anyway, aside from Lewis Hamilton and Tony Kanaan, Jay’s the coolest guy (who doesn’t race, yet) in the automotive world.

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