HomeFeatured VehiclesWhy should Jay Leno have all the fun?

Why should Jay Leno have all the fun?


Among the many treasures at Jay Leno’s Garage is a Rolls-Royce Merlin aircraft engine. You can have one, too, if you’re the winning bidder October 16 when H&H Classics offers a 1949 Rolls-Royce Merlin engine at its auction at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, England.

Propeller attached but Merlins also powered ships and tanks

The auction company expects the engine to sell for around $50,000.

“The immortal Merlin will be forever associated with the aircraft it so successfully powered — most famously the Spitfire, Hurricane, Mustang, Lancaster and Mosquito of WWII,” H&H Classics said. “Most were employed in aircraft, but the 27-liter V12 engine was also converted for use on land in tanks and at sea in MTBs.”

Nearly 170,000 of the engines were produced during the war years and they produced as much as 2,000 horsepower. The one on offer, currently with a Hamilton 3-bladed propeller attached, was used in a Douglas DC-4 aircraft, the auction company said.

H&H Classics said the unit is “a work of art in its own right,” the result of a 2-year overhaul that has it mounted on a new Brian James motor racing trailer. The engine will be sold with a service manual.

A work of art, and it comes with a service manual
Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. This is the motor that was later used in unlimited Hydro Plane racing on Lake Washington when I was kid during the late 1950’s…Lot’s of Memories….

  2. Mr. Leno earned the right to his fun, through perseverance, hard work, a brilliant comedic mind, and an innate humility that makes him the exceptional hobbyist he has proven to be- Jeez-us wept, he sometimes drives a Stanley Steamer or Brough Superior(!) to work. He doesn’t have "all the fun", but I’d bet he gets his share.
    On point, I remember seeing in a Car & Driver published during my high school years (’74-’78) a custom Rolls Royce, built with a Merlin and GM TH400 transmission; it appeared to have the same sort of wedge doghouse as the ill fated Lagonda supersedan of the era.
    As I recall, all the photos were black and white, and the car wasn’t tested, just shown, but… Um, this sort of thing exemplifies Mick Jagger’s MTV blurb: "Too much is never enough."
    For me, that Merlin needs marinizing, then dropped into the bay of a new Hackercraft or GarWood repop of a ’20’s/’30’s era speedboat/hydroplane… maybe with some 21st century titanium overtransom headers and SuperTrapp caps, or through-transom unmuffled dumps.
    Give it some modern computer controlled fuel injection/ignition, high volume/high pressure oiling, and fresh water cooling, well. Knife edged, lightweight crank, rods, modern pistons, port/polish the heads, titanium intake/sodium filled exhaust valves bumped by a CompCams bespoke design; my guess is one could get 4000+ reliable horsepower out of this motor, look at the professional air racers and how hard they stress these things.
    Then there’s the turbo (multiple turbo) option. Built properly, with six compounded turbos… Well. And maybe program in a 2000hp hit of progressive nitrous, mechanically configured to blow into the turbo housings to negate lag and into the intercoolers to drop intake temps and jack up density.
    Some Merc Racing offshore drives and hand finished five blade cleavers…
    Or just drop it in a T-bucket with a Tremec 6spd and Ford 9inch, with "zoomies" stuffed with dirt bike baffles. Or three sets of flapper-cap tractor pull headers and earplugs for everyone. Why stint?


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