back to article Hi-torque tank engines: EXTREME car hacking with The Register

Most car marques – Lagonda, Ford, Morgan and so on – have a proud history and the respective car clubs often worship the original form; if you present a car for judging, it had better be exactly as per factory spec. Or else. There are notable exceptions and perhaps the most surprising, given the value of some of the cars, is …

  1. dynamight

    Fascinating. More photos please.

    1. JeffyPoooh

      Top Gear feature two 'cars' with massive aircraft engines

      One "Bentley" (not really) with a "Spitfire" (not really) engine.

      Another German "Fairground Attraction" with a WW2 Bomber engine.

      Both were the slowest cars ever tested.

      Still amusing. But not fast, by any definition.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Then there is Jay Leno's Blastolene Special

        Fast but fugly. I give the Bentley points for looks alone.

        1. Steven Jones

          Re: Then there is Jay Leno's Blastolene Special

          Not to mention a motorbike powered by a gas turbine engine from a helicopter.

      2. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Top Gear feature two 'cars' with massive aircraft engines

        I was going to mention Tog Gear too, though I couldn't remember the details.

        Anyway, fascinating. Like Scrapheap Challenge on crack.

      3. Uffish

        Re: cars with massive engines

        I had a 4.25 litre Bentley once but I lacked a garage (let alone a magnificent barn) that is required for full enjoyment. My current car can go faster but you can't (easily) start in second and then spend the rest of the day in fourth. Torques are good.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Torques are good

          In my younger days, I had a Holden Torana which sported a 173Cu straight-6 engine.

          Initially it urked me that this beast had only a 4-speed manual shifter ... until I realised that the massive torque produced by a straight-6 was sufficient to launch from the traffic lights in second and drop her straight into fourth, easily beating most of the Jap boy racer cars.

  2. Zog_but_not_the_first
    Thumb Up


    Double thumbs up! Yes, more photos please.

    1. Flywheel

      Re: Brilliant

      Double double, plus, is there a video?

  3. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Car Hacking

    Do you "Cacking"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Car Hacking

      A friend of mine has a couple of Meteor engines in one of his garages, one is totally knackered (holes in every piece of crankcase mainly) but the other is a runner. So one fine day he decided to start it just to see what happened.

      The engine has not exhaust stubs, or indeed anything much, but he thought that with the aid of a 12V battery he could probably get it to turn over and fire. Well, actually no he couldn't, the battery voltage is just too low so nothing much happened. But the trying meant that a fair bit of fuel ended up in the float chambers, induction manifold and, well, just about everywhere really.

      Another friend arrived, and as these things do it transpired that he couldn't wait to get his car battery out and put it in series with the original. This was duly done. The starter was engaged, the engine fired, and ran for about 15 seconds. During this time it made a massive amount of noise, emitted 2 foot long flames out of the exhausts, blew stuff around the garage and damn nearly deafended the pair of them.

      Bloody good fun! Bit they were almost into cacking territory...

  4. batfink

    IT angle? Who cares?

    I searched in vain for an IT angle to this, but seriously, I don't care. A fascinating article - updates as you go please!

    1. Frankee Llonnygog

      Re: IT angle? Who cares?

      There may have been a pocket calculator in use at some point - that should cover it. Great article.

      Can we now hope for some valve electronics hackery?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: IT angle? Who cares?

        The number of IT techies I've come across who are also Landie owners, which implies continual fettling, is surely statistically significant. And I thought Landie fettlers were a daft lot, but this lot take the biscuit.

        By the way, I found that modern Bentley owners don't take too well if you ask how their Volkswagen is going... ;-)

        1. Zimmer

          Re: IT angle? Who cares?

          Modern (and not so modern- like me) Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motors employees and former employees don't take it too well if you ask that, either...

          ..and (this one for the author) the correct spelling is 'Rolls-Royce' ...don't forget the hyphen...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: IT angle? Who cares?

          "By the way, I found that modern Bentley owners don't take too well if you ask how their Volkswagen is going... ;-)"

          Their Phaetons with Chrysler grilles? :)

          1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

            Re: IT Cars

            When I was young the hot car sported a souped up Rolls with a VW grill, IIRC. Then someone invented red go faster stripes and everything changed.

            1. x 7

              Re: IT Cars

              "a souped up Rolls with a VW grill"

              Isn't that more commonly known as a Bentley?

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: IT angle? Who cares?

          I once upset a Rolls driver by saying innocently "I didn't know they did a diesel"

      2. Malcolm 2

        Re: IT angle? Who cares?

        "There may have been a pocket calculator in use at some point ...".

        Oh, I hope not. For this type of project, it has to be a slide rule. I would love to have been present at the Meteor engine test. The sound must have been magnificent - I noted the ear defenders, as well as the fire extinguisher.

        (the flame logo is for what comes out of the exhaust - brilliant project)

      3. Martin-73 Silver badge

        @ Frankee Llonnygog

        UTTERLY unrelated to car hackery, but as you like valve electronics:

        Yeah, allow several weeks.

      4. Steve Crook

        Re: IT angle? Who cares?

        "Can we now hope for some valve electronics hackery?"

        Man in France makes thermionic values from scratch:

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      IT Angle

      Re: IT angle?

      Simple 600Hp+ engines without an EMU in site.

    3. Brian Miller

      Re: IT angle? Who cares?

      "Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway." —Tanenbaum, Andrew S. (1989). Computer Networks.

      So in this case the boot would be filled with 64Gb micro SD cards. A bit on the high latency side, but what the hey, it's still better than any cable service, and served up with far more panache!

      I'm getting a V8 swapped into my Jeep, but that's got nothing on a sports car that can handle a full tank engine!

      1. Richard Taylor 2
        Thumb Up

        Re: IT angle? Who cares?

        Along with several very good and long suffering friends I rebuilt a series 2 landrover while a student and fitted it with a Rover V8. Ten years later and having lived across Europe where it got a lot of attention, the arrival of a bairn made it necessary to "be sensible" as my mum said, sob sob, sob

        Made up for it more recently with a Caterham 7 :-)

        1. Steven Raith

          Re: IT angle? Who cares?

          I think a Caterham 7 is a perfectly acceptable consolation prize.

          Engine? Chassis? Superlight? Come on man, we (well, I...) demand details.

          Steven R

    4. adam 40 Silver badge

      Re: IT angle? Who cares?

      Not in this article per se but a log of people are adding aftermarket ECU's and the like., for EFI engines.

      I've been hacking my TVR for a few years now (only a measly 4.0l supercharged) and I have been looking at Megasquirt, but I can't justify laying out 200 sobs when I know I can do a better job myself... ECU running real-time Linux anybody?

      Just returned from the garage after adapting on a £6 clutch slave cylinder rather than a £50 one with the "official" hydfraulic thread.... let the hacking roll on.

  5. rhydian

    Charlie Broomfiled from Practial Performance Car Magazine...

    ... has done something along the same lines. He took a Meteor and bolted it in to a Rover SD1 shell, and used an epicyclic geartrain (from a Leyland Leopard bus) to connect the low reving Meteor to the autobox from a V12 Jaguar.

    1. rich_r

      Re: Charlie Broomfiled from Practial Performance Car Magazine...

      I was going to mention Charlie from PPC's Rover too. It was very well documented in the magazine a few years ago as he ironed out issues (mainly how to prevent cooking himself due to the huge amount of heat in the cabin). Still looked roughly like an SD1, but certainly didn't sound like one.

  6. Christoph
    1. Anonymous Coward

      Yes and oddly enough, people have put Intel processors on motherboards, yet there still seems to be articles right here on this website about new servers being built just that way.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Never wrote an article... but guilty as charged.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      oh yes

      its all been done before - yea verily there is nothing new under the sun, the rain falleth on the just and unjust aalike......

  7. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    +1 for the photos, some close-ups of that clutch shaft assembly would be interesting, to help with the explanation.

    I remember a TV programme 30-odd years ago featuring someone who'd put a real Merlin on a car chassis (no body at that time), but the torque broke every gearbox and/or driveshafts he'd tried. I'm not sure it's quite enough to assume that tyrespin will act as a limiter.

    It would be interesting to see torque/power curves, the peak figures don't tell the whole story. After all, the plain ordinary 2.2 turbo diesel in my car produces 175 bhp (easily remapped to 200+) and 310 lbf-ft torque, much the same peak figures quoted for the half-ton 6.5 litre lump.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      the torque broke every gearbox and/or driveshafts

      The tyres may eventually slip, but there is the inertia of the drive train to consider. When those big old pistons are whacked down by that near-explosion in the cylinder, torque pulses are generated. I guess that the destructive pulses have done their work before the driving force has even reached the rubber.

    2. Proud Father

      >> some close-ups of that clutch shaft assembly would be interesting, to help with the explanation.

      Ah not just me then. Was quite happily following this until that part. Needs pictures.

  8. Keir Snelling

    Regarding the supercharged version of the engine cranking in the wrong direction.

    You can avoid 4 reverse gears by simply flipping the diff and drive shafts over 180 degrees. Hey presto, wheels now turn in the right direction.

    1. ashdav

      Quick way to wear out the diff.

      The pinion will be driving the crown wheel in the wrong direction.

      This is why most cars whine in reverse.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Reverse diffs

        My cars front diff runs backwards, as they use same diffs both end

      2. cd


        Reverse gears are usually straight-cut, thus whine.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No...

          Yes, it's the idler gear for reverse together with the corresponding main and layshaft gears that are straight cut.

          Straight cut gears also led to the demise of Bristol Britannia prototype G-ALRX that was crash landed on the Severn mud flats after the straight cut reduction gear started vibration at the natural tooth frequency and broke up, the engine accelerated with no load and the resulting turbine failure set fire to the oil tank in the wing.

      3. Getriebe

        "The pinion will be driving the crown wheel in the wrong direction"

        The thrust faces are the same so not certain what you mean

        Also there are a tone of Hewland Mk 9 (??) gearboxes out there which are VW Beetle boxes with a different gear cluster and a flipped diff to make the work on a mid engine car.

        And some are very very very old

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I once had a Toyota that whined on the forward gears.

      5. JeffyPoooh

        My car has two reverse gear speeds.

        In "C" (the taller gear option), I think it could probably do about 100 kmh in reverse.

    2. Ian Michael Gumby


      Ok so riddle me this... what happens if you put the engine behind you?

      A custom mid engine "sports car" ?

      I don't think it would fit in a Volkswagon Beetle's frame... but it could be interesting.

    3. Dazed and Confused

      Re: cranking in the wrong direction.

      Nah, stop being a wimp and use the grown up version, what you really need is the Rolls-Royce Griffon. Sod the mere 27L, the Griffon is a full 37L and due to its history being linked with the Fleet Air Arm it rotates in the other direction (I guess the Navy liked to turn the other way).

      The difference in rotation direction was a major shock to many pilots when transitioning from the small block Merlins to the grown up Griffons.

      1. Getriebe

        Re: cranking in the wrong direction.

        Agreed the Griffon is the best WW2 inline engine, and my second favourite after the all conquering Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp.

        It ran the Corsair, and its propeller - nuff said.

    4. Vinyl-Junkie

      Or you could use a Packard Merlin

      As anyone who saw the Lancaster pair this summer can tell you, the Packard-built Merlins crank the other way. In line astern from head on they looked remarkably like the Avro Shackleton!

  9. Tanuki
    Thumb Up

    I like it! Running up your engine in the back of a Sankey trailer is an 'interesting' way to get first-smoke.

    On a much-more-micro scale I once conspired with the owner of a Heinkel bubble-car to replace the seized single-cylinder sub-200cc engine with a 3-cylinder Klockner-Humbolt-Deutz marine Diesel engine of about 1.5 Litres, and a centrifugal clutch. The usable rev-ranges of the two engines didn't coincide too well so some obscure shaft was turned-round in the gearbox. The KHD had so much torque a gearbox was unnecessary except for starting on the steepest of (Dutch) hills. 0-135KM/h in 2nd gear was fun. Eventually it caught fire catastrophically while stuck in a traffic-jam somewhere between Breda and Doordrecht.

  10. 45RPM Silver badge

    Wow. I think that this might be the first article on the reg to give me a hard on. More please!

  11. bitmap animal

    The Griffon engine rotated in the opposite direction to the Merlin so perhaps that would be an easier bolt-on.

    Great project, wonderful to see tinkering at that scale in action. Keep up the good work.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The Griffon engine

      An easier bolt on but possibly a still easier vibrate off.

      My time in engine research just overlapped with some of the guys who had worked on the Merlin. I regarded them with considerable awe. But really a small aeroplane with a huge engine and a single prop has its own downsides. When you blip the throttle on a Merlin powered car, do the wheels on one side come off the ground for a short period? This is a case where an intermediate counter-rotating flywheel might just possibly have benefits.

      1. bitmap animal
        Thumb Up

        Re: The Griffon engine

        Yes, the torque is massive. Have a read of the accident report on G-TRIX at Goodwood in 2000, very sad reading but the critical cause was probably not anticipating the torque. The PDF is the first result when searching.

        "It is probable that the subsequent roll to the left was because insufficient right rudder had been applied to counteract the 'torque roll' associated with power application."

        BTW, nice for you to have had that experience. I think they were a different breed, intuition end experience does not seem as important these days.

        1. TeeCee Gold badge

          Re: The Griffon engine

          Real horror story in that vein is the WW1 Morane "Parasol".

          Rotary engine for maximum torque effect, coupled with barely adequate aileron area. The net effect was that if the pilot didn't have full left stick on as soon as the tail wheel left the floor, the right wing would bury itself in the turf, flipping the aircraft and usually killing the crew.

          With full left stick, the right wing would only dip alarmingly and then return to level veeerrrryyyyy gradually......!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The Griffon engine

          Intuition and experience could be good but not all of them had it despite thinking they did. I think quite a lot of the intuition was in fact relying on standard tables and nomographs. I still have a 1954 Machinery's, amazing stuff. Some of the old guys I worked with (of a later generation) would take Machinery's and go up a step "for luck". Adding mass is all very well but adding rotational inertia can be completely counter productive.

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: The Griffon engine

        When you blip the throttle on a Merlin powered car, do the wheels on one side come off the ground for a short period?

        Might be a bit long for a transverse mount, though...

  12. Deej

    Yes, but will it blend??

  13. James Thomas 1

    Old Top Gear

    Here's the merlin engine in a car:

  14. Anonymous Blowhard

    Vehicle Excise Duty

    Do you tax the car as a "classic vehicle" based on the age of the components, or is it CO2 based? I'd imagine the CO2 output to be similar to Drax Power Station...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vehicle Excise Duty

      It's unlikely to be a classic, as you are pulling major components from different areas, more looking at an IVA, so the rules for the engine will apply.

      PS if you do put in for the IVA, get those nuts covered ! Oh and remember they can't test what isn't there and isn't required by law. Hint: if don't have a windscreen, you don't need demisters ;-)

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Vehicle Excise Duty

        but do, really do need goggles Mr Biggles

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Vehicle Excise Duty

      Unless the chassis is still/already registered with the DVLA then all the answers you seek are in DVLA form V55/1.

      From a brief perusal I think it would depend mainly on the weight, under 3.5 tons and it's a "Petrol Car", and taxed on it's CO2, over that and I think you'd have to go for "Private/HGV" which is a flat £165 per year.

      Max CO2 level will run you £500 per year, which isn't too bad compared to the fuel bill for running down to the shops and back.

      1. A Twig

        Re: Vehicle Excise Duty

        If the chassis is already registered you then get into the fun and games of the points system as to whether you need an IVA or not... joy...

        If you do, it gets a new identity anyway, so back to the above document :)

  15. Blockbusters


    There are some amazing photos of Chris Williams' Packard-Bentley, "Mavis", powered by a 42 litre Packard V12 aero engine, at - Mavis develops 1500 bhp and is based on a 1930 Bentley 8-litre chassis.

    1. clanger9

      Re: Mavis

      Chris Williams has also got a fantastic Napier-Bentley. it's "only" a 24 litre W12, vaporises the tyres off the start and is an absolute hoot to watch. See it if you can!

      Here's some footage of him getting it all wrong at this year's Cholmondeley Pageant of Power (Mavis the Packard-Bentley is the first car through sedately, followed by the manic Napier-Bentley about 01:20 in):

      1. Zog_but_not_the_first

        Re: Mavis

        The Napier Bentley! Watched it on a few hill climbs. See icon for type smoke.

  16. Turtle

    Bucket "T"

    " I started with the chassis of a Mk. VI Bentley that had been in a field (forming part of the fence) for 15 years. It had the rear axle, the front suspension and nothing else. It was also considerably lightened; not for racing but by rust. You can imagine the first steps – strip bits off, sandblast chassis, paint, refurbish bits, bolt back on."

    Reminds me of a very old track by the Who, "Bucket T" which goes :"Found her in a barn in Tennessee / Paid five bucks for my Bucket T / Took me three years of sweat and blood / To clean off all of that Tennessee mud..."

  17. lee harvey osmond

    Oil system?

    I would like to read some more discussion of the engine lubrication system.

    Meteor as the unsupercharged AFV-application Merlin variant? OK. As I recall oil consumption in Merlins was measured in pints per hour, and they leaked about as much as they burned; you can spot a flyable Spitfire in a museum by the liberal oil-staining of the underside of the aircraft.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Oil system?

      The Tornado is similar by design.

      The hydraulic system is extremely high pressure and lossy, and they have a tank of fluid that is expected to be much emptier at the end of the flight.

      Which is why Tornado tails are always covered in oil.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oil system?

        And yet the Concorde hydraulic system, using enormously expensive M2V fluid, managed not to leak despite some joints being of a sliding type and operating at 4,000psi.

        Tornados have thrust reversers, which is why the fin always gets sooty.

  18. Putters

    Thunderbolt !

    You might like this one too - the guy built it to take a number of British Speed records that were set in the 1930's - before most world speed efforts went to the states etc - and, more importantly, do it in the spirit of the way the records were set, not in some modern vehicle that could do it relatively easily.

    So he built this :

    Saw it at a local show some decade ago - standing within 6ft of the exhausts when it was started was some experience!

    1. Blockbusters

      Re: Thunderbolt !

      There's a photo of Thunderbolt in the same gallery as Mavis

      Thunderbolt, is an 850bhp, 27 litre, V12 Rolls Royce powered car based on the Bentley Speed Six chassis. It holds 10 UK National speed records at Millbrook Proving Grounds, set in 2003

      Also some shots of the Napier-Railton. She's is a 535bhp, 24 litre, W12, Napier Lion aero-engined car from 1933. Between 1933 and 1937 the Napier-Railton broke 47 World speed records at Brooklands, Montlhéry and Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. It is owned by the Brooklands Museum.

    2. GarfieldLeChat

      Re: Thunderbolt !

      I was going to say if you're a BDC member you can NOT NOT be aware of Thunderbolt or Graham Moss and his record braking attempts.

      There's also David Llewellyn's Napier Bentley which has it's own wiki page

      Chris Williams another BDC member also built the 1,500 bhp Packard Bentley

      And of course the famous Napier Railton at Brooklands....

  19. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Ye gods and little fishies; I'm impressed

    I thought I was doing well last weekend to strip a twenty year old two litre Lampredi sixteen valve twin-cam...

    Have a pint, gentlemen.

    1. Getriebe

      Re: Ye gods and little fishies; I'm impressed

      Lampredi, 16 valves, 16 years mmmm ... not a late Integrale too new, so FIAT Coupe then.

      It is indeed a magnificent engine and still used a lot in historics. Get a reliable 220bhp without too much difficulty.

      These small high revving engines much more fun than the leviathans talked about here

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Ye gods and little fishies; I'm impressed

        Got it in one. Had it from new; as far as I know the oldest single-owner in the UK. I think the Coupe was the last use of the Lampredi, sadly.

        This one's mostly standard, so only about 160 bhp (no turbo).

        Turns out it will still pull 7200 rpm on the start/finish straight at Spa...

  20. graeme leggett Silver badge

    use in tanks

    Just to get a handle on the output (bhp and torque) of a Meteor consider this:

    It was also used on the post-war Conqueror tank which weighed 65 tons and could still manage 30+ mph on the flat.

  21. Peter Simpson 1
    Thumb Up

    Serious shed hacking here

    Thanks for the article. It proves that serious car building is not dead (and that WWII surplus is STILL not exhausted!)

    Well done, and thanks for the pictures. Drive safely, wouldn't want anything to happen to that beautiful piece of machinery.

  22. The March Hare


    "most people would consider 660bhp and 1,650ft/lbs of torque adequate for road use" - I should chuffin' cocoa!!

  23. MJI Silver badge

    Excellent article

    I reall enjoyed reading it.

    Now for my thoughts.

    For that sort of power and torque I think you are much better off with a torque converter, they seem to cope with high power a lot better than a clutch. As an example the old Diesel Hydraulic locomotives would put 1350bhp through a torque converter.

    This would provide a lot better operating environment for the transmission.

    1. Hellcat

      Re: Excellent article

      Or dare I suggest, some sort of Merlin electric hybrid? Might even be able to get it exempt from congestion charging!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Excellent article -Merlin electric hybrid

        With the size of batteries and electric motor needed, this would certainly meet Ettore Bugatti's description of a Bentley - the fastest motor lorry in Europe.

        Too many people bought hybrids, so the congestion charge CO2 limit gets lower and lower. The problem might be getting allowed in the Low Emission Zone though; cleaning up a Merlin exhaust would probably need a trailer to carry the catalytic converter.

    2. Tanuki

      Re: Excellent article

      Don't mention loco engines - or he'll be doing a Bentley Deltic next.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Excellent article

        You would have difficulty getting hold of them, the boat engines are being bought by the railway preservationists.

      2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Excellent article

        The thought of twin 2-stroke doozle engines in a car is mind boggling.

        I'd prefer a Diesel-Hydraulic rig myself.

      3. Dave Bell

        Re: Excellent article

        If you'd mentioned that at the start of the month, it would have made an appearance for NaNoWriMo, for much the same reason as Simon Templar drove a Hirondelle.

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: Excellent article

          @Dave Bell - have an uptick for knowing of both NaNoWriMo *and* the Saint's bolide of choice.

    3. IvyKing

      1350bhp? try 2150bhp

      The Alco DH643's built for the Espee had a pair of 2150HP V-12's (Alco 251's). Note that American RR practice is to rate engines on power available to the transmission (input shaft of the traction alternator/generator for 99+% of American locomotives).

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: 1350bhp? try 2150bhp

        But yours is 3 years after mine, 1961 2 x 1350 in a Western.

        But very heavy for the power since the UK had 3300bhp within 100 tons

  24. jonathan1
    Thumb Up

    Amazing read...

    Really enjoyed that,

    I join the others in asking for more updates, photos and videos.

  25. Stevie


    Spiffing motor you have there sir.

    Should anyone wish to compromise the handling and actually fit a standard Merlin, the vexing Five Reverse Gears problem can be addressed by simply inverting the rear axle, reversing the sense of the differential.

    This fix courtesy of my former good mate Wart and his amazing Four Reverse Gear Ford Classic (arrived at as an unintended side-effect of the need to move the welded chain axle-lifts forward just a tad - so they'd stop punching through the boot floor - and the observation that they'd go where they would work better just nice if the axle mounts were the other way up).

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    YE GODS!!!

    That's my only comment.

  27. Bloakey1

    Engine Classic.

    I love the engine it is a classic British Army refurb / possibly new.

    Did it come from Withams?

  28. Niall Mac Caughey

    Using wheel-spin to control the power delivery...

    Reminds me of this:

    Not quite the same thing of course, but interesting in itself.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quite a project

    Congrats on a successful and interesting project. You must be into "heavy weight" toys to deal with this type of hardware as the weight is staggering. You hit the nail on the head with the tires/traction being the limiting factor for the massive torque. Shock loads are also an issue on rapid start offs.

    One note however: I would not typically refer to vehicle modifications as "hacks" though that may be a typical British expression for such. Most folks would refer to these a "specials" or development models or even just "modded" versions.

  30. Lionel Baden

    Car mods

    I have a 2cv, and when I found out that we had a third child on the way, I was faced with a choice.

    New 7 seater car......

    Nope Lets make my car wider to accomadate 3 car seats :D so rather than just cut in half and add a bit in the middle, The magic of it was that the car is technically no wider as I have flat rear wings now, but gained about a foot extra width at shoulder height in the back due to just pulling the sides of the car out and adding two strips down the side. The rear end is wider though, and the sides taper out over the door area.

  31. Jude74ca

    A simpler choice in Transmission?

    Perhaps an off the shelf tranmission available anywhere world wide would have been a better solution.

    8(+2) gears rated up to 1650 ft-lbs torque.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    excellent article!

    had the engine been counter rotating, this would have been an ideal opportunity to have a rear engine with standard gears, linked to a front wheel drive. or simply re-arrange the driving location. radical, indeed! but that's what makes innovation come to life!

  33. Petrea Mitchell
    Thumb Up


    "For what it’s worth, I think it is that all true hackers (no matter how that trait manifests itself) love problem solving. Whether those problems are manifest in code or engineering is essentially immaterial."

    Or science, or any human technology or process. I loved reading this, and I don't even drive.

  34. Nunyabiznes

    And another Kudos!

    Seriously, thumbs up and "have a drink on me".

  35. Chris G


    No-one has mentioned John Dodd and The Beast

    He was somewhat notorious in the '70s and '80s. He used the car to promote his gearbox building skills, in my experience the best auto box engineer in the South of England, and a nice bloke.

  36. Mark 85

    Fascinating article

    Here in the States decades ago, putting Allison V-12's into drag race cars and tractors for tractor pulls was not uncommon. I used stuff big block Chevy V-8's into Vegas. But the idea of a tank engine in a car just blows my mind.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tank engine?

    And no mention of Thomas?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tank engine?

      > And no mention of Thomas?

      A few years back I bought a J60, the military version of the Jaguar XK engine, on eBay. Being the good husband that I am, I told her indoors that I'd bought a tank engine. Given my hobby of photographing the oil bits of steam trains (one day I'll work up to being able to picture the whole thing) she was expecting something like to Thomas to arrive on the back of a flat truck and went ape.

  38. cosymart
    Thumb Up

    If I Recall...

    If I recall correctly from my time working on Centurions. The Meteor engine, because of it's aero background, had 2 magnetos (1 for each V side) rather than normal distributors. Setting these up to be correctly synchronised was a b****er and more of a black art than engineering.

    The sound of this engine is something to behold especially if the mag settings were slightly out as you then had the classic belch of flame and loud burp of the backfire...lovely :-)

  39. ian 22


    Lovely article, never know what I'll find in Motor Age ^W^W The Register.

    I'd understood a flywheel was needed to compensate for internal combustion engine's low torque. Do these massive beasts really need flywheels? It would seem they have enough torque to avoid stalling when the clutch is engaged in first gear!

  40. Black Betty

    Diff whine isn't diff whine.

    What you are hearing is the NON-HELICAL reversing pinions in the gearbox.

  41. Joe Greer

    That old tech is heavy and slow, you can do the same with COTS

    Well if you consider a Cummins Powered Dodge 1 ton truck COTS you have your engine.

    All the torque and power you need, a straight 6 with lots of cast iron, albeit 1/2 of those old war engines.

    The correct clutch, transmission and differential and if you want to can make as much power as you want, i.e. factory is 400 hp and 800 lb/ft of torque. The aftermarket guys get up to 1,500 hp and over 2,000 lb/ft of torque when trying to race those same displacement engines.

  42. Trygve Henriksen

    Why not take it all out?

    Like the Il Tempo Gigante...

    The full-sized version has a 6.7L Big Block Chevy in the front and a gas turbine in the back.

    You know they've done it right, when noise polluton laws forbid you from starting the rear engine...

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Beautiful engine...

    But that link, 550BHP from a 6.5l twin turbo engine? Was it not firing on all cylinders or was it a typo?

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ralph Watson build and raced a car with a lycoming aero engine in New Zealand. Much smaller than a meteor though.

    1. Chris G

      In the late '70s I worked for a bit as an approved airframe fitter on a lot of light aircraft, the flat 6 Lycomings certainly produced power and torque, the only problem in a car would be fitting big enough fans to keep the damn thing cool when stationary.

      If my memory is correct 2300RPM is cruising for most civvy aero engines and max is a bit over 3K, they had a long stroke and lots of torque and the pistons made neat ashtrays.

  45. cdilla
    Thumb Up


    What an utterly marvelous article.

    Definitely more of this kind of thing.

  46. chris swain
    Thumb Up

    Mmm... more of this sort of thing please!

    Also loved the recent Jag XJS hacking article, and how about some two-wheeled hacking shenanigans occassionally? I read a lot of the techie stuff but this sort of thing really brightens my day.

  47. Robin Szemeti

    What? Overdrive?

    Dude ... you got that so wrong.

    When you have 1,660 foot lb or torque at 2400 rpm ... and cant find a gearbox to take it ... you put the 2:1 ratio convertor BEFORE the gear box, giving you 880 ft lb through the box at 4800 rpm ... not after.

    You still get the same torque at the rear wheels, and the box is working in sensible limits.

    People get awfully confused about torque ...

  48. x 7

    I've always thought an Alvis Leonides radial engine would make a nice power plant for a mid-engine jobbie. Mount vertically behind the seats, centrifugal clutch from a Whirlwind driving the rear diff.

    You'd need a big cowl behind the drivers head to suck enough cooling air in, but it would be well balanced. Maybe not enough power for some of you though - only 640shp

  49. TrishaD

    Hackin' 'n Specials 'n Hotrods

    Excellent article and congratulations on a job well done.

    A few comments though -

    The Bentley Drivers Club do have a great history of building hybrids and specials but they're not the only club to do so and the historic car movement isnt as adverse to the whole idea as might be thought.

    Aero engined Specials are pretty much as old as the aero engine itself and there were some heroic Specials built in the Vintage era - consider Parry Thomas' Liberty engined Brooklands Outer Circuit racer and World Land Speed car 'Babs. 27 litre Liberty engine running chain drive to the rear wheels and no front brakes....

    The Vintage Sports Car Club have always supported special-building and there are quite a few aero-engined cars running in competition currently, ranging from 27 litre big bangers to smaller cars with lesser engines like Cirrus IIs (ex-Gypsy Moth) at a mere 4.5 litres. The club encourages other hybrids as well.

    The 750 Motor Club was founded to support the building and racing of Austin 7 specials and later expanded to cover specials with 1172 cc Ford engines. Its arguable that this club are responsible for the UKs success in F1 - people like Colin Chapman of Lotus and Eric Broadley of Lola both started with the 750 MC building Austin 7 specials...

    Its true though that the Classic car community (with the above honourable exceptions) are a bit snooty about hybrids and specials. Which is kind of a shame - most weeks a browse on eBay will come up with at least one or two late 30s-mid 50s saloons that are so shot at as to be beyond economic restoration. And Rover V8s are cheap....

    Not sure at that point whether you end up with a Special or a Hot Rod, although to be honest they're pretty much the same thing..

  50. Chris Parsons


    Don't you just love it that there are still people mad enough to do something like this?

  51. hapticz

    excellent hybrid

    and, you can use it to harrow and plow the lot with all that extra available torque too!

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