27 Liters by John Dodd: 1972 Rolls Royce The Beast
If you don’t know who John Dodd is…well…lemme tell ya…I didn’t have the foggiest until about 5 minutes ago, but I can tell you that he was a legend for building the 27 liter Merlin V12 powered beast that you see here today. The original version of the car had a Roll Royce signature grill which didn’t sit well with the execs out in Goodwood, West Sussex. Anyway, the Beast is heading for auction somewhere in the UK and I can’t imagine a better car to drive to the next Davos meeting if you want to lower your carbon footprint compared to a Learjet. Find this 1972 Rolls Royce The Beast offered at auction in Northamptonshire, UK via carandclassic.com.
From the seller: (this description is the only thing on the planet earth that is larger than the hood)
Legendary John Dodd creation, The Beast
27,000cc Merlin engine
Truly a one-off build
Custom-built automatic transmission
Currie rear axle
Full running condition
A chance to own an automotive legend
If you’re reading this auction listing, you’re a member of one of two camps; you’re either curious, or you need this car. There’s no middle ground. This is not a generic classic, we don’t need to sway you or use our words to help you justify your purchase. But, it would be remiss of us not to at least remind you why you should bid.
This is more than a car. It is a wheeled, ludicrous, unapologetic celebration of the life and brilliant eccentricity of not only John Dodd himself, but also of the British spirit of ingenuity and adventure. This car boasts nothing sensible. It’s not sedate or relaxed. It’s loud, it’s delightfully silly and it makes no apologies for any of it.
It’s also a survivor. Britain has a rich history of one-offs and home builds, but most lose their shine and appeal. The Beast never has. Until his passing, John Dodd could regularly be found tinkering with and driving The Beast. It’s been cherished for a lifetime, it’s been used, it’s been kept in good fettle and as such, it deserves the same in its next chapter.
Fundamentally though, this is a car to which the old adage of ‘once in a lifetime’ truly does apply. There isn’t another, there won’t be another, and whoever buys it won’t be in a rush to let it go because of that. Miss it, and you truly will miss out. As opportunities go, this one is beastly.
THE HISTORY AND PAPERWORK
Various magazines included, containing features on The Beast
Featured in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most powerful car in 1977
Believed to be MOT exempt
V5 is present and still lists John Dodd as the owner
Lists a total of 4 owners, believed to be all family members
If you’re a serious bidder, you know all too well what The Beast is. However, we’re more than happy to retell the story. It started off as a bespoke rolling chassis built by Paul Jameson in 1966. It was his first road car build, so naturally he fitted a 27-litre Meteor engine from a tank. The chassis was made of box section, the suspension was a mix of Jaguar (rear) and Wolseley (front) and that was about it.
A chance meeting with Dodd, an automatic transmission specialist, would see him build a gearbox for it. Later, Jameson would sell the chassis to Dodd, who took the car one step further by bodying it. He sent the car to Fibre Glass Repairs – who built dragster bodies – and had them cloak it with a strange, Capri-esque body of outrageous, cartoonish proportions. And, because of the Meteor engine’s history, a Rolls-Royce grille, too.
Before Rolls-Royce’s lawyers could get too excited, the car was wrecked in a fire on its way back from Sweden. Dodd, however, saw this as an opportunity to improve rather than retire it. A new engine was sourced – the same 27-litre Merlin V12 that’s in it today, and the car was rebodied into what it wears now, complete with Rolls-Royce grille.
History reminds us of the court cases, which Rolls-Royce won. It wasn’t happy about its grille being used in such a way. Dodd didn’t roll over though. He hid the car away and fled to Spain, the car joined him a few years later and the grille was, begrudgingly, changed to what it is today. And since then, the car has been in regular use. It was loved by Dodd unconditionally, and he would gladly rack up the miles and even bring it back to the UK for an MOT (in which he took great delight) until he sadly passed away in 2022 at the age of 90.
Speaking of MOT’s, the latest one was done in 16/06/2014 although the Beast was MOT’d until 05/03/2018 and it’s believed that Dodd just took it for a MOT in 2014 as he just wanted a last tax disc with Rolls Royce written on it before they stopped Tax Discs. It’s believed the car remains MOT-exempt as changes to the new rear axle make the car safer and more efficient.
One of the best bits though? Despite all the legal battles, The Beast is listed as a Rolls-Royce on the V5! As Dodd’s son, David, explained, “even Rolls-Royce knows not to mess with the DVLA”.
Bespoke sculpted dash
Remarkably useful load space
Bespoke steering wheel
Rear camera displays in rear-view mirror
Despite The Beast being longer than Gatwick’s runway, the cabin of The Beast is remarkably snug. Largely because of the engine, but also due to the fact Dodd only needed two seats. This second-generation body is longer than the first, and as such, boasts impressive rear load space in which you could fit all kinds of things, like a small aircraft, or a limousine, or Hull. It’s all carpeted and trimmed to a pleasing standard.
Up front, there are two bucket seats, a girthy centre console, the requisite gauges and the shifter for the automatic transmission. There’s a bank of red rocker switches, which initiate the starting sequence for the Merlin engine. The wood-rimmed steering wheel is custom, and boasts a ‘JD’ signature centre push. Down in the footwell, there is a fuel pressure gauge.
In terms of condition, it’s all pretty good for a 1972 car. There are some blemishes and a couple of small splits in the seats, and the carpet in the footwells needs re-mounting, but there’s nothing fundamentally wrong. It’s got a bit of age to it. This car was never built to be a concours show winner, it was built to be driven. Ultimately, it’s all there, it’s remarkably comfortable and it’s in good overall condition.
A vision in beige
Full, bespoke fiberglass body
Custom ‘JD’ grille
Centreline staggered wheels
Imagine if a Scimitar GTE was addicted to the gym and protein shakes. Then imagine its dad was the Incredible Hulk. Then paint it beige. You’re halfway there. There’s nothing one can really compare The Beast to, because it’s the only car like it. It’s impossibly long, with a rear overhang big enough to provide shelter for a Nissan Micra. It has eight headlights, it has massive banks of triple vents in the wings. When the forward-opening bonnet is up, you need to let local air traffic control know. It’s comically large, a cartoonish, utterly bonkers machine. But The Beast was never going to be anything subtle, was it?
As for the condition, it’s really very good indeed. The fiberglass work is of an exceptional quality. Thick, solid and made with skill. There are some nicks and scrapes here and there, but again, this car was used. There is nothing to worry about, that’s the main thing. It’s a quality bit of body work, just look at the hinges for the rear hatch that are beautifully frenched into the roof. Look at the panel fit, the gaps and so on. It’s production quality.
The Beast sits on a set of staggered Centreline wheels wearing good tyres, from under the car peeks a pair of side-exit exhausts, while looking under the rear reveals the custom suspension and heavy-duty Currie axle. The lights are all in good condition, including the four Capri Mk1.5 rears, as is all the glass.
Merlin 27,000cc V12 engine
Custom ‘step up’ GM Turbo 400 three-speed auto
Austin Westminster steering
Bespoke rear suspension
Currie heavy duty rear axle
The Beast gets its name not only from its Brobdingnagian proportions, but also from the huge Merlin V12 that powers it. In the case of The Beast, the engine is naturally aspirated, not supercharged, and is speculated to produce approx. 750bhp. When it comes to the specs, there is a lot ‘estimated’. It’s never been on a rolling road, for example. However, the ‘stock’ engine with a supercharger could deliver 1,500bhp, so 750 doesn’t seem far-fetched. And, in 1973, the RAC verified a top speed run of 183mph, so it’s no slouch. When The Beast was featured in evo magazine, John boldly claimed 950bhp with an earth-turning 760lb ft of torque. Having never been on a rolling road, it’s difficult to pin an exact figure to it, but it’s a lot no matter how you look at it.
Being a specialist in automatic transmissions, Dodd was able to build a custom ‘step up’ GM Turbo 400 that could deliver the power to the rear end. However, the Jaguar kit that once resided is long gone, having presumably exploded. Instead, the car now has a heavy duty Currie rear axle from America.
The suspension is linked and rose-jointed at the back, tied into the chassis and the new axle, as you can see in the images. With good bushes, high quality locators and fixings and Panhard bar, it has all has been painted or powder coated. Heavy duty shocks can be found all round, too (coilover at the rear). The Beast also, as you’d hope, has disc brakes at all four corners.
But how does it run? That’s what you want to know. Well, we can tell you first hand that when The Beast fires into life, the earth shakes. No hyperbole, no sales talk, you can feel it shake everything around it. It is LOUD. The engine is every bit the symphony of mechanical noise you would expect from a war-era engine. It’s exciting, captivating and even a little bit scary, but in a good way. Like a 183mph rollercoaster if you will.
It’s The Beast. It’s a four-wheeled behemoth with more stories to tell than a retired Jackanory presenter. It is an event of a car, a celebration of speed, of power, of expression and of what can be achieved if you don’t put a ceiling on your goals. For John Dodd, it’s an example of making the impossible possible. It’s not a car that answers anything, it didn’t need to exist. But John made it exist. And for that, the automotive landscape is that more rich.
It’s about as sensible and practical as putting a Bedlington Terrier in charge of a nuclear power station, but so what? That’s what makes it brilliant. It’s not confined to rules or convention, because John Dodd wasn’t. Literally, as the court transcripts will gladly attest. It’s a remarkable car, with a remarkable history and if you bid and win it, a hopefully remarkable future, too.
See a better way to drive a beast? firstname.lastname@example.org
Bespoke, baby. A Capri on roids.
John Dodd out with the Beast 13th May 2018
I’d imagine Vince had a hard time resisting some different titles for this one…
Worth watching the start up sequence:
-Stan (…the *other* Stan…)