1750 hp in a car!?… Paul Jamesons Merlin engined beast from 1976…. and a very near crash!
In the 1975 issue of the British car magazine ‘Motor’ I came across an story about the late Paul Jameson.
He was known at the time for crossing Europe at highly illegal speeds in a 12 cylinder, tank engined car with a Rolls Royce grill. I remembered seeing pictures in the Daily Mirror. All rubbish of course… although the car existed and drove it never went 190mph. He decided to correct this by building a second car using the fabulous 12 cylinder, 1750 bhp, supercharged Spitfire Merlin engine.
Once the car was finished and drove he decided to start a competition with the help of ‘Motor’ to find a design for the body.
I entered a design, the sketch is shown below, and I had the luck to win the competion against some quite serious design elite of the day, received 10 quid ( English Pounds) and the intention to build the design.
The design sketch from 1976.
I was studying car design at the time in London and decided to turn this sketch into my final year project. I needed to see the car in the flesh and soon set of to his home to meet him.
He lived in a lovely farm house in Surrey and the outbuildings had been turned into various workshops. In one stood a collection of these magnificent Merlin engines surround by several ejector seats. The beast itself stood outside and Paul proudly showed me around explaining the problems he had in getting this much power onto the road.
Paul talking about the car to a visitor at his farm house.
Compared to even the simplist methods of car construction back then (1976) his style was rudimentary. Maybe he did a sketch but basically he put the engine on some wooden trussing in the middle of the workshop floor and went from there. In those days there was no gearbox that could can that much power so the double rear axles originated each one driven by a four speed RR gearbox. Two gear boxes meant splitting the drive from the engine so Paul engineered and built a converter. The automatic gearboxes were located above each other..with a couple of other links the rear wheels were finally driven.
Front axle and suspension came from a Jag and a Corbeaux racing seat sat on each side of the engine. This really was a mid engined car.
Basic instruments and engine at your left ( or right) ear!!
The simplest of exhausts did nothing to mute the sound of this incredible engine. The rear radiators came from a truck.
The interest in Paul’s Merlin ‘monster’ was great and soon he decided to do some serious testing at the the Santa Pod drag strip.
Some of the national press were waiting for us and stood around as the car started.
Just the ‘wind-up’ sound of the engine made every one shiver…. a Spitfire was starting up. It started easily and Paul set off with a journalist for a couple of test runs. No seat belts!, just a helmet and a seat open to the elements.
This was fairly basic engineering and not much could go wrong.
After returning he said all was well and asked me if I wanted to join him for a ‘serious’ run.
It’s hard to describe sitting next to this magnificent engine especially in a small racing seat just holding onto the body work. Thrilling ….
With the race way in front of us we set off.. Of course it was fast but there was a lot of mass being moved forward…one simply held on. Paul later told me we were doing around 120 mph ( 200km/h )
when one of the automatic gearboxes decided not to change into 4th!. Although he reacted immediately with one locked up rear axle Paul nearly lost it and we almost spun!. Seconds later all was well, hearts were beating and we drove back to the paddock.
Paul discovered the source of the problem but could do nothing to fix it that day. So still alive we headed back to London.