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And how much torque would such a car provide? Leno, who also owns a Rolls-Royce Meteor-powered Bentley, bought this car from a British gentleman almost three decades ago.

Packard Rolls-Royce Merlin | lemaymarymount

It was a Rolls lacking a permanent body and, among other things, a gearbox that could take the torque the Jaguar XK unit that the car came with certainly couldn't. So Leno enlisted his chief fabricator Jim Hall, whose first task was to figure out how to put six twin-Weber carburetors on a Merlin.

Hint: You'll need a 3D-printer. On top of creating a period correct aluminum body with a grille that doesn't look out of place on a Rolls, Leno's team also upgraded the chassis with a six-speed manual New Venture Gear transmission—the same one found in Cummins-powered Ram pickup trucks.

Various other bits helped this backwards-mounted engine adapt to its new, close-to-the-ground career. Now, this chassis has additional electric cooling pumps, stronger wire wheels, an upgraded Dana 60 rear axle with a custom driveshaft, a volt electrical system and two gallon fuel tanks.

Artifact Spotlight: Merlin Engine

But it retains its hand magneto for the traditional "shower of sparks" experience. With the Merlin engine alone weighing some lbs, this aero monster is a lb. More importantly, the engines got upgrades in reliability and airflow, helping pilots win fights in altitudes low and high.

The low-altitude upgrades would prove essential during the Battle of Britain where English and German planes clashed in fights as low as 6, feet. As it was, the Merlins suffered one big problem that came up during the Battle of Britain and other struggles: it used a carburetor while contemporary German engines were fuel-injected.

This meant that the Merlin had a tendency to cut out during dives while the fighters they were opposing did not. Still, the engine was a literal lifesaver for RAF pilots, and both the Brits and Americans wanted to buy more of them.

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A P flies over Virginia. The P was first built with an Allison engine but quickly transitioned to the Merlin with great results.

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Britain inked a deal with Ford motor company to start mass producing the engine on the American side of the Atlantic, but Ford later backed out of the deal. The offer was made to Packard, then a luxury car brand in the U.


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It's one of these early Packards that Leno is showing off in his garage. They were delivered across the Atlantic both in boxes and already installed in planes like the P The P was originally ordered by the Royal Air Force in and sported an Allison engine that produced 1, hp, but proved unreliable above 15, feet.


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  7. Since it was supposed to escort bombers, that was a huge issue. The switch to the Merlins greatly increased their power and altitude ceilings. And, in a lucky coincidence, the Merlin changed the center of gravity of the plane, shifting it slightly back. The engineers added a fuel tank to the front to level it out, also increasing the plane's range.


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    World War II buffs love the engine for its effect on the war, but gearheads like Leno can find a lot to love in the engine's massive power output and throaty sound.