Sometimes, more really is more. Forward-facing lamps? Eight of them should do just fine. Length? Round to the nearest yard. Displacement? Roughly equivalent to four Dodge Challenger Hellcats and an Audi Quattro combined. The Beast is a monument to excess in every sense of the word and it’s coming up for auction soon.
But wait, what is The Beast? Well, this custom car drew the ire of Rolls-Royce and the amazement of nigh-on every British schoolboy in the 1970s because it was one of the fastest, most outrageous things with number plates. I’m talking in excess of 180 mph in an era when the production car speed record stood at just under 180 mph for the Lamborghini Miura P400S, and a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most powerful road car in the world.
The original concept for The Beast came from Paul Jameson, a man who envisioned building a car with a 27-liter Rolls-Royce Meteor V12 normally found in machinery like the Cromwell tank. Allegedly, Jameson had a rolling chassis and an engine, but no gearbox or bodywork. That’s where John Dodd comes in.
Dodd specialized in automatic gearboxes and figured out a way to make a torque converter automatic play nice with the slow-breathing Meteor motor. However, Dodd got more than he bargained for when Jameson offered up the whole car. A bodyshell that looked like a Ford Capri transforming into The Incredible Hulk was fabricated up, and the whole thing became a demonstrator of sorts. It even had a Rolls-Royce radiator grille to go with the Rolls-Royce engine, which would eventually land Dodd in quite a bit of hot water. More on that later.
Sadly, the Mk 1 version of The Beast suffered a catastrophic fire in 1975 while returning from Sweden. No matter, a new engine, new shell, new everything but the chassis itself went in and the reborn Beast Mk 2 became even more of a legend.
At the heart of The Beast Mk. II reportedly sits a 27-liter Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 from a Boulton Paul Balliol training aircraft that’s seen some modifications. To start, it’s no longer supercharged and has been converted from a dry-sump oiling system to a more traditional wet sump. I say it’s reportedly a Merlin V12 as Dodd was a bit of a storyteller.
See, Dodd may have been able to keep the Rolls-Royce grille if he kept The Beast under the radar, but that didn’t happen. Not only was the car itself a publicity magnet, Dodd told Evo Magazine that he had a habit of trolling Rolls-Royce by phoning the company up, putting on a “funny accent,” pretending to be a German baron, and claiming that something with a Rolls-Royce grille overtook his Porsche 911 at 200 mph on the Autobahn.
The result was, predictably, a legal spat over trademark infringement that saw Dodd on the losing end. Classic Driver reports that not only did Rolls-Royce win judgment, Dodd was relieved of his house and other items for Contempt of Court. The result was flight to Malaga, Spain, with The Beast adopting a new grille featuring Dodd’s initials that you see on the car today. It’s rather remarkable that the car didn’t disappear but instead followed Dodd in his new adventures on the continent. In an interview with Classic Driver, Dodd said, “Luckily enough, I was always pretty handy with gearboxes, so when I had lost everything I decided to start afresh in Spain. Since then, I’ve learned to windsurf, waterski, and do all sorts of other things I’d have never done otherwise.” Fair play.
So what’s The Beast like to drive? According to an Evo Magazine road test from 2008, it’s not nearly as much of a brute as it could be. Ollie Marriage wrote that “The Beast is actually a pussycat. It doesn’t bite if you prod the throttle, it likes to be driven, and as long as you only need to make small inputs – changing lanes, for example – it’s easy and light to guide along.” Mind you, there appear to be a few downsides. Miles to the gallon? Two, and those are Imperial gallons, so more like 1.7 mpg in American measures. In addition, the handling’s reportedly a bit rubbish, and braking the sheer mass of the thing supposedly isn’t an exercise for the weak.
Still, what might be the ultimate ‘70s custom car could be yours if you have the scratch. The Beast is going up for auction on Car and Classic on Mar. 9, and would be a worthy garage addition for anyone who can stomach the absurd fuel bills. Here’s to Paul Jameson and John Dodd for imagining and executing this glorious exercise in automotive absurdity. May their legacies live on.
(Photo credits: Car and Classic)
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Would love to see how the Bishop would clean up this design.
Whoa…… I do photochops of cars and a few are weird just to be weird, but I haven’t done anything that comes close to this for sheer bizarro-ness.
I found a few photos of a ’79 Stutz Bearcat and dropped it’s front end, side pipe, and wire wheels on The Beast, and it actually works! It’s still weird, but not eight headlights weird.
I posted the photo on your Facebook page.
Thanks to the profile and fleshy colour, it immediately reminds me of the Ambiguously Gay Duo’s car.
I wonder what’s with the front plate of this thing. You can clearly see that this is not a UK-style plate; it’s in the DIN typeface, most likely a German-style one. If you look at photos of The Beast over the years, you can see that this is at least the third front plate it has had. Do these things keep getting stolen? Or bent? Or what?
The car was in Spain for many years, and used to come back for its annual MOT… so i think this is a Spanish plate & font, but with the UK reg (to get through the MOT…)