There’s always been a fascination for me with big marine converted aircraft engines. Slow turning big bore, big stroke, big cubic inches. The bigger the better. My first foray in the 1970’s was a big (1127cid) Hisso which I ran in METEOR V. For the next couple decades a variety of big engines passed through my life/ Chris-Craft A120s, Curtiss Conquerors, Curtiss D12s, a Liberty 550, a Supercharged Packard Gold Cup engine, a supercharged Harry Miller V16, and a bevy of Hispano-Suizas.
In the early 1990s a friend from down under, told me about the Rolls-Royce Meteor tank engine as used in the Cromwell and Centurion tanks from early in WWII thru the Vietnam War with many still used in the Gulf war and beyond. He sent me photos looking down into a military shipping container. What I saw was a behemoth Meteor lurking out at us. It wasn’t very pretty and did not impress me. There was more exposed plumbing than I had ever seen and power takeoffs for hydraulics, and the biggest generator I have ever seen. All lashed onto the top of the motor. I could have bought one at that time, but couldn’t in my wildest dreams imagine how I would ever use one.
A few years later I was in England visiting friends when I heard of a fellow named Robin Beech who was building an Aero Engined Car, around a Rolls Meteor. I was dumbfounded and had to make a detour to see the project. What I saw surprised me. Stripped of all the military shielded wiring and with much of the military accessories removed, the basic motor was so small and compact and I couldn’t believe it was the same engine which had not interested me a few years before.
I came back to New Hampshire with a renewed interest in marine converting these engines. I heard about a military surplus depot which had for decades been an overhaul station for Rolls Royce Meteors and Merlin aircraft engines. During another trip to Europe I made a detour there and met with the Chief Engineer. We had long conversations and I looked at warehouses full of engines which were for sale at affordable prices.
I came back home to New Hampshire and began a plan to build marine conversions for the Rolls Meteor. Vince Bober, an antique boat collector friend of mine stepped up to the plate. His help was invaluable as Vince is a mechanical engineer of the highest order. We enlisted the help of a cottage industry of machinists, engineers and high level motor heads, all of whom had a soft spot for beautiful machinery. But first we needed an engine to make drawings and do hard mock ups to prove out the conversion design. Harold Rivard from Hartford, Connecticut and I made a trip to Northern Ontario and purchased a couple used “run out” engines which were perfect for our needs.
Within a few months we had the design completed and Phil Sawyer began making hard parts which were fitted to our mock up engine. We began to feel confident that the conversion would work perfectly. So much so that I went back to Europe and negotiated the purchase of an engine. Word spread among our friends and quickly a volume discount was worked out so that within a day or two the quantity being ordered changed from one engine to 3. Then a dozen engines then two dozen. Eventually I purchased two warehouses full of 54 engines. Vince and I flew over and personally helped run a group of a dozen engines on a WWII era military dynamometer.
Over the next 8 or 10 years we marine converted ten Rolls Royce Meteor engines and sold a great number of spares to those who bought conversions. The engines have proven trouble free for hundreds of hours of operation. After ten marine engines, our machinist who was instrumental in the development and assembly of the engines, died of a long struggling illness and we decided that the fun was gone and we no wish to do any more. We have sold many of the yellow military rebuilt engines for a variety of purposes. Since many of the parts are interchangeable with the Rolls-Royce Merlin, the highest use for these engines, may turn out to be stripped for parts to support the surviving Merlins to keep Spitfires and P51-D Mustangs flying. We have sold nearly all of the Rolls Meteor engines from our inventory and now have less than half a dozen remaining. They are Zero Time rebuilt engines like new inside. The price for military rebuilt Meteor engines is $15,000 FOB Laconia, NH. Feel free to inquire. We can help customers to have engines shipped anywhere.