You never know what’s going to show up in Jay Leno’s Garage.
For the latest episode, the former Tonight Show host showed off his 1930 Bentley, which is powered by a 27-liter Merlin V12 aircraft engine.
Manufactured by Rolls-Royce’s aviation division, the Merlin is a legendary engine. During World War II, it powered the Hurricane and Spitfire fighters that repelled Nazi air attacks during the Battle of Britain.
It was also built in the U.S. under license by Packard, and used in improved versions of the P-51 Mustang, the most famous American fighter plane of WWII.
So what’s it doing in a car?
Going well beyond the conventional engine swap, a British builder essentially constructed the entire Bentley around the Merlin. He later sold the completed car to Jay, but not before it made an appearance on Top Gear, where – in an ultimate display of British jingoism – Jeremy Clarkson raced it against the 47-liter BMW aircraft V12-powered “Brutus”.
Jay reckons the Bentley produces between 650 and 700 horsepower, but it’s not exactly a sports car. The darn thing weighs around three tons, and can fit an entire Fiat 500 Abarth within its wheelbase.
Modern amenities like electronic fuel injection and power steering make this custom creation much easier to drive than anything this big and powerful has a right to be. While it’s not nimble, Jay says it is “tractable”. Sure.
A car with this much charisma doesn’t need to turn fast lap times. It’s a bombastic tribute to grey pieces of British engineering that can make Hummer drivers cower in fear. Long may it roll.