Would it be possible to put a 12-cylinder engine in a 1979 Chevrolet Corvette C3, preferably an engine designed to fly a propeller airplane or other small aircraft?

How expensive would it be? How many car customization shops would be capable of doing it, and are there in SE Wisconsin/the Greater Chicago area?

It's a dream come true to own a C3, but a 12-cylinder airplane engine in it, ala the Jaguar in decades past, would really rock!

"Well, it might be Greased Lightning!"

  • 1
    ""Well, it might be Greased Lightning!" - well, it might, but it will probably be a **** to drive, because aero engines are only designed to run in a small rev range, which is maintained as the throttle position (i.e.the power output) changes by varying the pitch of the propeller blades. If your automatic transmission (or manual clutch) is OK with "slipping" 100% of the time you are driving, that should work just fine - or maybe not. ;)
    – alephzero
    Oct 7, 2018 at 9:41
  • Changing box and final drive ratios is always an option - I changed diffs from 4.77 to 1 for diffs of 3.54 to 1 - made a huge difference....
    – Solar Mike
    Oct 7, 2018 at 9:48
  • What 12 cylinder aircraft engine are you referring to @JeffreyRolland? Most light aircraft engines are 4-6 cylinders and produce less than 200 horsepower. The 12 cylinder engines I know of are huge, the Rolls Royce Merlin is over 7 feet long and weights 1600lb before you add fluids to it.
    – GdD
    Oct 8, 2018 at 12:16

2 Answers 2


Well, all is possible...

The issues become about the space necessary and how you provide that, while keeping the structural integrity.

Then you will need to consider all that needs to be done. Such as cooling system upgrade, power steering, brake upgrades, exhaust system (welding possibly necessary) transmission (clutch /flywheel and adaptor plates), making engine mounts, making (extending or shortening) propshafts, moving or re-building chassis members and sorting the wiring /computer issues.

Solving the issues is challenging and a great learning experience, but the depth of the wallet is also a consideration.

There are many youtube videos showing what some car shops produce, once you start looking you may find one close (relatively) to you...


The general concept isn't impossible, as shown by Charlie Brumfield who in a fit of delicious insanity fitted an Rolls-Royce Meteor engine to a Rover SD1

Ok technically the Meteor is from a tank but it's derived from the Merlin engine (which was used to fling Spitfire and P51 aircraft around the sky during WWII) and yes, you lose the supercharger which brings power down from ~2000bhp to a positively wimpy 600bhp but you do still have ~1500lbft of torque to play with and the adaptions RR did to the Merlin in converting it to tank applications make fitting it to a car far more feasible (IIRC it has a flat sump and some changes to allow for easier fitting to a road-gearbox) and is more tolerant of running with automotive fuel.

As for how much it would cost - the answer is (unsurprisingly) had to even put a ballpark figure on - the job is so rare and almost always different base cars that you aren't going to even be able to get an estimate but a Meteor engine will set you back around £10,000 to start. Labor will be a massive amount as well, for a project like this you're going to need a first class mechanic/shop and they generally aren't cheap and assuming similar practices to here in the UK they'll presumably want a decent upfront amount to get the project off the ground and then it'll be a case of "it's done when it's done and will cost what it costs", basically I reckon if you have to ask "how much" then you can't afford it.

Some other points to consider:

  • Economy would likely need to be measured in gallons-per-mile rather than the other way around.
  • It's going to be seriously loud, probably not exactly comfortable either
  • It's going to handle badly. How badly is hard to say but something like the Meteor is over 700kg - more than triple the weight of something like an L-82 V8, that's going to do nasty things to the weight distribution and I imagine the sheer size will likely limit the front suspension options.
  • Everything on the car will need to be spec'd to match - brakes, suspension, transmission, it's all going to need to be sufficient to handle the extra weight, power and torque.
  • It was not the original, that was a copy of the one done back in the seventies, a merlin into a Rolls Royce (and they were NOT pleased...), see classicdriver.com/en/article/cars/…
    – Solar Mike
    Oct 8, 2018 at 13:35
  • "The Beast" as it's known. To be fair I can see why Rolls-Royce were annoyed as it was badged up as an RR. There is debate as to whether the Beast uses a Merlin or a Meteor (no supercharger). There's also Final Objective, a Merlin-engined '55 Chevy Bel Air built by Castlemaine in Australia..the estimated cost was ~ $1million to build and it's second owner once described it as "kind of an attention-getter" which may possibly an understatement along the lines of calling WWII "a minor scuffle"! Oct 9, 2018 at 10:08

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