The Rolls-Royce Griffon V12 is a 37 litre (2,240 cu. in.) aero engine that was in development before the Second World War, but had its initial development paused so focus could be given to producing the 27 litre Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 in large enough numbers to keep the Nazis at bay.
Design work on the Griffon started in 1938 and the first running prototype was operational in late 1939. The Griffon wouldn’t see mass production until the early 1940s, it proved possible to fit the engine to a modified Supermarine Spitfire, giving it a significant power boost thanks to the extra 10 litres of capacity and the more advanced engineering that went into the engine.
Despite the 36% increase in swept capacity compared to the Merlin V12, the Griffon is only slightly larger. Many of the hard lessons learned during Merlin engine development were rolled into the Griffon and it’s a better engine as a result.
Rolls-Royce would keep the Griffon in production until 1955 and it was fitted to a wide range of aircraft including later versions of the Spitfire, the Avro Shackleton, the Bristol Beaufighter, the Supermarine Spiteful, the Supermarine Seafire, the Fairey Firefly, the Blackburn B-54, and many others.
The engine was also used in a number of non-aero applications including as the power unit for the RAF’s High Speed Launches – this engine was known as the Sea Griffon. The Sea Griffon would remain in production for a number of years beyond 1955.
In later years the Griffon has been a popular engine for both air racing and tractor pulling. The horsepower of standard versions of the Griffon varied depending on model, however the most powerful produced approximately 2,220 hp at the crank. In the air racing and tractor pulling worlds the engine was further modified for competition, numbers as high as 3,500 hp have been achieved however it should be noted that these engines require considerably less time between major overhauls.
The Rolls-Royce Griffon you see here is currently for sale out of the United Kingdom, the seller notes that it is missing some parts however it does look to be largely complete (from the outside of course). The current price is £17,000 although he mentions that he’s open to offers, confusingly the Buy It Now price is £25 however the seller explains that this is just for a photograph of the engine.
I’ve included an excerpt from a September 1945 edition of Flight Magazine about the Griffon and its engineering for those who want more information.
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