Morpheus on… The World’s SECOND Most Famous Car

Of course, EVERYONE is familiar with the MOST famous: the 1964 Aston-Martin DB5 (with a few lethal modifications) from “Goldfinger” (and the pre-title sequence from “Thunderball”) – which looks like THIS…

But what of the SECOND? This article will attempt to settle the matter…

A strong contender would be another Sixties icon – the TV Batmobile. Incredibly, it began as a FIFTIES concept car, called the Lincoln Futura. Only one example was ever built and after featuring in a soppy rom-com, it ended up in the backyard of George Barris – a car customiser. When new, it had looked like this…

1955 Lincoln Futura

But after just a couple of weeks, George had turned it into THIS…

Batmobile

Pretty cool, huh?

But wait – there are OTHER candidates. Yet again, from the Sixties (sorry, but it’s my era) comes Lady Penelope’s “FAB 1” – which looks like THIS…

FAB 1

OH, yes. But my personal favourite HAS to be a car I have actually SEEN – and more importantly, HEARD. I am talking of John Dodd’s “The Beast”. Powered by a twenty-seven litre, supercharged V12 Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, it looks like THIS…

John Dodd's - The Beast

I encountered it in 1972. It was lunchtime and I was on foot, headed for Fleet Street for some reason – and as I passed the Law Courts, there it was. Parked right outside, surrounded by press. And just at that moment, a dejected-looking man strode out and spoke to the reporters – then he got into the car, fired it up and when a gap appeared in the traffic, ROARED off.

I had NEVER heard a noise like it.

And having listened in to his press conference, I had discovered the reason for his disgruntlement. It is a long story, which I will now tell you…

I will begin with the incident that sparked this forty-two-year-old memory. In a recent e-mail, my son happened to mention that he had been zapped by his Lister engine. I immediately e-mailed back, “WHAT? You’ve bought a LISTER??”

Now for those unfamiliar, I should mention that a modern 546-horsepower Lister looks like THIS…

Lister

…and costs a pretty penny. However – tragically, it turned out that my son’s Lister looked like THIS…

Lister engine

It is a 1.5-horsepower industrial engine, made by RA Lister – a company unrelated to the Lister Motor Company, who make the car shown above it.

In my response, I joked, “Well, if you ever put it in a car – don’t put ‘Lister’ on the radiator grill!”

Which brings me back to John Dodd and his Beast…

As you can see from the above picture of FAB 1, that car sports a Rolls-Royce radiator grill – aggressively tilted forward, to boot. And one suspects the only reason Gerry Anderson got permission to use it (something Jonathan Frakes FAILED to manage, when he made the MODERN Thunderbirds film) was that Aston had BLOWN THEIR chance of a ton of free publicity, when they got snotty about Eon prods using their DB5 – in what would turn out to be a LEGENDARY film.

However, when John put the engine that won WW2 (it powered the Hurricanes and Spitfires) in a glass-fibre-bodied sports car and plonked a Rolls-Royce grill on the front – RR immediately SUED. And John LOST. The car now sports a non-descript grill with “JD” on it.

Which is a damn shame, because it is a MAGNIFICENT vehicle.

I have seen Concorde take off in the rain.

And an Intercity 125 fly through a little station.

But back in ’72, when I saw John turn that key – and heard twenty-seven litres of supercharged V12 Merlin POWERING into life…

The car still exists and so does Mr Dodd. He has retired to Spain now – but still occasionally exhibits The Beast. He has even shopped in it (it turns heads). But he keeps those trips to a minimum, given it drinks a gallon of fuel every MINUTE.

Sadly, the only video of this stentorian automobile is a VERY EARLY “Top Gear” piece. It is deeply awful, but briefly shows MY encounter with it (outside that court) and you can JUST ABOUT hear (over the inane babble of the presenter) the most MAGNIFICENT noise I personally have EVER heard.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHp58Ss5GvM

I would appeal to Top Gear to do a NEW feature on The Beast – before Jeremy finally pisses off so many people that Auntie HAS to give her errant nephew the BOOT.

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