The Rolls-Royce Merlin Engine powered some of the most famous airplanes of World War II, including the Spitfire, the Hurricane, the Mosquito, the Mustang, and the Lancaster.

By the end of its production run in 1950, 168,176 Merlin engines had been built; over 112,000 in Britain and more than 55,000 under licence in the U.S. Following is the factory data given in Wikipedia:

Factory production counts:

  • Rolls-Royce: Derby = 32,377

  • Rolls-Royce: Crewe = 26,065

  • Rolls-Royce: Glasgow = 23,675

  • Ford Manchester = 30,428

  • Packard Motor Corp = 55,523 (37,143 Merlins, 18,380 V-1650s)

  • Commonwealth Aircraft Corp (CAC): NSW Australia = 108

Overall produced: ~168,176

After the end of the Second World War, in the United States, many war surplus engines and airframes were sold relatively cheaply – two of the most popular items were North American P-51 Mustangs and Packard V-1650 Merlin engines. Many of these engines remain heavily used to this day in Drag Racing, Hydroplane racing, and Land Speed Racing (source).

Also, the last civil aviation use of the Merlin engine was in the mid-1970s on Canadair North Stars which was a Merlin engined development of the Douglas DC4.

My question is what happened to the Rolls-Royce's British built Merlin engines (excluding the ones that were scraped) after 1945 outside of military uses?

References I have read are:

  1. Wikipedia: Rolls-Royce Merlin

  2. Wikipedia: Packard V-1650 Merlin

  3. Canadair North Star

  • Could the question in the body be harmonized a bit better with the question in the title? "What happened to them?" seems to be a bit different question from "How were they used?"
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 11 at 20:42
  • 1
    FWIW, I happen to know from my day job that Rolls Royce is still quite active in the market of civilian aircraft engines. Given that North Star appears to be a perfectly normal sized civilian airliner of the time, I don't see any reason to assume that in the meantime their engines weren't used for any and all civilian purposes one might want an aircraft (and associated engines) for.
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 11 at 20:50

1 Answer 1


Most of the military Merlins were scrapped. They had been built for performance as the highest priority, with the expectation that none would serve more than a few hundred hours before the aircraft they powered were shot down or crashed. Long service lives and low maintenance were low priorities. Air forces work hard on maintenance and willingly spend money on it. Merlins stayed in military uses for decades after the war, gradually retreating into smaller air forces, but that's not what you're asking about.

There were civilian versions of the Merlin post-war, with lesser performance and increased service lives. They powered the Avro Tudor and Canadair North Star. But that seems to be about all. Merlins were also used in powerboat racing and a very small number of custom-built cars, but a Merlin is ludicrously overpowered for road vehicles, as well as being very large and heavy.

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