Heard about British engineer building a drag racing Land Rover Series 1?

British engineer Peter Grieve describes it as a “labour of love” but building a roadworthy drag racing vehicle from a 1956 Land Rover Series 1 with 1,300bhp must rate as an unusual challenge.

To power the drag racer, Peter, 51, who runs Flight Engineering in Leeds, is adapting a Rover manufactured Rolls-Royce Meteorite V8 18 litre engine from a 1950s Antar tank transporter and Shropshire-based Morris Lubricants is supplying the classic oils to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

He reckons when complete the turbo charged Land Rover will be capable of 0-130mph in 10 seconds and, if suitably geared achieve a theoretical top speed of 250mph over a longer distance. He expects his “labour of love” to take around 3,000 hours to build which translates to around £90,000.

“We would never do it as commercial venture, but this is my own project and I can’t wait to test it,” said Peter. “Before I get it on the road, I will have to see how it handles and get it right. There’s a lot of work to do before that.”

He purchased the 1956 long wheel base Land Rover for £6,000 from a company that imports them from Australia. “In the past, Land Rovers were sent over to Australia in kit form and they would assemble them over there,” explained Peter.

“The engine, gear box and axles were really worn out, but the chassis was fine, which is what I wanted. When it’s completed, it will look like a nicely restored, period car as near as possible to its original condition.”

He is now modifying the chassis to accommodate the engine, a roll cage is being welded in and the rear suspension is being fabricated before the vehicle is sent off for respraying. To help maintain the original look, the rear wheels are being banded to make them wider while the front wheels will be narrower to reduce rolling resistance.

A problem he has had to overcome is the position of the radiator grille in the Land Rover 1, which is set back. That has meant that the engine has had to be pushed back as far as possible and the fire wall reshaped.

The engine originally powered a 150-ton tank transporter that was in service until the 1970s and was purchased from a member of the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club. Peter says he has “taken everything off both ends of the engine” to reduce its width and weight. A cambelt drive and a custom-built gearbox have been installed and everything else is electronic.

“I couldn’t resist the opportunity to use this engine in a Land Rover,” he added. “The engine derives from the Rolls-Royce Merlin that powered the Spitfire in the Second World War. It was an incredible, advanced engine for its time.”

Peter hopes to have the vehicle ready for its drag racing debut next summer with Santa Pod Raceway in Northants a likely venue. Before that, he may test run it closer to home in Yorkshire.

To help the engine run smoothly, he has turned to experts at Morris Lubricants, one of Europe's leading oil companies, for advice. The Shrewsbury-based company is supplying Golden Film SAE 50, SAE 40 and 20w-50 Classic Motor Oils.

“Golden Film is available in different grades and is well suited to these vintage aero and military engines in non-flight applications,” said Peter.

Steve Brownless, Morris Lubricants’ area sales manager for Yorkshire and the East Midlands, said: “There is always a deep satisfaction in being able to support high precision engineering ventures of this kind that create so much interest in this sector.”

The two companies have worked together successfully in the past and another link comes through Morris Lubricants’ brand ambassador Guy Martin, who owns a trailer mounted Rolls-Royce Merlin display engine built by Peter.

Rolls-Royce Merlin engines are Peter’s passion and he owns his own display version which he takes to shows across the UK.

Turning his hobby of restoring vintage engines into a business, he has restored aeroplane and Army tank engines and even built the 3,000bhp engine and designed and built the transmission for the 200mph Canadian Unlimited Hydroplane, Miss Canada IV.