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The Rolls-Royce Meteor (also sometimes known as the Rover Meteor) was a British tank engine of the Second World War. It was developed from the Rolls-Royce Merlin aero-engine by W. A. Robotham and his chassis design and development division at Belper (as they were not involved in aero-engine work). He originally considered adapting the Kestrel, but while having more power than the existing "Liberty" or Meadows engines, it did not provide the desirable 20 bhp per ton required. Robotham was made Chief Engineer of Tank Development, and the Tank Division at Belper was involved with the overall design of four versions of the Cromwell tank, using a standard set of components.


Design and development

For tank use the Merlin had its supercharger, reduction gear, and other equipment removed from its camshaft greatly simplifying its construction. It was de-rated to approximately 600 bhp (447 kW), running on lower octane pool petrol instead of high octane fuel (avgas). In addition, because weight-saving was not so important for a tank engine some of the Merlin's more expensive light-alloy components were replaced with cheaper, steel components in the Meteor X version. It was also envisaged that the Meteor would use some components rejected on quality grounds for the Merlin, i.e. Merlin scrap. [1] In 1943 an acute shortage of blocks was met by dismantling surplus older marks of Merlins.

Unlike previous British tank engines, e.g. the American Liberty L-12 of 340 bhp (250 kW) licence-built by Nuffield which was used in the Crusader, the engine was very lightly stressed and reliable, while doubling the power available. Previously British tanks had been regarded as underpowered and unreliable, and the Meteor is considered to be the engine that for the first time gave British tanks ample, reliable, power. Initially it was used in the Cromwell tank, which was developed from the Crusader tank.

But in 1941 Leyland who had an order for 1,200 Meteor engines were still advocating their own diesel tank engine, although it would deliver only 350 hp (260 kW), barely more than the Liberty. Meadows produced some Meteors, but the small factory of 2,000 men was producing 40 different types of engine. So Meteor production was to be by Rover (Tyseley) and Morris (Coventry).

The first Merlin prepared for tank use was trialled in a modified Crusader in September 1941 at Aldershot.[2]


The Meteor was used in the following vehicles:

  • A Mk II version of the Valiant tank, to use a two-thirds-size (V8) version of the engine called the "Meteorite" was suggested but not proceeded with.


When Ernest Hives told Beaverbrook that he already had his hands full making Merlin aero engines and Rolls-Royce would want £1 million to their credit and 'no interference' to make tank engines, Beaverbrook telegrammed back:

Hives, Rolls-Royce, Derby.

The British Government has given you an open credit of one million pounds. This is a certificate of character and reputation without precedent or equal. Beaverbrook.

The Meteor was initially produced by Rolls-Royce, but when Hives became interested in the then new jet engine Hives struck a deal in December 1942 with Spencer Wilks of Rover to take over Rover's then ailing gas turbine factory at Barnoldswick in return for Rover taking over the Rolls-Royce tank engine factory in Nottingham and production of the Meteor, to become officially effective on 1 April 1943. Rover took over the Meteor in January 1944 and in 1946 the British Government made Rover responsible for research and development of large military engines. In this role Rover continued the development and production of the Meteor Mk IVb and various derivatives, including the Meteorite V8 and the M120 V12. Rover ceased this activity in 1964 having produced approximately 9,000 engines, and Rolls-Royce again became responsible for the manufacture of spare parts to support fielded engines. Future engines for British tanks were manufactured by Rolls-Royce engine divisions, which were acquired by Perkins UK and then Caterpillar US.


  • Peter Pugh (2000). "Volume 1 of The Rolls-Royce Story". The Magic of a Name: The Rolls-Royce Story, The first 40 Years. Cambridge: Icon Books. pp. 253–255. ISBN 1 84046 151 9.  
  • Evans, McWilliams, Whitworth and Birch (2004). The Rolls Royce Meteor. Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust. ISBN 1 872922 24 4.  
  • Ian Lloyd (1978). "chapter 7, The Meteor Tank-Engine Project". Rolls Royce: The Merlin at War. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-24016-2.  

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