Sunday, April 3, 2011

Meet the Mefistofele, Fiat's 21.7-liter Record-Breaking Car from Hell

The story of the Mefistofele started in 1908, when Fiat introduced the SB4 chain-driven Grand Prix racer. After seeing it race, Sir Ernest Eldridge from Britain bought the car with the aim of turning it into speed record breaker.

However, there was one problem: the original car's 18.0-liter engine was considered rather small by Eldridge, who decided to replace it with a massive airplane powerplant (you can read a similar story here). He opted for a liquid-cooled Fiat-built 21.7-liter inline six-cylinder unit (type A-12 Bis) that developed 320 horsepower at 1,800 rpm after various upgrades such as the fitting of four valves and four spark plugs on each cylinder.

The story goes that in order to accommodate the long and heavy engine, Eldridge lengthened the SB4's chassis using parts from a London bus. The car was chain-driven and had brakes only at the rear, which made it a handful for even the most experienced of drivers. Interestingly, experts fail to understand even today the mechanism that allowed the car to reverse, since there is no trace of it left.

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