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Restored 104-Year-Old Car Roars Back To Life
October 2, 2015
Dragons are said to live in caves or old castles, but Duncan Pittaway's dragon lives in his garage. His dragon doesn't have scales, but it definitely spits fire.
For the last 10 years, Pittaway has worked on restoring "The Beast of Turin" -- also known as the Fiat S76 -- a massive automotive relic from the cradle of the 20th century. Only two of the cars were ever created, and neither was currently intact -- meaning Pittaway had to use historical photographs and century-old blueprints as his references when rebuilding the Beast.
One of the cars had been almost entirely dismantled after the First World War to keep its engineering secrets out of the hands of rival automakers, according to the Telegraph. The other was bought by a Russian aristocrat and later crashed and abandoned, noted Motor Sport Magazine.
Pittaway combined as many parts from both of the cars that he could find, including the gargantuan engine from the dismantled S76. He didn't just want to create a showroom model -- he wanted the Beast to live again.
"All of the original S76 components that have survived have been restored," Pittaway told the Telegraph, "from the chassis and engine down to the suspension, axles, pedals, steering box, with the gearbox, radiator and bodywork being created using the original Fiat drawings."
In December of 2014, footage was uploaded to YouTube of the S76 roaring back to life for the first time in over a century. The car's engine shot out massive flames and let out a booming rumble akin to a barrage of artillery.
The S76 featured an obscene 28.5-liter engine. For reference, a 2015 Corvette has a 6.2-liter engine. The Ferrari 458? Four and a half.
"In those days they thought to be fast you put a big engine in," Pittaway told the BBC in June. "To be faster you put an even bigger engine in."
That's exactly what Fiat did. The S76 boasted an engine displacement higher than any car that had come before it. The S76 stands as the victor in a displacement arms race between Fiat and Benz, culminating in the S76 besting the Blitzen Benz's land-speed record in 1911. The S76 was recorded at 136 mph, faster than the Blitzen's 126 mph, but it was unable to officially snatch the title from Benz because the car was "unable to complete a return run within the specified one hour," according to the Telegraph.
Within a few months of the S76's development, the displacement war would come to an end. According to Goodwood Road and Racing, smaller twin-cam engines would utilize power more efficiently, closing the curtain on the massive Edwardian-era engines.
The S76's engine remains as the largest displacement of any car engine ever made, according to Jalopnik.
Automotive design may have moved away from massive displacement engines, but Duncan Pittaway hasn't forgotten about them. His decade-long journey to see the Fiat's fire-breathing dragon live again finally came to an end in March, when he was finally able to drive the completed S76 on the grounds of Goodwood -- home of the Festival of Speed.
Click below for footage of the S76's engine igniting for the first time in almost 100 years, as well its first trip around Goodwood.
§ Stefan Marjoram, Chevrolet, Telegraph, Goodwood Road & Racing, Jalopnik, Motor Sport Magazine, BBC, Jalopnik, and Goodwood Road & Racing via YouTube