Jay Leno Drives 21.7-Liter Fiat Botafogo to Local Car Show, Gets Stuck in Mud

Jay Leno drives the Fiat Botafogo Special 6 photos
Photo: Robert Lewis/YouTube
Jay Leno Drives Fiat Botafogo SpecialJay Leno Drives Fiat Botafogo SpecialJay Leno Drives Fiat Botafogo SpecialJay Leno Drives Fiat Botafogo SpecialJay Leno's Fiat Botafogo Special
Does anyone here know how many cars Jay Leno owns right now? Are we talking about hundreds? Or maybe thousands? Well, regardless of numbers, I do know that he owns some pretty cool rigs.
And I'm not just talking about modern supercars or famous and valuable classics. He also owns quite a few unusual automobiles, including a 1913 Mercer Raceabout, which is the chunkiest vintage race car out there, a three-wheeled 1931 Shotwell, and a supercharged, 1,000-horsepower trike.

Leno also owns a replica of the infamous Fiat Mephistopheles, the race car fitted with an aircraft engine that set a land speed record in the 1920s. Called the Fiat Botafogo Special, Jay's contraption was put together in Argentina using the exact same 21.7-liter Fiat A.12 six-cylinder mill.

If you're not familiar with the latter, it's a liquid-cooled aircraft engine that Fiat built from 1916 to 1919. It was used during World War I in a variety of airplanes built by Airco, Caproni, and Fiat. Some engines also made it into NS class airships and a couple of Fiat tank prototypes. The Italian company built more than 13,000 A.12 engines.

The story of the Botafogo Special is interesting, to say the least. Originally built without a gearbox and brakes, it was wrecked in the late 1940s and forgotten for several decades. The Fiat was rediscovered in the 1990s and rebuilt by a company called Pur Sang before it made it into Jay Leno's classic car garage.

I'm not sure when the former TV show host took delivery of the massive Fiat, but he featured it on his YouTube channel in 2012. You'll find that video below if you want to learn more about the Botafogo special.

Difficult to start and drive, this Fiat isn't the kind of car Jay will drive to the grocery store. But he takes it out of storage once a few years and 2022 was the Botafogo's lucky year as Leno decided to parade it at the Best of France and Italy car show at Woodley Park in Van Nuys, California.

But the showcase didn't go as smoothly as Leno had hoped. Not only the 21.7-liter inline-six had a few issues but the heavy Fiat also got stuck in a mud puddle. Luckily, a few spectators were quick to give the Botafogo Special a push and got Leno and his passengers moving again. Likely tipping the scales at more than two tons, this Fiat isn't the kind of vehicle you want to get out of the mud by yourself.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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