The Mighty Mephistopheles to Roar at Goodwood

The 2011 Goodwood Festival of Speed sees the return of the car that propelled Ernest Eldrige to a land speed record of 146mph back in 1924. The monster car, built base of a 1908 Fiat SB4 Corsa and powered by a WW1 Fiat A12 aircraft engine (the A-12 Bis), is the only one of its kind in the world, and will be going up the Goodwood Hill twice a day over the Festival of Speed weekend.

"It takes slightly less time to start the Space Shuttle,” says Gianfranco Dazia, chief mechanic to the mighty Fiat record-breaker. He has spent five years restoring this monster, bit by bit, bolt by bolt.

Fiat “found” the replacement aircraft engine under a bench at its Turin museum. An A-12 First World War fighter aircraft unit, it displaces 21 litres across six cylinders, with four valves and four plugs each.

Originally designed for use on a WWI bomber, the engine was as sophisticated as it was big. Consisting of three sets of two cylinders, it featured a single overhead camshaft and four valves per cylinder. Along with his very brave co-driver, John Ames, Eldridge made some modifications to the engine before installing it into the newly obtained chassis. Four Solex carburetors were fitted and two additional plugs were added to the each of the cylinders, bringing the engine's total to 24. In this guise, the Fiat aero engine pumped out a hefty 320 bhp at just 1800 rpm.

Eldridge modified the car by lengthening the chassis (the wheelbase was lengthened to 11ft 5 1/8thins), using parts derived from a London bus, and adding the aircraft engine converted to deliver 320 HP. On 12 July 1924, Mephistopheles – so called due to the bangs and puffs of smoke that it emitted when capturing the world land speed record – reached the extraordinary figure of 234.97km/h (146.01mph).
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
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Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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