GRR

Flame-spitting Fiat S76 to race in S.F. Edge Trophy at 75MM

16th March 2017
Henry Hope-Frost

Stand back! The extraordinary Fiat S76 – all 28.5 litres of Italian speed-record-chasing muscle from the early 20th century – is coming to race at this weekend’s 75th Members’ Meeting.

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Unofficially the fastest car in the world in 1911, and once clocked at 135mph, the S76 will compete in the second running of the popular S.F. Edge Trophy for Edwardian leviathans built up to 1923.

Just two of these sensational machines were built in a bid to wrestle the flying-kilometre and flying-mile speed records from their German ‘Blitzen Benz’ rivals, although their efforts were never authenticated.

Fast forward more than 100 years, and this sole-surviving S76 has been lovingly and painstakingly pressed back into service by Duncan Pittaway. Obtaining the chassis of one car, that had been sold to a Russian before ending up as a modified racer in Australia, Pittaway set about mating it to the engine of the sister car, which had been broken up after World War 1 as a means of hiding its technical secrets. 

Except it wasn’t that simple. Not even for a wizard like Pittaway. So difficult, in fact, that the project took 10 years. The glorious moment when the S76 was finally fired up for the first time took place at Goodwood House in 2015, with Pittaway chauffeuring Lord March on the Festival of Speed hillclimb course.

Now, this incredible machine, dubbed affectionately ‘The Beast of Turin’, is set to race for the first time since its reawakening. And Pittaway chuckles mischievously when asked what he’s expecting during the S.F. Edge Trophy, which he won by a few yards in a diminutive GN Curtiss at last year’s 74th Members’ Meeting.

“It’ll be a huge scream,” he says. “Turning into Madgwick will be quite something; in fact so will turning into any of the corners come to think of it! She’ll gather speed nicely on the straights but we’ll have to see about all the important bits that join the straights together.”

The car’s biggest handicap when it comes to quick lappery is its height, as Pittaway explains: “The centre of gravity is ridiculous. It’s about a foot above the centre line of the chassis, so not ideal. The weight of it is pretty dramatic, too; the cylinder block alone weighs 250kg.”

Visitors to the past two Festivals of Speed will have marvelled at the apparent optical illusion of the S76 pressing on up the hillclimb, but what has Pittaway had to do to prepare the car for a race?

“Well, we’ve finally fitted an oil seal on the back of the crankcase, which has put an end to our long-term oil-leak issues. And apart from that, I’ve tightened up the clutch and pumped up the tyres to ‘rock hard’, which is about 100psi. I’d be happy to take suggestions on how to make it better. If I could just get the roll centre below my shoulders!”

If you’ve seen Pittaway’s dedication and commitment to the S76 – in the workshop and/or paddock and at the wheel – you’ll know all the comedy banter is just a wheeze; he’ll be all guns blazing in this fire-belching beast. Just remember to stand back when he fires it up in the paddock…

  • fiat

  • s76

  • beast of turin

  • 75MM

  • S.F. Edge Trophy

  • 2017

  • Pre-War

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    Members' Meeting

    Video: The spectacular Beast of Turin in action

  • fiat_s76_75mm_goodwood_06062017_01.jpg

    Members' Meeting

    Video: How the Fiat S76 went faster than ever at 75MM

  • s.f.-edge-trophy-part-2-highlights-copy.jpg

    Members' Meeting

    Video: 2024 S.F. Edge Trophy highlights | 81MM