The year is 1911.
Fields are still being plowed by mules and horses.
Most of rural America doesn't have electricity.
Yet still, there are plans to break the powered vehicle land speed record.
How to get started? Well, to begin with, "there is no replacement for displacement"
So start there.
FIAT, the Italian manufacturing conglomerate, hatched a plan, with a 28.5 liter, 4 cylinder, water cooled, triple spark plug per cylinder Beast (the S76 if we're getting technical).
At the time, the first test driver refused to take the vehicle above 90 mph, and it's not hard to understand why. Nearly everyone in the entire world had no idea what would happen at those speeds, a horse at full speed was the entirety of the idea of 'fast'.
Finally, in 1913, an American driver was hired, and the car hit 132 mph...however, the title of the worlds fastest was not attainable, as the car couldn't complete the run in both directions in the allotted time, which is how top speed runs are done to this day.
132 mph in a time where most people still walked and biked to work. Then this fire breathing (it actually spits fire) unrestricted monster rips through the countryside. I can't imagine.
Unfortunately, as often happens to showpieces and test cars, it was dismantled. There was WW1 rebuilding going on after all, and that was much more important. Slowly, a piece here and a piece there, and next thing you know just the shell is put out back and forgotten.
But there is a glorious conclusion to this story. Fate intervened....a man willing to restore this car, the discovery of a second engine (the original engine was gone)....and the technological advancements to recreate the crucial missing pieces of the car....and 100 years later, she roared to life.
This car coming to life is a chill inducing show today. Just imagine this thing rolling out of a makeshift shop in 1911 and waking up everyone in the surrounding towns. They captured thunder and lightning.
What an amazing feat.
So now what? How about let's strap someone to it and run it down the road. Over 100 years since it was last driven.
Sound like fun, and quite a bit of work. Ignition timing, fuel pressure, gear changes, oil pressure....all of this has to be constantly monitored every second of the run. This video from Goodwood this past weekend shows just how much work is involved, and this is at 40 mph. Imagine more than tripling that speed! How terrifying the ride must have been. On a dirt road. With no safety equipment. Incredible/nuts.
Huge thanks to everyone involved in saving this piece of automotive art and history.
Here is a another nice video showing the intricacies of running this piece of machinery, and some archival photos from over a hundred years ago, when this thing was thundering through the country side. The likes of it we almost never saw again.