The FIAT S76, also known as “The Beast Of Turin”, was designed to capture the World Land Speed Record in 1911 which at the time stood at 127.66 set by Fred Marriot driving the steam powered Stanley Rocket in 1906 and the petrol powered Benz No.1 which recorded 125.94 mph set by Frenchman Victor Hémery, both speeds recorded over a flying kilometer.
There is disagreement over how many spindly S76 chassis were built some say one, Duncan Pittaway who built today’s example says two. Duncan’s chassis flexes under the weight of the twin cam, four valve per cylinder, four cylinder motor with a capacity of 28.3 litres / 1,727 cui.
With dual ignition the motor was good for nearly 300 hp and in 1911 Pietro Bordino drove an S76 270 miles north on public roads from Brooklands near London to Saltburn by the Sea where it was timed at a promising 116 mph on soft sand. One over enthusiastic US promoter believed incorrectly that Bordino had covered 116 mph in an hour.
In 1912 Arthur Duray drove an S76 at Oostend in Belgium where the car was unofficially timed at 139 mph. Unfortunately bad weather and trying to fit two runs in with a tram timetable precluded a successful conclusion to the attempt.
There is a myth that one of the S76’s later the same year was timed at an unofficial 180 mph at Long Island or Daytona Beach, a speed that was never officially reached on land until 1927, Duncan absolutely refutes such myth’s about the S76, though a US promoter did go public on his intention to organise an event twixt an S76 and a record holding Blitzen Benz type but that event NEVER TOOK PLACE.
Duncan found the chassis for today’s featured car, which he believes Duray drove in Belgium, in Australia where the provenance, origin and even chassis type is vigorously being questioned by respected historians. The motor was found in the Politecnico di Torino who received it from FIAT.
Once Duncan had the chassis and motor he repaired the chassis
and set about building a gearbox from original FIAT drawings and returning the motor to working order which required building new connecting rods as long as my forearm and new pistons. Duncan says the most difficult part was recreating the body from photographs and drawings which he handed over to Roach Manufacturing.
Now the S76 is complete it has become an internet sensation after a clip of it being started for the first time appeared on youtube. Duncan hopes to take his S76 to Oostende to complete a properly timed run to show that the S76 was the fastest car in the world going into the 1914-18 war.
Thanks for joining me on this “Unfinished Business” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres”, I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !