Although numbers never tell the entire story, when it comes to the 1911 Fiat S76—better known to car nuts the world over as the Beast of Turin—they just might. Hear me out: 290 horsepower and a supposed 2,000 lb-ft of torque from a 28.4-liter inline-four. Actually, we can just stop there. Yes folks, you read that right. The Beast’s pistons displace 433 cubic inches—each!
Then there’s the fact that in 1911 some whack job hit 135 mph over a flying mile. Please note that the Beast has no doors or roof, features a floppy external chain drive, and spits fire. Seriously, this car spits fire. Constantly. You can watch the firing order via the open headers because current owner and restorer Dustin Pittaway never bothered to attach an exhaust.
Once acknowledged as the fastest car in the world, the Beast here is actually a bit of a Frankenstein creation. In order to beat the dominant Blitzen Benz, a similar type of race car but featuring a puny 21.5-liter inline-four, Fiat built two S76s. After the first 300HP Fiat (as they were also called) set an unofficial record of 135 mph, a Russian prince acquired it and for who knows what reason had it shipped to Australia.
The second Beast was dismantled by Fiat after World War I. This red Beast is composed of the chassis from the first car and the engine from the second. Despite having no engineering training, Pittaway rebuilt the transmission from Fiat archival blueprints himself.
I was lucky enough to watch the Beast of Turin run up Lord March’s driveway at the 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed. The evil roar, the billowing gray smoke, the nonstop fire—all of it was breathtaking. But what most stands out for me is nearly getting run over by the Beast—twice. Two stories I’ll save for another day. What a great way to go, no?
Actually, those are the Beast’s pistons. And as each one displaces more than an LS7, they’re bigger than paint cans.
Good thing the EPA has no jurisdiction in the U.K. All the Beast does is spit fire and belch smoke. Even at idle. Tree huggers can rejoice at the fact that there’s only one.