Watch this Fiat S76 engine start for the first time in over 100 years. Full story on the history of the car below.
Once the world's fastest car, briefly owned by a mysterious Russian prince and rediscovered after a lifetime hidden on the other side of the world, the story of Duncan Pittaway’s Fiat S76 is nothing short of remarkable.
Finally awakened from its century-long slumber, 'The Beast of Turin' is one of two cars built by Fiat over the winter of 1910 and 1911 to take on the mighty Blizten Benz. In fact, technically speaking, you could argue it's both cars.
The original rolling chassis is believed to be that of the earlier car, which set a new world flying mile record of 116 mph at Saltburn Sands in Yorkshire in 1911. The engine, meanwhile, comes from the second car, the rest of which was dismantled by Fiat after the First World War.
Pittaway acquired the remains of the car in Australia and brought it back to the UK in 2002. At the time it was just a rolling chassis - rusty, somewhat mangled and missing its engine and gearbox. Like a lot of Edwardian racing cars it had been 'modernised' in the 1920s, replacing the gargantuan 28.3-litre engine and body with something smaller and lighter.
While Pittaway admits that it hasn’t been possible to positively trace the origins of the chassis back beyond it’s time in the 1920s as a modernised Edwardian Fiat racing special, he’s confident that it is the missing S76: “The chassis is certainly an original 1910/11 Fiat, the surviving pedals and steering box exactly match those within the Fiat drawings for the S76, as do the chassis dimensions.”
When first identified in the 1950s the chassis and axles were thought to be that of an earlier Fiat S74, but the S76 is a recognisably different size and shape. It also uses a gearbox of uniquely unorthodox design, which results in the sprocket shafts from the transaxle passing through two large, distinctive holes in the chassis side rails.
All this, of course, was academic, until Pittaway managed to track down and acquire the engine from the second car. Between the two, he now had enough original S76 parts to make the restoration of a running Fiat S76 authentic and viable.
Since then he has carried out a comprehensive rebuild on the huge but deceptively advanced four cylinder engine, faithfully reproducing the original pistons and conrods. To safeguard the engine, the full pressure lubrication system has been modified slightly, as has the cam drive at the back of the engine.
Perhaps most impressively, Pittaway has built his own gearbox from designs in the Fiat archive - managing the project himself despite no formal engineering training. The outwardly eccentric driveline layout is reproduced in painstaking detail, ready to face the 2,000 or so lb ft of torque generated by monstrous powerplant.
The body has been another joint effort, with Pittaway, Adrian Breeze, Roach manufacturing and even a local carpenter all contributing to the project. In some respects this has been the most difficult part of the entire rebuild, says Pittaway, with only photographs and 2D drawings to work from.