Meet the Mefistofele, Fiat's 21.7-liter Record-Breaking Car from Hell

The story of the Mefistofele started in 1908, when Fiat introduced the SB4 chain-driven Grand Prix racer. After seeing it race, Sir Ernest Eldridge from Britain bought the car with the aim of turning it into speed record breaker.

However, there was one problem: the original car’s 18.0-liter engine was considered rather small by Eldridge, who decided to replace it with a massive airplane powerplant (you can read a similar story here). He opted for a liquid-cooled Fiat-built 21.7-liter inline six-cylinder unit (type A-12 Bis) that developed 320 horsepower at 1,800 rpm after various upgrades such as the fitting of four valves and four spark plugs on each cylinder.

The story goes that in order to accommodate the long and heavy engine, Eldridge lengthened the SB4’s chassis using parts from a London bus. The car was chain-driven and had brakes only at the rear, which made it a handful for even the most experienced of drivers. Interestingly, experts fail to understand even today the mechanism that allowed the car to reverse, since there is no trace of it left.

On July 12 1924 the Mefistofele, which obtained its name by the press because of the smoke and explosions produced by its massive engine, had its finest moment when it set the world land speed record in Arpajon, France. The 5.1-meter long, 2-tonne car driven by Eldridge recorded an official top speed of 234,980 km/h (146 mph) in what is said to be the last land speed record event organised on public roads. And even though its record stood for only 32 days, the fame of the Fiat Mefistofele survived more than a century after its birth.

In 1969 Fiat’s boss Giovanni Agnelli bought the Mefistofele from Sir Eldridge’s heirs and shipped it to Italy, where the car underwent a major restoration and was added to the company’s historical collection.

The car is perfectly functional and can be admired at the Centro Storico Fiat in Turin. Unfortunately, there aren’t any videos of the car in action, but you can check out the footage below from the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, where the 21.7-liter Mefistofele was displayed next to the 0.9-liter […] Fiat 500 TwinAir.

By Dan Mihalascu

Sources: Fiat, Bigscalemodels



2020 Ford Explorer Shows Its Face – And We’re Getting A Highlander Vibe

Ford is peeling away the heavy camouflage on its 2020 Explorer SUV.

Kawasaki Ninja-Powered Fiat Cinquecento Is Pure Madness On Wheels

The crazy project features a mid-mounted, 250 HP superbike engine that revs to 12,000 rpm.

2018 LA Auto Show: A-to-Z Guide To All The Product Launches

Join us for a tour of the Los Angeles Auto Show with a full guide to all the new cars.

Lamborghini Urus Nudges 190 Mph Without Breaking A Sweat

The Urus is quicker to 62 mph than the Gallardo LP560-4, and the video shows it almost hitting its top speed.

Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 Caught Testing Its 301 HP Turbo Four Engine

The performance-oriented crossover should benefit from many of the same improvements as the A35.

Lime Green Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe Is One Flamboyant Ride

That’s a Prior Design wide body kit, but, apart from the wrap, the rest of the car remains stock.

2019 Genesis G90 Spotted With Minimal Disguise, Superman-Like Grille

The facelifted Genesis G90 will be unveiled on November 27th.

Foreign Automakers Dominate List Of Worst Cars For 2018

Is the Fiat 500L really the worst car in America?.

McLaren Senna GTR Snapped On The Track Putting Its 2,205 Lbs Of Downforce To Work

The track-only Senna GTR has already been sold out despite its $1.4 million price tag.

Nissan Puts A Price Tag On 2019 Rogue Sport, Adds Optional ProPilot Assist

The Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite also becomes available, while the Rear Door Alert system is standard on all models.