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Monday November 2 2015 / Science & Technology

For its era, it was a racing machine of a different ilk, even its name – The Beast of Turin – evokes images of a forceful, grumbling animal terrorising the streets. But just as soon as the rocket-shaped Fiat racer won the 1911 world speed record, it disappeared. And then wasn't seen or heard again from for another 100 years.

That is until it fell into the hands of Duncan Pittaway.

In the early part of the 20th century, emissions and safety standards were non-existent, so car companies could focus their efforts on making the loudest, swiftest and often most unsafe cars ever set loose on tar.

The engine of the Beast of Turin was a 28.5 litre inline four especially constructed for speed. By implementing an aerodynamic shape with a monster (for the time) 290 horsepower engine, it was obvious Fiat wasn’t looking to make a mommy mobile.  

In 1911, when the Italians unveiled the S76 “Beast of Turin” (which was one of only two ever made), car companies worldwide were vying to snatch the titles of “flying mile” and “flying kilometre” from Blitzen Benzes

As the Beast prepared for battle on the English seaboard at famous Saltburn Sands, Fiat searched for a driver and selected 24-year-old, Turin born Pietro Bordino to drive the famous “Beast” that hailed from his hometown. Bordino would go on to win the 1922 Italian Grand Prix.

“First and second gear were okay, third gear called upon all of his experience as a racing driver, and fourth gear needed the courage of a hundred men!”

In what must have been the most eardrum-piercing race of its day, Bordino was able to steal away the record for quickest mile per hour, giving Fiat some serious clout. However, the 1913 bid for fastest kilometre per hour was lost because the racer was unable to make the required return trip from the end of the course within an hour’s time, even though it clocked in at 215 km/h.

But the hubbub surrounding the world's fastest car planted a seed of paranoia in the Italian car company. Just before Europe exploded into the First World War, the “Beast of Turin” was dismantled to protect its priceless secret recipe for speed.

Fast forward to England in 2003: Duncan Pittaway found himself with the S76’s old, beat up chassis.  He vowed to bring the Beast back to life yet it would be another decade until it would return to the road.

Since the racecar was dismantled in 1911, the original engine was nowhere to be found. Pittaway had to unearth another, sourced from its surviving twin, which is currently in Australia. Once engine and chassis were united, the long, arduous task of putting “humpty dumpty back together again” could begin.

The journey was recorded in a series of beautifully shot photographs by Stefan Marjoram, who documented the restoration process from repainting the exterior panels to reassembling the motor and the occasional smile from something gone right.

When the “Beast of Turin” took to the road this year, it was the first time in 101 years that the roar of its powerful engine was heard. It was destined for the famous Goodwood Festival of Speed in June, a 225-kilometre (140-mile) journey from Pittaway’s home in Bristol.

Dubbed the “earth-shattering Edwardian leviathan”, the S76 has certainly brought back a nostalgic look at the evolution of the racecar. As it leaves a stream of choke-worthy, fire-powered smoke in its wake, loudly sputtering down quiet tree-lined streets, the “Beast of Turin” is a living memory, but thankfully there is only one in working condition.


The “Beast of Turin” doesn’t have it’s own website (though it deserves one), but to find out more information about it, please visit:

Suggested by
Maximilian Büsser