|Image from The Daily Telegraph|
1909 "Blitzen Benz"
1924 Fiat Mefistofele
contemporary reports) the car passed into the ownership of one Ernest Eldridge. He promptly replaced the shattered 18-litre engine with an in-line 6-cylinder Fiat aeroplane engine of 21.7-litres capacity, more normally found in airships and heavy bombers. This was then modified further, resulting in power increasing from an already heady 260hp to a scarcely believable 320hp, again at the ridiculously low rpm of 1,800. Despite weighing 2 tons and with no front brakes, Mefistofele hit 146mph on the 12th July 1926 taking the world speed record at the time. Fiat bought Mefistofele from the descendants of Eldridge in the late 1980s and it is now in their Turin museum, with occasional guest appearances elsewhere.
1921-1927 Chitty Bang Bang
A series of four cars that inspired the well-known story of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, all owned by a Count Louis Zborowski. The exact source of the car's name is unknown, it was either an onomatopoeic appellation taken from the noise of the car's engine or it was based on a bawdy First World War song.
Regardless of how the name came about, Chitty Bang Bang began life in 1921 as a Mercedes-based race car fitted with a 23-litre Maybach in-line 6-cylinder aeroplane engine. In this configuration it eventually achieved a top speed of 120mph (190km/h). The second Chitty was slightly smaller both in length and engine size, making do with an 18.8-litre Benz aero engine; the third incarnation was similarly equipped and lapped Brooklands at 112mph.
1931 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Merlin
1933 Napier-Railton and 1968 Napier-Bentley
The 1933 Napier-Railton was built especially for racing driver John Cobb by renowned automotive engineer Reid Railton (what a name!); both men would later work together on the land-speed record-beating Railton Special.
The Napier-Bentley was built as an homage to the Napier-Railton in 1968, originally based on a Sunbeam but later rebuilt using a Bentley chassis. It uses the same engine as the Railton and so has practically the same performance but is in private hands, although it makes frequent appearances at Brooklands and elsewhere. (I have been lucky enough to see both in action at the Brooklands Centenary celebrations back in 2007 - or was it 1937?).
1953 Swandean Special
2010 Packard-Bentley "Mavis"
Obviously not satisfied with owning the aforementioned 24-litre Napier-Bentley, automotive enthusiast Chris Williams has since built a successor to that car and one that fully deserves the title of "monster". Again, not really an aeroplane engine, but rather a variant of a Packard V12 42-litre engine in marine form taken from a Second World War PT boat. With fifteen hundred brake horsepower and 2,000lb ft (2,700Nm) of torque, nothing can come close to this imposing beast. It's a wonder the 1930 Bentley 8-litre chassis can handle it, even with all the modifications it has had to have. You might want to turn the volume down (or up, if you're so inclined) a bit for this one, it's LOUD!
1925 BMW "Brutus" Experimentalfahrzeug
Well, perhaps almost nothing can touch "Mavis" (oo-er missus!). Meet Brutus. Wouldn't they make a lovely couple?(!).
After its defeat in 1918 and the signing of the Versailles Treaty a year later Germany was not allowed to produce armed aircraft, which meant a lot of surplus aero engines lying about. Nothing was mentioned in the treaty about cars (except of the armoured variety) however, so BMW took one of its redundant V12s and plonked it on to a 1908 American-LaFrance racing chassis. With 46-litres and 12-cylinders the result is 740hp and the ability to do 60mph at 800rpm (about where your car idles).
I was going to include the bespoke aero-engined land speed record cars like the Railton Special, the Golden Arrow and Malcolm Campbell's various Blue Birds but I think I've gone on for far too long, so I'll save them for another time. As it is I've got an urge to don some white overalls, leather hat and goggles and tinker about with some big-engined cars. Vroom-vroom!