• Mar 3, 2011
1908 Fiat SB4 Eldridge "Mephistoles" – Click above for high-res image gallery

Way in the back of the Fiat booth at this year's Geneva Motor Show, behind all of the shiny modern machinery with their tiny, fuel-sipping engines, sat a car that looks like one of those wood-carved models you see at every knick-knack store. Curious though it was, we knew right off the bat there is something far more significant to this car than met the eye. And indeed there is.

Nicknamed "Mephistoles" by the French public in the 1920s, this 1908 Fiat SB4 racer was, at the time, the fastest car in the world. Sir Ernest Eldridge bought it on the cheap after it crashed in a race at Brooklands in the UK, thereafter setting about turning it into a land speed record car. To get there, Sir Ernest and company replaced the engine with a 22-liter(!) inline six-cylinder aircraft engine that delivered 320 horsepower to the rear wheels via chain drive – a combination (hardly) kept in check by a single brake on the rear differential.

Mephistoles set a top speed of 143.26 miles per hour over a flying kilometer in Arpajob, France in 1924, but was later disqualified because the regulations stipulated the necessity of a reverse gear, which the Fiat lacked. Sir Ernest developed a system and came back, regulations satisfied, just days later to set a new record of 146 mph... the last such record achieved on a public road. To this day, according to the lore, nobody knows how Eldridge got the thing to go in reverse, but after over three years of restoration, Fiat is proudly exhibiting Mephistoles in Geneva, and we snapped a few photos to help you ponder the mystery and majesty for yourself.



Photos copyright ©2011 Noah Joseph / AOL


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 16 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      A car for daredevils.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Nice Blog.. Keep up the good work...
      • 3 Years Ago
      imagine sitting on that thing going 146 mph!
      • 3 Years Ago
      Sweet baby Jane. Imagine a chain breaking at 146 mph. Right next to you.

      Also, the noise must be ungodly. I want to hear this thing started.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Wonderful. Would love to see the sponsor logos of the day if it was stickered up like a NASCAR rig. Though the engines are nearly the same level of technology.
      • 3 Years Ago
      beast...
      • 3 Years Ago
      I would drive a two seat version of this era of vehicle if I can afford one
        • 3 Years Ago
        From this era? Model T's are pretty cheap, and good on gas too. This thing though... I'm sure it gets about 2 mpg.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Reverse is easy--hook up a giant rubberband and some washers like one of those coffee can racers we made in Scouts.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I believe it's Mephistopheles
        • 3 Years Ago
        Hilarious. He made it through the entire post, carefully mis-spelling it every time.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I believe it's Awesomles.
        • 3 Years Ago
        He had to make sure that it matched the image gallery file names.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I wonder what a 22-liter straight six sounds like...must be godlike.
        • 3 Years Ago
        no doubt huh? no replacement for displacement
      • 3 Years Ago
      Automotive treasure. Amazing car-amazing history.
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