With a GP limit on engine bore, strokes grew: This OHC engine is so tall, a driver has to look around it. David Bruce-Brown won the 1911 American Grand Prix in one.
The quest for ultimate speed has led to some bizarre-looking machines-none more so than Fiat's elephantine S76. Built in 1911, it tried to wrest the land speed record away from Germany's "Blitzen Benz." The Italian engineers reckoned there could be no substitute for engine capacity, as demonstrated by the Benz's 1,281ci (21,000cc).
They came up with a monumental overhead-valve engine of 1,730ci (28,353cc) that produced its 300bhp at 1,800rpm, yet still employed just four cylinders. The engine was so tall the driver had to almost peer around the edge of the hood, but to aid aerodynamics, it was extremely narrow. The S76 was dispatched to Britain's Brooklands circuit where it was put through its paces by intrepid factory driver Pietro Bordino.
After a subsequent journey on public roads, it thundered to a best speed of 116mph (187kph) at Saltburn Sands, Middlesborough-setting the record for the fastest flying mile time. Fiat was satisfied, but Prince Boris Sukhanov, a wealthy Russian, was hooked on the enormous vehicle.
He is thought to have acquired one of the two cars made, but too timid to drive it himself, he sponsored a record run with French driver Arthur Duray at Ostend, Belgium. It was said to have reached 137mph (220kph), but suspect timing equipment and bad weather prevented two runs within an hour-a requirement for a world record qualification. Sukhanov's team spent a further six weeks trying in late 1913 before admitting defeat.