The incredible fire breathing ‘Beast of Turin’ will be starring in the spectacular Grand Avenue display at the 2018 London Classic Car Show at ExCeL London (15-18 February). Running through the very centre of the show, The Grand Avenue is one of the award-winning event’s many stand-out features. In essence, it is a dazzling automotive catwalk along which some of the world’s greatest classic road and competition cars are driven, thus bringing the show to life and adding another eye-catching dimension to the visitor experience.
Since the London Classic Car Show’s inception, The Grand Avenue has played host to wide variety of themes with everything from ‘The Perfect 10’ to ‘The 6 Nations’ and ‘A Century of Motoring’. For 2018, the focus switches to stunning ‘Specials’ – unique machines that are steeped in history and mystique owing to their exclusive designs and often outlandish performance. And, with its mighty 28.5-litre engine, the extraordinary Beast of Turin – once the fastest car on Earth – certainly places excessively large ticks in all those boxes.
Targeting a land speed record, Fiat built just two of these outrageous behemoths back in the winter of 1910. Both were given the S76 designation and armed with a pair of the biggest capacity auto engines produced to this day. While the remarkable cubic capacity in itself remains astonishing, the in-line four cylinder also boasts some pretty cutting-edge hardware for its era with four valves per cylinder, multi-spark and overhead cam technology helping it spit out something in the region of 300bhp. Boasting so much beef and brawn, it was no surprise when the first of these colossal chain-driven Edwardian monsters – by now fittingly nicknamed ‘The Beast of Turin’ – was clocked at 116 mph on Salburn Sands, Yorkshire in 1911, breaking the World flying one-mile speed record. A considerably faster milestone of 134.6 mph was achieved a couple of years later at Ostend, but by then the rules had changed and that ‘record’ was discounted when the car failed to make its now mandatory return run. Thereafter, little was heard of the two preposterous machines for nearly a century until British enthusiast Duncan Pittaway set out on their trail. He found the surviving chassis of the first S76 languishing in Australia in what he describes as a ‘pretty torrid’ condition. Fiat had scrapped the second car after the First World War to prevent rival manufacturers obtaining its technical secrets, but Pittaway managed to locate its derelict engine from a pile of old bits in the Fiat factory and then purchase it after two and a half year’s of protracted negotiations. He and his team then set out on a mammoth and painstaking six-year restoration project. The magnificent fruit of their labour is nothing short of astonishing. Bizarrely the engine cowl stands almost as tall as a man, and the incredible four-pot beneath it not only spits flames through its open exhaust ports but its bellows an earth-shattering roar.
Pittaway’s insanely gargantuan red creation has already wowed onlookers at places such as Goodwood, but never before has it been unleashed indoors – a prospect that he can not wait to experience at ExCeL London next February. “It’s a pretty special car,” he admits. “With its bull nose and pointy tail it was the first to have any streamlining and must have looked like a spaceship in its day. There were no Grands Prix back then, so Fiat and other manufacturers just wanted to build the fastest possible cars. They were still going down the blind alley that the bigger the engine capacity, the faster the potential speed – and the S76 is the very last of those big-engined machines. It’s actually pretty friendly to drive, but I’m probably only saying that as, having done so many miles in the car, the novelty has worn off. I’m genuinely humbled that people, even if they don’t like cars, seem to love the S76. It’s going to be absolutely brilliant to see and hear it performing inside ExCeL.”
Event director Bas Bungish is every bit as excited as the car’s effervescent owner. “London is famous for its world class theatre, but I can’t believe that the West End has ever seen anything quite as dramatic as this,” enthused Bungish. “Believe me, it’s going to be an utterly dumbfounding experience; an epic phenomenon no one with even the slightest interest in cars of any vintage will want to miss. Remember, though, for all its stage presence and pure madness, The Beast of Turin is just one of the 60 incredible specials that we’ll have running up and down under the spot lights on The Grand Avenue at next year’s London Classic Car Show.”
All those wishing to see and hear the legendary fiery brute thundering up The Grand Avenue – plus the other 59 hand-picked specials – can take advantage of significant discounts on offer for those booking in advance. If purchased now, adult admission costs just £25 (£30 on the door) and a range of upgraded Premium and Family Tickets are also available online. Moreover, all tickets also include entry to the London Classic Car Show’s sister show Historic Motorsport International, which celebrates the UK’s leading role in all areas of historic motor sport. Full details can be found on the show’s official website.