Art Appreciation: Mefistofele

Look at this fire breathing beast; this terrifying, gigantic thing.

This is the very aptly named 1923 Fiat “Mefistofele”. This was the car that a very brave Ernest Eldridge attempted to wrangle to a World Land Speed Record in 1924. This mammoth machine—powered by a 350-horsepower, 21 liter airship engine—certainly looks up to the task, and despite it’s truck-like size, which surely is larger than she looks, Eldridge somehow managed to control the mighty Fiat long enough to achieve the record.

Eldridge and Mefistofele topped out a 146.013 mph over a flying kilometer in Arpajon, France. He had earlier piloted Mefistofele to a standing start half-mile record of 23.17 seconds at 77mph. Now a 23 second half mile might not sound like much to the muscle car fans among us, but I imagine that the only way to simulate the experience would be if you ran your ‘Cuda at the drags while strapped to the front bumper.

This, my friends, is a proper racing car: a little scary, a little elegant, a lot purposeful looking. Let me just say again 21 Liter airship engine. Traction control? Automatic shift? Anti-lock brakes? No. Driving this machine must be like trying to tame a dragon. Mefistofele indeed.

Let us all salute this impressive monster, and the man who tamed her as an example of the bravado and determination that so roused our collective passion for motorsport.