July, 1921, and gained five firsts and one second prize, as well as a record for the course, from a large field comprising many well-known racing cars, Germany being very well represented.
” Mephistopholes’ ” success was doomed to be shortlived, however, for in a subsequent race at Brooklands some of the pistons cracked, causing the car to retire, and almost wrecking the entire engine. The engine was then removed from the chassis and entrusted to Mr. Ricardo, who rebuilt the whole unit completely.
Ill-luck continued to follow the Fiat, and at a later date the rear cylinder block blew off during a race, and the driver narrowly missed serious personal injury as the bonnet flew over his head. By this time I was beginning to feel that ” Mephistopholes ” was inclined to roguery; and eventually parted with the remains to Mr. Eldridge, who acquired the car in the year 1923 for It was the latter sportsman who conceived the brilliant idea of scrapping what remained of ” Mephistopholes’ ” engine and replacing it with a six-cylinder Fiat aero engine, of which the dimensions were 16o mm. by
18o mm., giving a total cubic capacity of 21,714 C.C. In addition to fitting the new engine, in itself no mean task, Mr. Eldridge lengthened the chassis by 18 inches, and made several other alterations, such as an arrangement for supplying a stream of oil to the clutch spigot bush when the clutch pedal was depressed.
On its reappearance at Brooklands in its rejuvenated condition ” Mephistopholes ” proved a willing mount, but though Eldridge is recognised as one of the most fearless drivers in the world, it was a practical impossibility to let the machine all out at Brooklands.
Nevertheless the Fiat put up some remarkably good performances, and its appearance always provided an attraction for Brooklands habituees. On September 31st, 1923, Mr. Eldridge established a world’s record for the half mile, standing start, at a speed of 77.86 m.p.h., as well as a ” J ” Class Record, also for the standing start half-mile, at a speed of 78.36 m.p.h., on the same date.
The next we hear of” Mephistopholes ” is at Arpajon., where Mr. Eldridge raced with Rene Thomas, who was driving the twelve-cylinder Delage, and beat him over the flying kilometre course. It is sad to relate that Rene Thomas took his defeat rather badly, and lodged an objection—which was upheld by the French authorities—on the ground that ” Mephistopholes ” had no reverse gear. Thus, within an ace of securing a coveted record, Mr. Eldridge was foiled ; but only for a time, for he sent to England for a set of reverse gears, and had them fitted in order to comply with the exact letter of the law.
On completion of this work some pressure had to be exerted upon the French authorities, who subsequently agreed to re-open the flying kilometre course, whereupon ” Mephistopholes,” complete with reverse gear, set out for Rene Thomas’s record, and beat it at a speed of 146.7 miles per hour.