The Eldridge Fiat

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The Eldridge Fiat, originally called the Fiat “Mephistopheles,” now owned by CE Naylor, has a remarkable history.

In 1908, shortly after the opening of Brooklands, a match race was arranged between F Newton driving one of SF Edge’s 6-cylinder 90-hp Napiers and a vast 4-cylinder Fiat entered by D’Arcy Baker, the London Agent, and driven by Felice Nazzaro„ the firm’s crack driver. The Napier breaking down, victory went to the Fiat. The BARC electric timing apparatus showed Nazzaro to have lapped at 121.64 mph, but hand timing did not confirm this speed and there has always been controversy as to whether the car did in fact do over 120 mph or merely 108 as shown on the watches.

Following the 1914-1918 war, “Mephistopheles” was resurrected and raced with considerable success at Brooklands. The engine was wrecked, however, in the 1922 Brooklands Whitsuntide meeting and the car was acquired by EAD Eldridge, who proceeded to install a 160 x 18o mm, 6-cylinder, 21,714-cc A12 Fiat aero-engine, circa 1914-18, first lengthening the car 18 in. The A12 Fiat engine has separate cylinders, each secured by 10 studs and a 12-mm spigot. Welded sheet-steel water-jackets round each cylinder are coupled by innumerable hose-joints, and four oh valves are slightly inclined in each cylinder and operated via rockers from a rear-driven oh camshaft. These engines gave 260 bhp at about 1,700 rpm on a compression ratio of 4.3 to 1, while later versions used a 4.75-to-1 compression-ratio. Normally, ignition was by two coil-fed plugs in each cylinder but Eldridge fitted two additional plugs, or 24 in all, and two carburetters on the off side. The original 1907 Fiat gearbox is retained, likewise final drive by side chains.

It was in this form that the Fiat was used for record breaking by Eldridge and in 1924 at Arpajon he broke the World’s Land Speed record at 146.01 mph. It lapped Brooklands in this form at 125.45 mph when contesting, in 1925, that fabulous 10-lap match-race against ParryThomas’ Leyland-Thomas, leading until it threw a tyre tread, which lost Eldridge the race and £500.

The Eldridge Fiat has now been completely restored by APH Gresham and WA Briggs, assisted by John Naylor.