WHICH IS THE FASTEST ROAD CAR?
TO enthusiasts the question of which is the fastest road car constitutes an ever fascinating topic for debate. Before one can discuss the question with any certainty, one must decide what constitutes a” road “car. If the catalogue model only is admitted, then the Type 57SC Bugatti is probably the whole and complete answer. Moreover, we must decide whether speed alone, or all-round performance, is to be taken as the issue on which this absorbing debate is to be decided. Personally, we feel that, although a ” road ” car need not necessarily be a production job, at all events it should be a car carrying full sports-car equipment and able to run on commercial fuels, while, if it is reasonably docile In heavy traffic and does not use different brands of plugs for different road jobs-of
work, so much the better. Modern sports engines, even the very high efficiency type, can manage with one brand of plug and are quite tractable— for long-distance track work or roadracing where fuel may deposit in the manifold while cornering, special plugs may become essential, but we refer to extremes of ordinary road driving, which in earlier times would call for two grades of candles, with possibly a third grade necessary for racing. Recent discussion suggests four cars as candidates for the title of fastest road car, namely Forrest Lycett’s 8-litre Bentley, Hugh Hunter’s 2.9-litre supercharged Alfa-Ronaeo, Lt. Torin’s 8-litre Maserati and I. F. Connell’s 4-litre Darracq. The Bentley we oad-tested in April 1988 and it needs no introduction to readers of MOTOR SPORT. Hunter’s Alfa-Romeo is the short chassis, independently-sprung straight-eight car with which Biondetti won the 1,000 Mile Race last year. Lt. Torin’s Maserati is the car with which Nuvolari won the Belgian G.P. in 1988, now sports-equipped. Are there any other candidates ? The blower 41-litre short chassis Bentley owned by Peter Robertson-Roger is neither so fast nor so useful on acceleration as the 8-litre Bentley. The Conan-Doyle brothers used to put forward a rather special 88/250 Mercedes-Benz with large supercharger, but no figures are available and standard examples have never equalled Lycett’s Bentley. C. I. Craig’s 4.9-litre blown Bugatti might be a contender, but at the moment performances figures are not available No production car looks likely to claim the honour, because, although there are several genuine 100 m.p.h. cars on the market, notably amongst recent French sports models, they only just exceed a two-figure maximum. A most notable exception is the new Continental-model 41-litre Bentley, which does about 120 m.p.h. The supercharged 8.8-litre Bugatti coupe, in catalogue form, is reputed to do something like 180 m.p.h. in road trim. The modern Alfa is a 115 m.p.h. car at the least and what of the blown 2-litre Alta ? When you go fairly thoroughly into this question you obtain a surprise as to the number of really fast road motors now in existence. The old V12 101-litre Delage which is being rebuilt as a road car, as exclusively announced in this paper last January, will probably beat everything else of its kind, but it is, of course, an ex-racing-car. Turning to known data relating to three of the claimants for honours, up to date we have tried nothing, and heard of nothing, to equal Lycett’s 8-litre Bentley. We timed it to do 116 m.p.h. and 0.70 m.p.h. in 10 secs. and we know that it is docile in town, runs on reasonable fuel and goes. on to the track with no under-bonnet attention. Incidentally, it is virtually
a 1931 car. We have no acceleration. figures for Hunter’s Alfa-Romeo, but it is said to do 65 in second, 90 in third and over 110 in top, to give 11 m.p.g., and to
weigh 241 cwt. It now has reduced. compression-ratio and a lower axle ratio. and we have seen it wuffiing very happily through London traffic. No figures are available for the Darracq, while we just missed testing the Maserati when it was. last for sale. However, Lt. Torin has now kindly said that we can try it and we hope its performance data will appear elsewhere in this issue. The acknowledged fastest road car is a truly desirable possession, so we hope figures for all the claimants will eventually be forthcoming. If the title were disputed only amongst genuine production cars the issue would.
remain a confused one. Perhaps the blown Type 57 SC Bugatti would carry the day, but we should crave figures for the Continental 41-litre Bentley, the modern Alfa-Romeo, the Alta, the Type 828 Frazer-Nash-B.M.W., theCV12 Lagonda and the latest V12 Allard-Special, before pronouncing judgment. Moreover, how to co-relate maximum speed, speeds on gears, acceleration, fuel consumption and dependability so as to form a basis for decision, is a major problem. To those who unofficially wish to establish claims for their road cars why not a standard. test, comprising a run across London after tanking up with pump fuel, a run round Brooklands for five laps or so without opening the bonnet, after which the timed quarter and half miles, both flying and standing, could be attempted. immediately ?