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1924 Fiat ‘Mefistofele’

February 1, 2016 in Cars & Motorcycles

This is Italeri’s 1/12 version of the original 1975 Protar kit.

In 1908, Fiat introduced a chain-driven Grand Prix racing car which they dubbed the SB4. It was used in competition and that is where Sir Ernest Eldridge from Britain saw it perform. Impressed with its capabilities and potential, he purchased the car with the intent on transforming it into a speed record breaker.

Powering the car was a mammoth 18-litre engine. Though extremely large, Eldridge desired more. He had it replaced with an airplane powerplant that was liquid-cooled and displaced 21.7 litre.

The six-cylinder Type A-12 Bis produced an astonishing 320 horsepower at a mere 1800 RPM. The engine was extremely powerful, but it was also very heavy and long. In order to accommodate the extra size and weight, Eldridge lengthened the SB4’s chassis using parts from a London bus. The power from the engine was sent to the rear wheels via a chain and braking was done by a hand brake which stopped the rear wheels.

On July 12th, 1924 the modified racer, now called the Mefistofele due to its ominous smoke and explosions produced by the engine, set the world land speed record in Arpajon, France after achieving a top speed of 234.980 km/h (146 mph). The record would remain for 32 days. However, it is believed that this was the last land speed record set on public roads.

For the record attempt, a second seat was installed. Its occupant, mechanic John Ames, operated a manual fuel pump.

In 1969, the Mefistofele was purchased from Sir Eldridge’s heirs by Fiat’s boss Giovanni Agnelli. It was then shipped to Italy, where it was treated to a major restoration and added to the company’s historic collection. It currently resides in the Centro Storico Fiat in Turin. The museum version of the car differed from the racing type in several respects, including a change to the chassis, the removal of the passenger seat, and red livery as opposed to the original black finish.

14 additional images. Click to enlarge

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42 responses to 1924 Fiat ‘Mefistofele’

  1. This is another submission by Rob Pollock (who is still having issues with posting). I’m sure Martin will, when the opportunity arises, edit the article to reflect the correct author.

  2. Rob this is a TRUE beauty!!! I love racing cars from the golden era of motor racing. The rope tied around the exhaust looks amazing as is the detailed engine. This is a definite winner!!!!

  3. Beautiful model, and such a cool and interesting subject! You are as creative with model choices as you are with finishes!

  4. This is a really fantastic build Rob.
    The story line behind it adds more to it.
    Well done sir.

  5. What a beast!
    Great modelling. I especially like the rope around the exhaust. It adds a human touch and some extra life to the model.

  6. Beautiful, I love all types of these racing roadsters, this is a marvelous piece of history and great looking model. Well done Rob ! you should go take a victory lap !

  7. A real monster, Rob, and something really different from you. I remember those Protar kits, when you opened the box it looked like some of the parts were made of black spaghetti! The prototype certainly had an interesting history……….

  8. What a beauty Rob!! Just fantastic! Now there is one for the mantle.
    Dang I love this one. I could go on.
    Great modeling in every respect Rob.
    California Steve

  9. Exquisite Rob! I love the car, and the backstory too. The attention to detail is breathtaking! That is fascinating history as far as I’m concerned.

    This beautiful model has also started me thinking that maybe something a bit different might help me out of a serious modeling slump. Rob, and anyone else really, have you ever built one of the Auto Union racers from the ’30s? Some particular favorites of mine..:)

  10. That looks awesome Rob, some amazing detail going on there!
    I’ve done those speeds many a time on motorbikes, but 146 mph would be terrifying in that!

  11. Rob, museum model if I’ve ever seen one. Beautifully done throughout, love the rope heat shield. Must have been a sight to behold whilst going full tilt!

  12. In 1/12 this thing must be huge! I would’ve loved to have been at the Goodwood FOS the year FIAT brought this to the event! Is that actual rope around the exhaust or is it actually molded that way,and is this from the stash or a new release? Another beast that would look great next to this would be the ALFA Bimotore. I can’t imagine how people drove these at full tilt back in the day. 150mph is fast in a closed car, let alone one you’re half hanging out of with no seatbelt! Great job on her Rob.

    • Cheers, Josh. The rope supplied as a loose length so no, not moulded. This was released in 2014 and I had it on ‘watch’ for a few months before buying it in November. The model was built in January.

  13. Interesting. It almost looks like the nose and cockpit section of a DH-4 on wheels. Nice work.

  14. Rob, Good boogamooga! Out of what airplane?
    I’d heard of rumrunners using WW I Liberty engines in their speedboats to evade the Coast Guard here, but this is a new (and fascinating) tidbit of arcane aerial trivia.
    I wondered how come they had to beef up the frame! I’ll bet the ground shook when this blew past!

  15. Rob thats a masterpiece ! Absolutely impressive, well done !

  16. Rob must have missed this one originally.

    Browsing through earlier postings have come to have a look and truly most impressed by some superb modelling skills on what looks like a very impressive model.

  17. I have purchased one of these kits, fortunately, in Australia, where I live, as the exchange rate makes overseas purchases prohibitive now.

    Whilst I prefer 1/8 scale (Pocher and others) 1/12 should go well with my other 1/12 model cars.

    Thanks for all of the coloured pix – they will help me to understand what the finished product should look like.


  18. lol, still waitng for the kit to arrive !!

    Thinking about the other Italeri 1/12 Fiat 806 racer – anyone building it?


  19. Marvelous build, Rob.
    I made an attempt with this kit when it was still available in its original version published by Protar, Micromodelli Provini, the company of a former motor bike racer named Tarquino Provini. That must have been in my early twen years.
    The kit that days came with aluminium diecast car body, wheels and frame.
    I noticed it again just some weeks ago at the Nürnberg show as revised edition now made to large parts in styrene – given the lousy quality of the historic aluminium parts that’s a mercy, I assume.
    The Italian wiki says that Italeri has taken over Protar. Tarquino passed away in 2005.

    • Thanks, Halvar. I’ve spoken to several people who remember this kit from the Protar version but no one (until now) who actually tried to build it. That said, the current version is tough work.

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