Remember Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the kids’ musical about the flying car? Did you know it was based on a real car? The real one couldn’t fly (at least not in the literal sense), but it did have one thing in common with an airplane: the engine.
In the early days of motoring, there really was no replacement for displacement. Engineers hadn’t yet figured out how to make reliable engines that ran over 3000 RPM. The only way to squeeze more horsepower out of an engine was to increase the volume.
Many very large engined cars were designed for racing and to test land speed records in the early 20th century. Arguably the original was the famed Blitzen Benz, whose 21.5 liter engine could output 200 horsepower at 1,500 RPM. Not wanting to be outdone, Fiat constructed the Tipo S67, using a 28.5 liter, four cylinder airship engine. The S67 could output 300 hp at 1,900 RPM. (more…)