Jay’s 1917 Fiat Botafogo Special is a raucous ride with a massive aircraft engine under the bonnet.
After World War I, a small group of speed enthusiasts started putting surplus warplane engines in big and sturdy car frames. It was a tremendous feat of engineering. With that giant engine in the car, you were basically flying on the ground.
Jay Leno has four cars with aircraft engines. Three of the engines are from World War I, and one is from World War II. His newest car is a 1917 Fiat called the Botafogo Special.
It was built by an Argentine racer named Adolfo Scandroglio. He was an admirer of Sir Ernest Eldridge, who owned the legendary, record-setting Fiat Mephistopheles racer that went 235 km/h in 1924 on a public road in France.
Scandroglio built this car as a copy and named it after the racehorse Botafogo, Argentina’s Secretariat.
The Botafogo Special’s World War I 21,7-litre Fiat A.12 engine was used in more than a dozen kinds of Italian aeroplanes.
It has six huge cylinders with four valves each, overhead cams, twin magnetos and a dry sump – pretty modern, considering it was designed in 1912. Each piston’s displacement is bigger than that of a 3-litre engine. It barely makes 240 kW at 1 800 r/min, but all that torque just wafts you along. At 100 km/h you’re using only 800 revs. The heat the engine puts out is incredible.
Watch this video to take a closer look at Leno’s 1917 Fiat Botafogo Special…
Read more about Leno’s 21,7-litre aero-engined behemoth in PM’s November 2012 issue – on sale on 22 October.