On July 11th of 1899, the Fiat Company was formed at Palazzo Bricherasio. The name 'FIAT' is an acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino
, translated to Italian Automobile Factory of Turin. It was formed by a group of investors including Giovanni Agnelli who soon became the Managing Director of the company. He remained with the company until his death in 1945.
It was not long before Fiat was heavily involved in racing, both in Europe and American. As competition quickly escalated, the only way to keep was to enlarge the cubic capacity of the engines. It was not uncommon for the early four-cylinder engines to displace over ten liters, many reaching into the 20-liter range. Racing regulations did little to slow this down, often only putting restrictions on the total weight of the vehicle. This resulted in bare-bone chassis that would often twist and break under the extreme forces of the engine. In all respects, it was a time of experimentation and continued development, that saw major advances within a short amount of time.
For Fiat, they too found the winning formula in expanding their engines. Their entry in the 1904 Gordon Bennett Cup race, the precursor to Grand Prix racing, was the 75 horsepower Corsa which displaced fourteen liters from its four-cylinder engine. It was driven by Vincenzo Lancia who would later found the Lancia Company. He first impressed the Fiat Company in 1900 with his driving talents as a test driver, and soon was promoted to their 'Works Driver.' He drove in the 1903 Paris to Madrid race, two Vanderbilt Cup races in the USA, Grand Prix races, and more. When the cars did not suffer mechanical failures, he could often be found at, or near, the front of the pack.
The rules for the 1912 French Grand Prix limited the cars width; but little else dictated what could or could not be done to the vehicles. Fiats entries were the S74 which featured a 14-liter four-cylinder engine. At the 1912 French Grand Prix, Fiat had their S74 racer in the hands of David Bruce-Brown who was in the lead for much of the race. On the fifteenth lap, he was disqualified for refueling away from the pits. Ralph De Palma, also driving a S74, was also disqualified from the race due to work being performed away from the pits. The victory went to George Boillot and his Peugeot followed by Louis Wagner in a Fiat S74.
The Fiat S76 was produced in 1912 and featured a 28-liter four-cylinder engine. The cars were driven by drivers such as Felice Nazzaro, Antonio Fagnano, and Pietro Bordino. The cars, according to records two were created, were used for racing and for attempting speed records.By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2007