Presented by Centric Parts and its StopTech performance and racing division

May 7, 2012

Jay Leno and His 1917 Fiat Botafogo Special

We spotted Jay Leno this weekend driving his 1917 Fiat Botafogo Special on the streets of Los Angeles. Luckily he was headed the same place we were – The Greystone Mansion for their 3rd Annual Concours d’Elegance. More photos and stories to come, but for now, here’s some pics of the Fiat which is powered by a 22-liter WW1 aircraft engine – that’s five times the size of most six-cylinder engines. That means each of the Fiat’s six cylinders is around 3.7 liters, or 223 cubic inches.

The compression ratio is a low 4.5:1 and the engine makes about 320 hp at its 1500 RPM redline. Jay casually mentioned that pushing it to 1800 would be suicidal in its original WWI aircraft application, an RPM that is barely above idle for some of today’s high performance engines: “1,800 is end of the world.  1,500 is redline, at 1,800 you’re dead. You’re blown up at that point.”

The car was built in Argentina and features a wooden firewall that appears to be made from old wine barrels, and a dual chain drive system. Wielding such a huge, nearly 100-year-old vehicle, that is controlled by an array of levers, switches, pedals, knobs and dials, that has so much torque being channeled through a couple of chains, might be intimidating to most people, especially in Los Angeles traffic, but Jay has several vehicles in his massive collection that make driving this one a walk in the park, “It’s a lot of fun. It has so much torque!”