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The Nine Lives of the Fiat Cyclone Racing Car

  • Fiat

By the time this interesting photo above of the Fiat Cyclone was taken, it had to have been in the racing game for close to seven or eight years. It was one of the cars in Barney Oldfield’s stable that he was using for his match and exhibition racing activities after Lincoln Beachey’s death. The car by then had been raced hard by many star drivers and crashed and repaired many times over.

Evidently Oldfield liked the small, good-handling car and so had it rebuilt yet again with new bodywork and a taller radiator. The car also had received a transplant of a 16-valve Duesenberg walking-beam racing engine. It is seen here without a hood and minus it’s tubular exhaust header, no doubt to provide additional thrills for the fans in the grandstand with flames belching out of the four exhaust ports visible at the top of the cylinder block. You can see some pictures of it and learn much more about this very unique form of engine here.

We would like to know more about the circumstances behind how this engine ended up in the Cyclone if you can add to the story. We are also interested in any period photos or literature that our readers might know of about these eight or sixteen valve walking-beam engines or the whereabouts of any others. The top photo is courtesy of Racemaker Press.

  • Fiat3
  • Above Continental Tire Advertisement in the April 1908, “Motor” magazine. 

Above and below are some earlier photos of and details about the Fiat Cyclone. The 60 HP overhead valve special seems to have first appeared here in America at the hands of Emanuel Cendrino for the 1908 Ormond Beach Speed Meet, seen behind the wheel above. There are many more earlier photos of the Fiat here on The Old Motor along with details covering his all-too-short racing career.

  • Fr1
  • “The Horseless Age” July 27, 1910.

After Cendrino’s involvement with the car, it was rebuilt. It’s next pilot was well known racing ace Ralph De Palma. who also used it in his match racing activities. The excellent article below tells all about a race meet at the Brighton Beach race track, on July 27, 1910 where he raced 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race winning driver George Robertson in the Simplex Zip. Take a few minutes to read all the interesting details about this event, as it really gives you a taste of what early match racing was all about.  

  •                Fr2                               Fr3

9 responses to “The Nine Lives of the Fiat Cyclone Racing Car

  1. I’ve never seen that photo before, very interesting. Barney used the same Firestone lettering on his Christie racer from 1912-1916. Beachey died in March 1915, and Barney sold the Christie in June 1916. I do not know how long Barney owned the Fiat. Barney traveled to Chicago, Boise, Tacoma, Butte, DesMoines, NE, NY, Peoria, etc in 1915. Could be photos/info in any of those town newspapers or historical societies.

  2. David,
    I am no expert on Duesenberg’s but I thought the 16 valve was not built until 1916. So says Griff Borgeson in the Car Life magazine stories he wrote on Duesenberg’s racing efforts. I assume you can tell whether that is a 16valve engine by looking at it? I cannot.

    I don’t have much on Barney’s racing schedule in 1916, after Indy. War was declared in April, 1917 and I don’t think Barney did much racing.

    I glanced thru Jerry Gebby’s series of Duesenberg racing stories in the ACD Newsletters and can’t find anything about Barney.

    • Yes as I mentioned in my earlier comment the 16-valve is generally considered to have been introduced post – 1915.

      Yes it is in fact a 16-valve motor. The 8-valve units have a smaller valve cover on the right hand side of the car. As seen in the photo this being a 16-valve it has the larger cover on the on that side and another is is also on the other side.

      A visit here: will show you the two different types.

  3. Lee and Dave – The first sixteen valve engine was built in the summer of 1915, and taken to Minneapolis late in the summer, but did not race there. It is our belief that the first time it raced was when Eddie O’Donnell drove one in at Providence in September of 1915. He DNFed, but at Sheepshead Bay a few weeks later he finished 3rd and Henderson finished 5th in the Inaugural 350-mile Astor Cup. In the first part of 1916, O’Donnell was the man to beat, with 4 straight victories at Ascot, Corona and Fresno. We know that Oldfield was one of the first people to get a 16-valave engine.

  4. What a great mystery! I wonder if this car became the Fred Horey FIAT ?
    Horey ran a FIAT frequently in 1916. Barney was occupied with the Delage. Then he got the Golden Sub in 1917. It’s hard to understand why Barney would spend money on this new 16valve Duesenberg engine and not enter any significant races with it. I can’t find any mention on Darren Galpin’s list. If the FIAT was just for his hippodrome acts, why spend the money on such a good engine? Maybe he was testing it for potential use in the Delage?

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