The “Twin Torpedo” at Le Mans

Le Mans, Nardi, Taruffi

This unusual-looking race car was presented at the 1955 Le Mans race where it was to be driven by Mario Damonte and Roger Croveto. It was created by the small Nardi firm of steering wheel fame and was powered by a 735 cc modified Giannini 4-cylinder motor which was housed on the left side between the front and rear wheels while the driver sat in a similar location on the right. Although not at all powerful, the so-called Nardi Bisiluro (Twin Torpedo) was very lightweight at less than 1000 pounds. It had a design relationship to the TARF record-setting Gilera motorcycle-engined twin-boom car created for Piero Taruffi in the late 1940s which was followed by a Maserati-engined version.

The Nardi Bilsiluro had a number of interesting aerodynamic design features in addition to its very low and streamlined shape, such as a retractable rearview mirror, small aerofoil airbrakes to share retardation with its drum brakes, as did Mercedes with their 300SLRs, and a surface radiator. The overall design had been created by Carlo Mollino who had worked closely with driver Mario Damonte. All this allowed a top speed of about 135 mph with only 60 bhp. On the other hand the short wheelbase and low polar moment made the Nardi very delicate to drive. As Gino Munaron, who was a Ferrari team member and a reserve driver for the Nardi said, “The faster you went, the more difficult it was to control.” Nevertheless, it was easily the fastest car in practice in the 750 cc class.

In the race the “twitchyness” of the Nardi Bisiluro was probably its undoing. Passed by a Jaguar D-Type on the Mulsanne straight, it left the road and went off into a deep water-filled ditch without great damage and with no injury to Damonte, but had to be retired. Most likely the airflow from the Jaguar passing at 180 mph caused a twitch which Damonte probably over-corrected. It never raced again. Today this interesting design exercise resides in the Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia “Leonardo da Vinci” in Milan.

Photo by Günther Molter ©The Klemantaski Collection –

One comment

  1. Jim Sitz · · Reply

    Reference to previous TARF record car with Gilera motorcycle engine
    reminds me that Taruffi, a clever engineer, ex Norton racer and long
    distance winner had a real job as manager of the Gilera motorcycle
    team that gave the late Geoff Duke world titles in 1953/54.

    Because of that position, Gilera has to ask him to question his being
    driver on Ferrari Grand Prix team–which had him step aside to make way
    for ” new boy” Gonzales, who thus went on to win his 1st GP in England
    after debut 2 weeks earlier at Rheims.

    Jim Sitz
    G.P. Oregon


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