Huge displacement cars form special class at Pebble Beach

CNET Car Tech reports on the special class for cars with engines displacing more than 20 liters at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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Blitzen Benz
The Blitzen Benz is shown here at Brooklands raceway.

August means the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and Monterey Historics to car nuts all over, and this year a special class will be on display: cars with engines displacing over 20-liters. Engines of this size are few and far between, as your typical V-6 displaces 3.5 liters. Even the 16 cylinder, 1,001 horsepower Bugatti Veyron only displaces 8 liters. The 20 plus-liter class at Pebble Beach is more for exhibition, as there are only four cars that fit the bill, with three historics and one recent invention.

Swandean Spitfire Special
The Swandean Spitfire Special is powered by a P-51 Mustang engine.

The 1913 "Blitzen" Benz appearing at the show was built with a 21.5-liter engine, an early attempt at adding power primarily through displacement. It is one of only six "Blitzen" Benzes built, and features an extended chassis with seating for four. The two other historical cars in this class use 27-liter V-12 engines built for the P-51 Mustang airplane. One is a Rolls-Royce modified to fit this massive engine, while the other is the 1953 Swandean Spitfire Special, which uses a custom designed chassis and body. According to race car expert George Wingard, who is entering the "Blitzen" Benz at Pebble Beach, the cars powered by the P-51 engine will do 140 mph in third gear.

Jay Leno Tank Car
Jay Leno's Tank Car is the only modern entrant in the over 20-liter class.

The fourth car in this show class is a custom job entered by Jay Leno, and is known as the Tank Car because it uses a 30-liter V-12 Chrysler-built engine designed for the M-47 Patton tank. This engine produces more than 1,500 horsepower. The car has been tested up to 140 mph, but becomes unstable above that speed.

The Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance occurs on August 17, with various related events starting on August 13.