In 1938, the German airplane maker Blohm & Voss created several examples of asymmetrical bombers which, although nimble and fast, would not enjoy much success as part of the Luftwaffe. Several years later, an Italian would use the idea to his advantage, this time on four wheels...
Never lacking imagination, but often lacking the financial means, Enrico Nardi continued his quest to evolve the car from its first appearance in 1932. Considering the 24 Hours of Le Mans as the only event worthy of showcasing his ideas, he took on the challenge of beating French auto-makers Renault and Panhard in their favourite class of engines small than 750cc. After a debut cut short in only the second lap in 1954 (water pump), he returned the following year with an ambitious project, thanks to a unique perspective.
Rather than adapt the exterior forms to the chassis, why not design the ideal bodywork first, then adapt the rest of the car to it? Following this logic, Enrico Nardi hires engineer-architect Carlo Mollino to design a very aerodynamic car, with a radiator in the middle, which he sees as a wing. He then added all the essential elements to make the car totally asymmetrical, with two fuselages. The left side housed the engine and transmission while the right side carried the driver, who needed to be small in stature.
To improve the braking performance, the car was equipped with an aerodynamic flap in the center. The ingenious air brake unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your view) was replaced by a jumpseat (!) on the eve of the practice sessions, as the rules required a passenger seat in the car. Another innovation, the radiator was comprised of rectangular tubes aiming to disperse the heat thanks to the air flowing through them. Thre rest of the car was made up of various vehicles: Lancia Appia or Fiat 1100, with the entire weight totally only 400 kg.
During practice for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Nardi Bisiluro shows great speed (220 km/h) and performs very well in its class. Despite that, the drivers are worried to even turn around in the cockpit as the car requires a very soft touch due to extreme sensitivity to any change of direction. Even worse, they have a difficult time driving the car in a straight line! Their fears would come true in the race when after only 148 minutes, the Bisiluro driven by Damonte is overtaken, or rather "blown" over by a Jaguar...
Retrieved from the ditch without much harm done to car or driver, the Nardi Bisiluro would spend the rest of its days at the National Science and Technology Museum ‘Leonardo da Vinci’, in Milan.
Julien HERGAULT / ACO - Translated by Rainier Ehrhardt / ACO