Featured: These Cars Prove That The Perfect Passenger Is Your Engine

These Cars Prove That The Perfect Passenger Is Your Engine

By Michael Banovsky
September 23, 2015

There’s a laundry list of problems that arise once it’s decided the engine should go beside the driver. How does the engine power the wheels? How does the driver stay safe?

“Where will they let us race?” is the most important question, however, and the answer is: not just anywhere. These five cars were each built for a purpose, whether that was setting speed records or being thrown around by student race drivers. Believe it or not, Honda is probably the world leader in this trend—it’s built two since 1997!

1951 Piero Taruffi Italcorsa/TARF II:


The engineering genius Piero Taruffi kicked off all of this madness as two vehicles on this list, the TARF-GILERA bisiluro, or “twin torpedo” first hit the scene in 1951. Built for low-drag speed record competition, its first trophy was earned shortly after recording an official ~185 mph and trouncing an earlier MG factory speed effort by about 7 mph. Its top speed, however, was closer to 195 mph—in 1951.

1955 Nardi Bisiluro Damolnar:

Carlo Mollino was hired by Enrico Nardi for a special project: to compete at Le Mans. In 1955, this car was quick but ultimately not very stable at speed, and was blown off the track as it was being lapped. Still, Chris Bangle says of its design: “A wonderful car made by special people for a celebrated race in a glorious Age of Car Design Innocence, what more can one ask for?”

Want to see it? Visit the Museo Nazionale Scienza e Technologia Leonardo Da Vinci in Milan.

Smokey Yunick’s 1964 Hurst Floor Shift Special:

The German Blohm & Voss BV 141 reconnaissance aircraft is what put the side-by-side idea in mechanic, engineer, and inventor Yunick’s head, after he’d seen the plane during the Second World War. (Chris Bangle suggests that this aircraft also inspired both Taruffi and Mollino, too.)

Purpose-built for the Indianapolis 500, the capsule car turned up in 1964 to great fanfare, given that it was perfectly balanced for the track. On its qualifying lap, however, the drum brakes from a Pontiac Tempest (no, not kidding!) pitched it into a spin, and its impact with the wall would be the last time it ran in anger. Now it resides in the Indianapolis 500 Museum.

1997 Honda Side-by-Side race car:

For the 1997 opening of its brand-new Twin Ring Motegi track, Honda devised a unique vehicle to be the star of its driver training academy: the Side-by-Side. With a 742-cc V-twin next to the driver, it’s said to have been as fast as a Formula 1600 car.

Interestingly, it’s also the most successful side-by-side on this list by far: 50 were made in total!

2015 Honda Project 2&4:

The latest member of such an exclusive club, the 2&4 is likely one of the faster cars here, if only it was a bit more streamlined. With a 999-cc V4 MotoGP-derived engine cranking out about 215 horsepower, all the driver has to do is sit down, strap in, and hold on.

At less than 900 lbs, the only thing holding its driver back is what was eaten for lunch. It’s a prototype, so if you ask Honda nicely enough, maybe it’ll let you have a spin…

Image sources: wired.com, macsmotorcitygarage.com, banovsky.com, diseno-art.comhonda.com



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Iain Groom
Iain Groom
7 years ago

The Palatov Motorsport D1 is another awesome side engined track car.

Willam Giltzow
Willam Giltzow
8 years ago

The Atom has the engine behind the driver. These are all next to the driver. This is common to small displacement circle track cars through out the USA. See three quarter midget (on pavement in the N.E.) or mini sprints on dirt anywhere. When you really need a short wheelbase it works. No other reason I can see, though.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
8 years ago

Other than a chassis , suspension , drivetrain and a place to put your bum … what else does a ‘ sports ‘ car really need ?

But errr .. methinks you missed out on the best of the best in your list . The Ariel Atom

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