Model of the car: Damolnar Bisiluro, 1955

Here’s a positive catamaran of a car. The Bisiluro had twin, cigar-shaped “hulls,” with the driver seated in the right, and the engine, gearbox, and fuel tank shrouded in the left to balance the weight. Beneath the lower, central portion of the body was a radiator, heat exchanger, and two-stage aerodynamic brake.

1955 Damolnar Bisiluro
Built by engineer Enrico Nardi to the designs of Carlo Mollino, the Damolnar completed five laps at Le Mans before being blown off-course.

The Bisiluro was the brainchild of Carlo Mollino, an architect who loved cars and aircraft. It took shape in the workshops of Enrico Nardi, a Turin-based builder of prototypes and sports cars, in early 1955. Named the Bisiluro—Italian for double torpedo—the “Da-” part of the car’s official “marque” alluded to Dr. Mario Damonte, the partner in the venture. The whole point of this machine was to tackle the 1955 Le Mans 24-hour race in the 46ci (750cc) class, while gaining the maximum speed advantage from its ground-hugging shape.

1955 Damolnar Bisiluro
1955 Damolnar Bisiluro
1955 model car Damolnar Bisiluro
1955 model car Damolnar Bisiluro

The power came from a Giannini four-cylinder, 45ci (735cc) unit producing 65bhp at a screaming 6,500rpm—inspired by the engine in Moto Guzzi’s racing motorbikes. The Bisiluro was incredibly fast, capable of 133mph (214kph), but on its fifth lap at Le Mans, disaster struck. A Jaguar overtook at such speed that the ensuing gust forced the car off the road, ending its race. Happily, the Bisiluro survived and today resides in Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Science Museum.

“Absurd and extreme, one of the smallest cars, a twin-boom Nardi, was probably further removed from honest ‘prototype’ intent than any entry before or since.”

David Hodges in his Book The Le Mans 24-Hour Race, 1963

Video: model of the car Damolnar Bisiluro

Specification: model of the car Damolnar Bisiluro

YEAR REVEALED: 1955
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Turin, Italy
HISTORICAL STATUS: prototype
ENGINE: four-cylinder, 45ci (735cc)
MAXIMUM POWER: 65bhp
LAYOUT: side/mid-mounted engine driving the rear wheels
BODYWORK: single-seater racer
TOP SPEED: 133mph (214kph)
NUMBER BUILT: one