Automotive

The fastest cars in history: 1894 to 1914

The fastest cars in history: 1...
The first person to achieve 100 miles in an hour was Percy Lambert, on 15 February 1913, driving a 4.5 liter sidevalve Talbot reportedly producing 105 bhp at 2,500 rpm
The first person to achieve 100 miles in an hour was Percy Lambert, on 15 February 1913, driving a 4.5 liter sidevalve Talbot reportedly producing 105 bhp at 2,500 rpm
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This 1926 Department of Commerce Statistical Abstract of the United States clearly shows the growth of both the American automotive industry and the size of the U.S. carpark. You'll see the wholesale value of the passenger vehicles is also listed in the above table. Do the math and you'll find that the average wholesale cost of a car in 1909 was $1252. By 1916, the average wholesale price was $604.
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This 1926 Department of Commerce Statistical Abstract of the United States clearly shows the growth of both the American automotive industry and the size of the U.S. carpark. You'll see the wholesale value of the passenger vehicles is also listed in the above table. Do the math and you'll find that the average wholesale cost of a car in 1909 was $1252. By 1916, the average wholesale price was $604.
Most of the world's cars in 1926 were in America and had been made in America
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Most of the world's cars in 1926 were in America and had been made in America
The Benz & Cie Velo is generally regarded as the world's first production automobile, though there were many cars produced prior in modest quantities. The top speed was just 12 mph (19 km/h) but it was a big deal when Benz announced the first series production automobile at the Chicago World Expo on 1 May 1893. Deliveries began in 1894
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The Benz & Cie Velo is generally regarded as the world's first production automobile, though there were many cars produced prior in modest quantities. The top speed was just 12 mph (19 km/h) but it was a big deal when Benz announced the first series production automobile at the Chicago World Expo on 1 May 1893. Deliveries began in 1894
The winner of the first motorsport event in history was a De Dion Bouton steam car pulling a trailer and driven by Count De Dion himself. The race ran over a 78 mile (126 km) route from Paris to Rouen of 22 July 1894, and though he was the first car across the finishing line, he was disqualified because the car required a stoker (someone to tend the boiler). De Dion's time for the distance was 6 hours 48 minutes giving him an average speed of 19 km/h (12 mph).
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The winner of the first motorsport event in history was a De Dion Bouton steam car pulling a trailer and driven by Count De Dion himself. The race ran over a 78 mile (126 km) route from  Paris to Rouen of 22 July 1894, and though he was the first car across the finishing line, he was disqualified because the car required a stoker (someone to tend the boiler). De Dion's time for the distance was 6 hours 48 minutes giving him an average speed of 19 km/h (12 mph).
The epic ten-day, 1,710 km Paris–Marseille–Paris race of February 1896 was won by a 2.4 liter 8 horsepower Panhard & Levassor at an average speed of 15.69 mph (25.25 km/h).
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The epic ten-day, 1,710 km Paris–Marseille–Paris race of February 1896 was won by a 2.4 liter 8 horsepower Panhard & Levassor at an average speed of 15.69 mph (25.25 km/h).
On 11 July, 1895 a Panhard & Levassor car driven by Émile Levassor finished first in the 1,178 km Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race but was disqualified as it only had two seats instead of the required four. Levassor's total time of 48 hours and 48 minutes yields an average of 24.5 km/h including several lengthy stops for meals. It's not recorded whether he slept during the ordeal.
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On 11 July, 1895 a Panhard & Levassor car driven by Émile Levassor finished first in the 1,178 km Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race but was disqualified as it only had two seats instead of the required four. Levassor's  total time of 48 hours and 48 minutes yields an average of 24.5 km/h including several lengthy stops for meals. It's not recorded whether he slept during the ordeal.
On 18 December 1898, the very first speed record for automobiles was set when the French magazine "La France Automobile" held the world's first outright speed contest for cars, with the fastest car on the day being a Jeantaud driven by as French Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat
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On 18 December 1898, the very first speed record for automobiles was set when the French magazine "La France Automobile" held the world's first outright speed contest for cars, with the fastest car on the day being a Jeantaud driven by as French Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat 
Belgian Camille Jenatzy challenged Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat to a run-off at Achères (France) on 17 January 1899, running 41.42 mph (66.27 km/h) and breaking the first speed record.
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Belgian Camille Jenatzy challenged Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat to a run-off at  Achères (France) on 17 January 1899, running 41.42 mph (66.27 km/h) and breaking the first speed record.
At Achères (France) on 17 January 1899, after Jenatzy had broken his record, the "Electric Count" as de Chasseloup-Laubat became known by the newspapers, responded with his Jeantaud, running 70.17 km/h (43.6 mph) and yet another record was established.
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At  Achères (France) on 17 January 1899, after Jenatzy had broken his record, the "Electric Count" as de Chasseloup-Laubat became known by the newspapers, responded with his Jeantaud, running 70.17 km/h (43.6 mph) and yet another record was established. 
On 4 March 1899, six weeks after Jenatzy's record, the Electric Count rolled out a new car dubbed the "Jeantaud Duc Profilée," which included the first notion of aerodynamic streamlining in an automobile, and took the record back with a run of 92.7 km/h (57.6 mph).
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On 4 March 1899, six weeks after Jenatzy's record, the Electric Count rolled out a new car dubbed the "Jeantaud Duc Profilée," which included the first notion of aerodynamic streamlining in an automobile, and took the record back with a run of 92.7 km/h (57.6 mph).
Jenatzy created the first "purpose built" car for a land speed record which he named the "Jamais Contente." The torpedo-shaped electric vehicle made extensive use of "partinium", a strong, lightweight and expensive alloy made of aluminum, copper, zinc, silicon and iron which had not been previously used in a car. The car ran 65.79 mph (105.26 km/h) for the final chapter in the duel.
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Jenatzy created the first "purpose built" car for a land speed record which he named the "Jamais Contente." The torpedo-shaped electric vehicle made extensive use of "partinium", a strong, lightweight and expensive alloy made of aluminum, copper, zinc, silicon and iron which had not been previously used in a car. The car ran  65.79 mph (105.26 km/h) for the final chapter in the duel.
In March, 1901, the new Mercedes 35 hp stormed at Nice Speed Week produced a clean sweep of the Nice-La Turbie event, raising the average speed from the previous best of 19.4 mph (31.3 km/h) to 31.9 mph (51.4 km/h) and the Mercedes was reportedly timed at 86 km/h during the race. The Mercedes also won the 1901 Nice-Salon-Nice race in the hands of Wilhelm Werner, averaging 36 mph (58 km/h) during the week of automotive festivities. This car went into series production as the Mercedes 35-hp and would have been the fastest road car in the world at that time, with state-of-the-art roadholding.
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In March, 1901, the new Mercedes 35 hp stormed at Nice Speed Week produced a clean sweep of the Nice-La Turbie event, raising the average speed from the previous best of 19.4 mph (31.3 km/h) to 31.9 mph (51.4 km/h) and the Mercedes was reportedly timed at 86 km/h during the race. The Mercedes also won the 1901 Nice-Salon-Nice race in the hands of Wilhelm Werner, averaging 36 mph (58 km/h) during the week of automotive festivities. This car went into series production as the Mercedes 35-hp and would have been the fastest road car in the world at that time, with state-of-the-art roadholding.
Jellinek's concept was to lower the centre-of-gravity of the cars at the same time as lengthening the wheelbase and widening the car, all resulting in much better roadholding. The design is quite distinct from the stagecoach layouts inherited from the horse-drawn era which dominated automobile design prior to then. Most agree that this vehicle was the first modern car. I believe it should also be regarded as the world's first sports car. It was conceived with motorsport in mind, won countless races, and the entire species immediately evolved in that direction.
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Jellinek's concept was to lower the centre-of-gravity of the cars at the same time as lengthening the wheelbase and widening the car, all resulting in much better roadholding. The design is quite distinct from the stagecoach layouts inherited from the horse-drawn era which dominated automobile design prior to then. Most agree that this vehicle was the first modern car. I believe it should also be regarded as the world's first sports car. It was conceived with motorsport in mind, won countless races, and the entire species immediately evolved in that direction.
The French "Œuf de Pâques" Serpollet steam car ran 120 km/h (75 mph) on 13 April 1902 over the flying kilometre on the Promenade des Anglais during Nice Speed Week.
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The French "Œuf de Pâques" Serpollet steam car ran 120 km/h (75 mph) on 13 April 1902 over the flying kilometre on the Promenade des Anglais during Nice Speed Week.
The first car with an internal combustion engine (ICE) to hold the automobile speed record, was the 60-hp, 10 liter four-cylinder Mors. At Chartres, France the mors Type Z ran 76.08 mph (122.44 km/h) in the hands of William K Vanderbilt.
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The first car with an internal combustion engine (ICE) to hold the automobile speed record, was the 60-hp, 10 liter four-cylinder Mors. At Chartres, France the mors Type Z ran 76.08 mph (122.44 km/h) in the hands of William K Vanderbilt.
Mors improved its own record to 76.60 mph (123.28 km/h) on 5 November, 1902 at Dourdan, France when Henri Fournier used his 1902 Paris-Vienna race car to break Vanderbilt's record.
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Mors improved its own record to  76.60 mph (123.28 km/h) on 5 November, 1902 at Dourdan, France when Henri Fournier used his 1902 Paris-Vienna race car to break Vanderbilt's record.
On 28 October 1903, an experimental railcar with an AEG drivetrain was timed at 210.3 km/h, a new absolute land speed record.
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On 28 October 1903, an experimental railcar with an AEG drivetrain was timed at 210.3 km/h, a new absolute land speed record.
American Arthur Duray was the first man to drive at more than 80 miles an hour, when the veteran professional driver covered the flying kilometre in 26.8 seconds at Ostende Belgium on 17 July 1903, setting a new speed record of 83.47 mph (134.3 km/h) in his Gobron Brillie.
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American Arthur Duray was the first man to drive at more than 80 miles an hour, when the veteran professional driver covered the flying kilometre in 26.8 seconds at Ostende Belgium on 17 July 1903, setting a new speed record of 83.47 mph (134.3 km/h) in his Gobron Brillie.
Duray did it again in the Gobron-Brillie on 5 November 1903, pushing the new car speed record to 84.73 mph (136.36 km/h)
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Duray did it again in the Gobron-Brillie on 5 November 1903, pushing the new car speed record to 84.73 mph (136.36 km/h)
The unconventional Gobron Brillie motor was an opposed-piston engine in which each cylinder has a piston at both ends, and no cylinder head. The engine powered the company's road cars in several versions, the largest of which was an 11.4-litre six-cylinder producing 60/75 hp, but for the purposes of this contest, the engine was enlarged to 13.5-litres. It also ran on alcohol.
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The unconventional Gobron Brillie motor was an opposed-piston engine in which each cylinder has a piston at both ends, and no cylinder head. The engine powered the company's road cars in several versions, the largest of which was an 11.4-litre six-cylinder producing 60/75 hp, but for the purposes of this contest, the engine was enlarged to 13.5-litres. It also ran on alcohol.
Henry Ford reclaimed the record for America again when Barney Oldfield took Henry Ford's 999 to 91.37 mph (147.05 km/h) across a frozen lake bed on 12 January 1904. Barney became the first person to travel at over 90 mph other than by rail, and he did so using the brutal 1156 cu.in.(18.9 L) with its four bucket-sized pistons each firing 350 times every mile. At 1,200 rpm, the 999 was geared for 100 miles an hour.
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Henry Ford reclaimed the record for America again when Barney Oldfield took Henry Ford's 999 to 91.37 mph (147.05 km/h) across a frozen lake bed on 12 January 1904. Barney became the first person to travel at over 90 mph other than by rail, and he did so using the brutal 1156 cu.in.(18.9 L) with its four bucket-sized pistons each firing 350 times every mile. At 1,200 rpm, the 999 was geared for 100 miles an hour.
Henry Ford reclaimed the record for America again when Barney Oldfield took Henry Ford's 999 to 91.37 mph (147.05 km/h) across a frozen lake bed on 12 January 1904. Barney became the first person to travel at over 90 mph other than by rail, and he did so using the brutal 1156 cu.in.(18.9 L) with its four bucket-sized pistons each firing 350 times every mile. At 1,200 rpm, the 999 was geared for 100 miles an hour.
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Henry Ford reclaimed the record for America again when Barney Oldfield took Henry Ford's 999 to 91.37 mph (147.05 km/h) across a frozen lake bed on 12 January 1904. Barney became the first person to travel at over 90 mph other than by rail, and he did so using the brutal 1156 cu.in.(18.9 L) with its four bucket-sized pistons each firing 350 times every mile. At 1,200 rpm, the 999 was geared for 100 miles an hour.
On 18 December 1898, the very first speed record for automobiles was set when the French magazine "La France Automobile" held the world's first outright speed contest for cars, with the fastest car on the day being a Jeantaud driven by as French Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat
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On 18 December 1898, the very first speed record for automobiles was set when the French magazine "La France Automobile" held the world's first outright speed contest for cars, with the fastest car on the day being a Jeantaud driven by as French Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat
This 1905 one-off Darracq appears to be the very first car built from scratch to contain a 25,422 cc V8 producing 200 hp in a car that weighed just 900 kg (1982 lb).
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This 1905 one-off Darracq appears to be the very first car built from scratch to contain a 25,422 cc V8 producing 200 hp in a car that weighed just 900 kg (1982 lb).
This 1905 one-off Darracq appears to be the very first car built from scratch to contain a 25,422 cc V8 producing 200 hp in a car that weighed just 900 kg (1982 lb).
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This 1905 one-off Darracq appears to be the very first car built from scratch to contain a 25,422 cc V8 producing 200 hp in a car that weighed just 900 kg (1982 lb).
The Napier was the first car recorded at more than 100 mph on 25 January, 1905 at Daytona Beach, Florida
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The Napier was the first car recorded at more than 100 mph on 25 January, 1905 at Daytona Beach, Florida
On 29 January 1906, Fred Marriott drove the Stanley Steam Company's best known creation to set the final record for steam at 127.66 mph (205.44 km/h).
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On 29 January 1906, Fred Marriott drove the Stanley Steam Company's best known creation to set the final record for steam at 127.66 mph (205.44 km/h).
This 120-hp Mercedes special ran 109.65 mph (176.5 km/h) at Daytona in 1905, using not one but two 60 hp Mercedes engines in an extended chassis.
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This 120-hp Mercedes special ran 109.65 mph (176.5 km/h) at Daytona in 1905, using not one but two 60 hp Mercedes engines in an extended chassis.
The full story of Glen Curtiss and his V8 motorcycle can be found in our feature article, the tale of the 1907 Curtiss V8, the only motorcycle ever to hold the outright land speed record. Curtiss ran 136.27 mph (219.31 km/h) on 24 January 1907 at Daytona Beach, Florida
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The full story of Glen Curtiss and his V8 motorcycle can be found in our feature article, the tale of the 1907 Curtiss V8, the only motorcycle ever to hold the outright land speed record. Curtiss ran 136.27 mph (219.31 km/h) on 24 January 1907 at Daytona Beach, Florida
The full story of Glen Curtiss and his V8 motorcycle can be found in our feature article, the tale of the 1907 Curtiss V8, the only motorcycle ever to hold the outright land speed record. Curtiss ran 136.27 mph (219.31 km/h) on 24 January 1907 at Daytona Beach, Florida
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The full story of Glen Curtiss and his V8 motorcycle can be found in our feature article, the tale of the 1907 Curtiss V8, the only motorcycle ever to hold the outright land speed record. Curtiss ran 136.27 mph (219.31 km/h) on 24 January 1907 at Daytona Beach, Florida
The full story of Glen Curtiss and his V8 motorcycle can be found in our feature article, the tale of the 1907 Curtiss V8, the only motorcycle ever to hold the outright land speed record. Curtiss ran 136.27 mph (219.31 km/h) on 24 January 1907 at Daytona Beach, Florida
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The full story of Glen Curtiss and his V8 motorcycle can be found in our feature article, the tale of the 1907 Curtiss V8, the only motorcycle ever to hold the outright land speed record. Curtiss ran 136.27 mph (219.31 km/h) on 24 January 1907 at Daytona Beach, Florida
Curtis' main business was the manufacture of high-power, lightweight engines for a range of purposes. Recognising the low weight and minimal frontal area of the motorcycle offered an easy way to demonstrate his wares to the public and sell more of his engines so he installed one of his 4000cc V8 aircraft engines (essentially four of his v-twins), into a motorcycle and blew all competitors into the weeds with a run of 136.27 mph (219.31 km/h) on 24 January 1907. Those are the first two data points on the graph (above left), showing the progress of the motorcycle speed record from 1906 onwards. You can see Curtis was decades ahead of his time.
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Curtis' main business was the manufacture of high-power, lightweight engines for a range of purposes. Recognising the low weight and minimal frontal area of the motorcycle offered an easy way to demonstrate his wares to the public and sell more of his engines so he installed one of his 4000cc V8 aircraft engines (essentially four of his v-twins), into a motorcycle and blew all competitors into the weeds with a run of 136.27 mph (219.31 km/h) on 24 January 1907. Those are the first two data points on the graph (above left), showing the progress of the motorcycle speed record from 1906 onwards. You can see Curtis was decades ahead of his time.
The full story of Glen Curtiss and his V8 motorcycle can be found in our feature article, the tale of the 1907 Curtiss V8, the only motorcycle ever to hold the outright land speed record. Curtiss ran 136.27 mph (219.31 km/h) on 24 January 1907 at Daytona Beach, Florida
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The full story of Glen Curtiss and his V8 motorcycle can be found in our feature article, the tale of the 1907 Curtiss V8, the only motorcycle ever to hold the outright land speed record. Curtiss ran 136.27 mph (219.31 km/h) on 24 January 1907 at Daytona Beach, Florida
On 18 December 1898, the very first speed record for automobiles was set when the French magazine "La France Automobile" held the world's first outright speed contest for cars, with the fastest car on the day being a Jeantaud driven by as French Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat
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On 18 December 1898, the very first speed record for automobiles was set when the French magazine "La France Automobile" held the world's first outright speed contest for cars, with the fastest car on the day being a Jeantaud driven by as French Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat
The Blitzen-Benz was built specifically to establish new speed records and at its heart was a 21.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 147 kW. Victor Hémery took the Blitzen Benz to Brooklands racetrack in England on 8 November 1909 and ran 205.666 km/h for the flying half-mile and 202.648 km/h for the flying kilometer with the speed electronically timed to 1000th of a second for the first time.
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The Blitzen-Benz was built specifically to establish new speed records and at its heart was a 21.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 147 kW. Victor Hémery took the Blitzen Benz to Brooklands racetrack in England on 8 November 1909 and ran 205.666 km/h for the flying half-mile and 202.648 km/h for the flying kilometer with the speed electronically timed to 1000th of a second for the first time.
Barnie Oldfield in the Blitzen (Lightning) Benz. On 17 March 1910, Barney set a new speed record of 131.275 mph (211.4 km/h) at Daytona Beach, Florida, US.
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Barnie Oldfield in the Blitzen (Lightning) Benz. On 17 March 1910, Barney set a new speed record of 131.275 mph (211.4 km/h) at Daytona Beach, Florida, US.
Bob Burman broke Barney Oldfield's record, covering a mile from a flying start at an average speed of 228.1 km in the "Blitzen-Benz" at Daytona Beach, Florida/USA on 23 April 1911. This was the highest speed ever attained by a road vehicle prior to WW1 and set up a world record which remained unbeaten until 1919.
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Bob Burman broke Barney Oldfield's record, covering a mile from a flying start at an average speed of 228.1 km in the "Blitzen-Benz" at Daytona Beach, Florida/USA on 23 April 1911. This was the highest speed ever attained by a road vehicle prior to WW1 and set up a world record which remained unbeaten until 1919.
The first record set under new rules that required two-way runs was yet another 200-hp Blitzen Benz accomplishment on 24 June 1914 at Brooklands in the United Kingdom. Lydston Hornsted ran 124.09 mph (199.70 km/h)
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The first record set under new rules that required two-way runs was yet another 200-hp Blitzen Benz accomplishment on 24 June 1914 at Brooklands in the United Kingdom. Lydston Hornsted ran 124.09 mph (199.70 km/h)
Panhard & Levassor won countless races in the first decade of motorsport, as this in-period advert illustrates.
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Panhard & Levassor won countless races in the first decade of motorsport, as this in-period advert illustrates.
The 1905 10.6-litre Panhard & Levassor 50-hp Model Q above is exactly the type of car then available for "the man to whom money is no object", having been designed to compete with the 60 hp Mercedes. The car debuted at the 1905 Olympia (London) Show with a price tag of £1750 against the £2000 of the also-introduced 70-hp Mercedes, the 50-hp Panhard was the second most expensive car on the British market.
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The 1905 10.6-litre Panhard & Levassor 50-hp Model Q above is exactly the type of car then available for "the man to whom money is no object", having been designed to compete with the 60 hp Mercedes. The car debuted at the 1905 Olympia (London) Show with a price tag of £1750 against the £2000 of the also-introduced 70-hp Mercedes, the 50-hp Panhard was the second most expensive car on the British market.
Spain's young King Alfonso XIII was one of Hispano-Suiza's first customers and when Hispano-Suiza's racing voiturette won France's prestigious Coupe de l'Auto race in 1910 and turned it into a road car, Alfonso drove the new model, bought one and gave permission for the new model to carry his name. Some people regard this as the world's first sportscar.
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Spain's young King Alfonso XIII was one of Hispano-Suiza's first customers and when Hispano-Suiza's racing voiturette won France's prestigious Coupe de l'Auto race in 1910 and turned it into a road car, Alfonso drove the new model, bought one and gave permission for the new model to carry his name. Some people regard this as the world's first sportscar.
The winning Thomas Flyer was a production car in every respect and "It shows the American car is on par with the foreign machine, and it marks the beginning of the end of the European supremacy," claimed Robert Lee Morell at the Auto Club of America at a luncheon upon the car's arrival in the US.
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The winning Thomas Flyer was a production car in every respect and "It shows the American car is on par with the foreign machine, and it marks the beginning of the end of the European supremacy," claimed Robert Lee Morell at the Auto Club of America at a luncheon upon the car's arrival in the US. 
This is the car that won the famous New York to Paris automobile race in 1908 - it's an off-the-shelf 1907 Thomas Flyer 4-60 model and in winning the epic race, it enhanced an already sound reputation for speed and reliability to legendary status. Even if motorcars aren't your schtick and you don't know what it did, you will have heard of the "Thomas Flyer" even though the last one was made 97 years ago. The pioneering company achieved many great feats with its wares but winning the only around-the-world race that's ever been held is the marque's greatest achievement.
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This is the car that won the famous New York to Paris automobile race in 1908 - it's an off-the-shelf 1907 Thomas Flyer 4-60 model and in winning the epic race, it enhanced an already sound reputation for speed and reliability to legendary status. Even if motorcars aren't your schtick and you don't know what it did, you will have heard of the "Thomas Flyer" even though the last one was made 97 years ago. The pioneering company achieved many great feats with its wares but winning the only around-the-world race that's ever been held is the marque's greatest achievement.
This 1908 Thomas Flyer Model F 4-60hp Tourer went to auction at Bonhams Quail Lodge sale during 2010 Monterey car week and fetched US$ 733,000. The winning car from the epic 1908 race is on display in Reno, Nevada, at the National Automobile Museum, alongside the trophy.
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This 1908 Thomas Flyer Model F 4-60hp Tourer went to auction at Bonhams Quail Lodge sale during 2010 Monterey car week and fetched US$ 733,000. The winning car from the epic 1908 race is on display in Reno, Nevada, at the National Automobile Museum, alongside the trophy.
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Pierce-Arrow was one of the most prestigious of American manufacturers in this period with the speed to cover vast distances quickly. The company's reputation for performance and reliability was validated when the Pierce Great Arrow won the famed Glidden Tour five years in a row (1905-1909), achieving perfect scores in all but one of them. The name "tour" may not convey the gruelling nature of these tours. The following video shows the speed and endeavour shown by the drivers in difficult conditions.
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Pierce-Arrow was one of the most prestigious of American manufacturers in this period with the speed to cover vast distances quickly. The company's reputation for performance and reliability was validated when the Pierce Great Arrow won the famed Glidden Tour five years in a row (1905-1909), achieving perfect scores in all but one of them. The name "tour" may not convey the gruelling nature of these tours. The following video shows the speed and endeavour shown by the drivers in difficult conditions.
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The quality of Mors road cars in the first decade of the 20th Century was one of the selling feayures, along with speed and reliability. The 1904 Mors 24/32-hp Roi des Belges Touring car pictured would have been one of the fastest comfortable touring cars on French roads at that time.
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The quality of Mors road cars in the first decade of the 20th Century was one of the selling feayures, along with speed and reliability. The 1904 Mors 24/32-hp Roi des Belges Touring car pictured would have been one of the fastest comfortable touring cars on French roads at that time.
On 16 November, 1901, Mors factory driver Henri Fournier, during a promotional visit to America, set a time of 51.8 seconds for the flying mile, giving him a speed of 69.498 mph (111.846 km/h) and what was claimed at the time to be a world record. That's a clipping above from the Los Angeles Herald at right above, and the image at left is of Fournier in his Morz Type Z and came from this excellent coverage of events in the Digital History project.
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On 16 November, 1901, Mors factory driver Henri Fournier, during a promotional visit to America, set a time of 51.8 seconds for the flying mile, giving him a speed of 69.498 mph (111.846 km/h) and what was claimed at the time to be a world record. That's a clipping above from the Los Angeles Herald at right above, and the image at left is of Fournier in his Morz Type Z and came from this excellent coverage of events in the Digital History project.
On 17 November, 1902, Maurice Augières used Fournier's Mors Type Z to push the speed record to 77.13 mph (123.41 km/h). That's Maurice pictured above with his passenger or riding mechanic.
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On 17 November, 1902, Maurice Augières used Fournier's Mors Type Z to push the speed record to 77.13 mph (123.41 km/h). That's Maurice pictured above with his passenger or riding mechanic.
The Henry Ford alliance with Barney Oldfield was fortuitous for both parties. Oldfield launched a glorious career in motorsport (and appears again in this very story), while Henry gained impetus in his ultimate quest using the record to propel him towards global recognition in many spheres. Barney Oldfield took Henry Ford's 999 to 91.37 mph (147.05 km/h) across a frozen lake bed on 12 January 1904. Barney became the first person to travel at over 90 mph other than by rail, and he did so using the brutal 1156 cu.in.(18.9 L) with its four bucket-sized pistons each firing 350 times every mile. At 1,200 rpm, the 999 was geared for 100 miles an hour.
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The Henry Ford alliance with Barney Oldfield was fortuitous for both parties. Oldfield launched a glorious career in motorsport (and appears again in this very story), while Henry gained impetus in his ultimate quest using the record to propel him towards global recognition in many spheres. Barney Oldfield took Henry Ford's 999 to 91.37 mph (147.05 km/h) across a frozen lake bed on 12 January 1904. Barney became the first person to travel at over 90 mph other than by rail, and he did so using the brutal 1156 cu.in.(18.9 L) with its four bucket-sized pistons each firing 350 times every mile. At 1,200 rpm, the 999 was geared for 100 miles an hour.
The engine and one of the pistons of the 1905 Darracq 200 HP Land Speed Record Car. With diameter of 170mm and a swept volume of over six litres, and it will help frame the perspective of the motor beside it. Two of those pistons were housed in each block.
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The engine and one of the pistons of the 1905 Darracq 200 HP Land Speed Record Car. With diameter of 170mm and a swept volume of over six litres, and it will help frame the perspective of the motor beside it. Two of those pistons were housed in each block.
Hampered by its main driver being banned from the meeting, the Darracq nevertheless ran 122.5 mph at Daytona Beach in 1906 with Demogeot driving.
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Hampered by its main driver being banned from the meeting, the Darracq nevertheless ran 122.5 mph at Daytona Beach in 1906 with Demogeot driving.
In 1891 at a time when the motor car was yet to become a commercial product, the Empire State Express covered the 436 miles from New York to Buffalo in 7 hours 6 minutes, averaging 61.4 mph (98.8 km/h), with a top speed of 82 mph (132 km/h). By 1893 the same company's latest 4-4-0 steam locomotive (No. 999 above) was capable of 100 mph. When the first speed record attempts were made by automobiles, they were a long way behind the steam train.
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In 1891 at a time when the motor car was yet to become a commercial product, the Empire State Express covered the 436 miles from New York to Buffalo in 7 hours 6 minutes, averaging 61.4 mph (98.8 km/h), with a top speed of 82 mph (132 km/h). By 1893 the same company's latest 4-4-0 steam locomotive (No. 999 above) was capable of 100 mph. When the first speed record attempts were made by automobiles, they were a long way behind the steam train.
Panhard & Levassor produced many fast cars in the years prior to the turn of the century, winning more than any other manufacturer in competition, and it did so based on a "Système Daimler" engine license, but in a new configuration not seen previously. The company's "Système Panhard" of 1891 was the first iteration of the now familiar front-engine and rear-wheel-drive configuration.
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Panhard & Levassor produced many fast cars in the years prior to the turn of the century, winning more than any other manufacturer in competition, and it did so based on a "Système Daimler" engine license, but in a new configuration not seen previously. The company's "Système Panhard" of 1891 was the first iteration of the now familiar front-engine and rear-wheel-drive configuration.
French auto maker Darracq began making cars in 1896, and by 1904 was seeking to heighten its profile with an attempt on the car speed record. Darracq produced a new 100 hp 11,259 cc four-cylinder car designed by Paul Ribeyrolles specifically for the land speed record attempt and on 13 November 1904, factory driver Paul Baras recorded a speed of 104.52 mph at Ostend in Belgium to take the record.
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French auto maker Darracq began making cars in 1896, and by 1904 was seeking to heighten its profile with an attempt on the car speed record. Darracq produced a new 100 hp 11,259 cc four-cylinder car designed by Paul Ribeyrolles specifically for the land speed record attempt and on 13 November 1904, factory driver Paul Baras recorded a speed of 104.52 mph at Ostend in Belgium to take the record.
The Ross Special Steam Car of 1905 is one of the most unappreciated in history for what it achieved both in terms of outright performance and the contribution to steam-powered locomotion. It still seems decades ahead of its time and clearly contributed greatly to the better known Stanley Steam Car which appeared in 1906. The car ran 94.73 mph on 25 January, 1905.
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The Ross Special Steam Car of 1905 is one of the most unappreciated in history for what it achieved both in terms of outright performance and the contribution to steam-powered locomotion. It still seems decades ahead of its time and clearly contributed greatly to the better known Stanley Steam Car which appeared in 1906. The car ran 94.73 mph on 25 January, 1905.
On 17 June 1907, the famous banked high speed racing circuit at Brooklands opened and on 28 June 1907, Selwyn Edge used the new venue to set a new 24-hour distance record in a 60 hp Napier six, covering 1,581 miles (2544 km), 1,310 yards in the 24 hour period at an average speed of 65.905 mph (106.06 km/h)
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On 17 June 1907, the famous banked high speed racing circuit at Brooklands opened and on 28 June 1907, Selwyn Edge used the new venue to set a new 24-hour distance record in a 60 hp Napier six, covering 1,581 miles (2544 km), 1,310 yards in the 24 hour period at an average speed of 65.905 mph (106.06 km/h)
Baron Pierre de Caters (center) was an adventurer, pioneer aviator, speedboat and car racer and on 25 May, 1904 at Ostend in Belgium, de Caters drove his Mercedes Simplex 90PS at 97.25 mph (156.5 km/h) over a flying kilometre.
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Baron Pierre de Caters (center) was an adventurer,  pioneer aviator, speedboat and car racer and on 25 May, 1904 at Ostend in Belgium, de Caters drove his Mercedes Simplex 90PS at 97.25 mph (156.5 km/h) over a flying kilometre. 
Hampered by its main driver being banned from the meeting, the Darracq nevertheless ran 122.5 mph at Daytona Beach in 1906 with Demogeot driving.
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Hampered by its main driver being banned from the meeting, the Darracq nevertheless ran 122.5 mph at Daytona Beach in 1906 with Demogeot driving.
If the 20th century was the century of the automobile, the 19th century was the century of the bicycle. It was affordable, ran at close to zero cost, lightweight, easily garaged and much faster than walking.
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If the 20th century was the century of the automobile, the 19th century was the century of the bicycle. It was affordable, ran at close to zero cost, lightweight, easily garaged and much faster than walking.
The proud Mors brand held numerous world speed records and was the fastest car in competition during the first years of the twentieth century.
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The proud Mors brand held numerous world speed records and was the fastest car in competition during the first years of the twentieth century.
The fastest cars in history: Barney Oldfield entertained spectators all over America with his antics in the remarkable, record-breaking "Lightning-Benz"
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The fastest cars in history: Barney Oldfield entertained spectators all over America with his antics in the remarkable, record-breaking "Lightning-Benz"
Automotive historians seem to have entirely overlooked the fact that Camille Jenatzy manufactured his own automobiles and his "duel" with Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat was more a contest between Jenatzy and Jeantaud electric vehicles.
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Automotive historians seem to have entirely overlooked the fact that Camille Jenatzy manufactured his own automobiles and his "duel" with Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat was more a contest between Jenatzy and Jeantaud electric  vehicles.
Belgian Camille Jenatzy in his Jenatzy CGA Dogcart, challenged Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat to a run-off at Achères (France) on 17 January 1899, running 41.42 mph (66.27 km/h) and breaking the first speed record.
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Belgian Camille Jenatzy in his Jenatzy CGA Dogcart, challenged Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat to a run-off at  Achères (France) on 17 January 1899, running 41.42 mph (66.27 km/h) and breaking the first speed record.
Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat and the "Jeantaud Duc Profilée," with which he took the record back with a run of 92.7 km/h (57.6 mph) on 4 March 1899
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Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat and the  "Jeantaud Duc Profilée," with which he took the record back with a run of 92.7 km/h (57.6 mph) on 4 March 1899
Willy K Vanderbilt at Daytona Beach on 27 January, 1904 in his Mercedes Simplex 90 hp. Vanderbilt pushed the record to 92.3 mph (148.51 km/h). That's Willy heading off on the run that would take the record, and it's from the Vanderbilt Cup Races site which honours Vanderbilt's contribution to American automotive heritage and has an exceptionally well curated collection of images of the period, including Daytona Beach racing.
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Willy K Vanderbilt at Daytona Beach on 27 January, 1904 in his Mercedes Simplex 90 hp. Vanderbilt pushed the record to 92.3 mph (148.51 km/h). That's Willy heading off on the run that would take the record, and it's from the Vanderbilt Cup Races site which honours Vanderbilt's contribution to American automotive heritage and has an exceptionally well curated collection of images of the period, including Daytona Beach racing.
On 17 November, 1902, Maurice Augières used Fournier's Mors Type Z to push the speed record to 77.13 mph (123.41 km/h). That's Maurice pictured above with his passenger or riding mechanic.
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On 17 November, 1902, Maurice Augières used Fournier's Mors Type Z to push the speed record to 77.13 mph (123.41 km/h). That's Maurice pictured above with his passenger or riding mechanic.
American Arthur Duray was the first man to drive at more than 80 miles an hour, when the veteran professional driver covered the flying kilometre in 26.8 seconds at Ostende Belgium on 17 July 1903, setting a new speed record of 83.47 mph (134.3 km/h) in his Gobron Brillie.
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American Arthur Duray was the first man to drive at more than 80 miles an hour, when the veteran professional driver covered the flying kilometre in 26.8 seconds at Ostende Belgium on 17 July 1903, setting a new speed record of 83.47 mph (134.3 km/h) in his Gobron Brillie.
America's first auto race had just two finishers, and was won by a car with a single cylinder engine that averaged just 6.7 mph for the shortened 52.3 mile distance from Chicago to Evanston and back. A blizzard made for near impassable roads and though the average speed wasn't really indicative of the Duryea's performance on good roads, its win in such conditions helped convince the American public of the viability of the automobile for mission-critical tasks. As the event was run by the Chicago Times Herald newspaper, Duryea's triumph over adversity was well documented and the America-wide newspaper reports created many prospects for his just-formed Duryea Motor Wagon Company, kickstarting the American automotive industry.
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America's first auto race had just two finishers, and was won by a car with a single cylinder engine that averaged just 6.7 mph for the shortened 52.3 mile distance from Chicago to Evanston and back. A blizzard made for near impassable roads and though the average speed wasn't really indicative of the Duryea's performance on good roads, its win in such conditions helped convince the American public of the viability of the automobile for mission-critical tasks. As the event was run by the Chicago Times Herald newspaper, Duryea's triumph over adversity was well documented and the America-wide newspaper reports created many prospects for his just-formed Duryea Motor Wagon Company, kickstarting the American automotive industry.
With wins in the 1901 Paris-Bordeaux and 1901 Paris-Berlin great races, the Mors Type Z was the fastest road car in the world by the later months of 1902. The above image comes of a Revs Institute article on the car and there are some awesome detail shots of a fully restored 1902 Mors Type Z. The car set numerous speed records too.
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With wins in the 1901 Paris-Bordeaux and 1901 Paris-Berlin great races, the Mors Type Z was the fastest road car in the world by the later months of 1902. The above image comes of a Revs Institute article on the car and there are some awesome detail shots of a fully restored 1902 Mors Type Z. The car set numerous speed records too.
24 May, 1903 is a day that will live in history as the 1,307 km (812 mile) Paris-to-Madrid race of 1903 made global news for all the wrong reasons. Though more than 100 races had been run on European public roads prior with relatively few mishaps to non-combatants, this race was pure carnage for all, with 122 of the 224 starters failing to reach the first staging point in Bordeaux and three spectators and five racers dead. The insanity of it all is captured perfectly by this image.
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24 May, 1903 is a day that will live in history as the  1,307 km (812 mile) Paris-to-Madrid race of 1903 made global news for all the wrong reasons. Though more than 100 races had been run on European public roads prior with relatively few mishaps to non-combatants, this race was pure carnage for all, with 122 of the 224 starters failing to reach the first staging point in Bordeaux and three spectators and five racers dead. The insanity of it all is captured perfectly by this image.
24 May, 1903 is a day that will live in history as the 1,307 km (812 mile) Paris-to-Madrid race of 1903 made global news for all the wrong reasons. Though more than 100 races had been run on European public roads prior with relatively few mishaps to non-combatants, this race was pure carnage for all, with 122 of the 224 starters failing to reach the first staging point in Bordeaux and three spectators and five racers dead. The insanity of it all is captured perfectly by this image.
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24 May, 1903 is a day that will live in history as the  1,307 km (812 mile) Paris-to-Madrid race of 1903 made global news for all the wrong reasons. Though more than 100 races had been run on European public roads prior with relatively few mishaps to non-combatants, this race was pure carnage for all, with 122 of the 224 starters failing to reach the first staging point in Bordeaux and three spectators and five racers dead. The insanity of it all is captured perfectly by this image.
The first sustained and controlled, heavier-than-air, powered flight took place at 10:35 am at Kittyhawk, North Carolina on 17 December, 1903. The Wright Flyer flew just 120 ft (36.6 m) in 12 seconds, at an average speed of 6.7 mph (10.9 km/h). The outright world speed record and the land speed record were the same for many decades after Orville Wright's maiden flight, as planes were initially not as fast as cars, and the sustained number of automobile speed record attempts pushed the automobile ever faster.
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The first sustained and controlled, heavier-than-air, powered flight took place at 10:35 am at Kittyhawk, North Carolina on 17 December, 1903. The Wright Flyer flew just 120 ft (36.6 m) in 12 seconds, at an average speed of 6.7 mph (10.9 km/h). The outright world speed record and the land speed record were the same for many decades after Orville Wright's maiden flight, as planes were initially not as fast as cars, and the sustained number of automobile speed record attempts pushed the automobile ever faster.
French marques made up the majority of the competitive racing cars at the turn of the century, led by Panhard & Levassor
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French marques made up the majority of the competitive racing cars at the turn of the century, led by Panhard & Levassor
The first five cars to Bordeaux in the famous 1,307 km (812 mile) Paris-to-Madrid race of 1903 all averaged remarkable speed under the conditions: Mors (65.3 mph), Renault (62.3 mph), Mors (59.1 mph), De Dietrich (58.2 mph), Panhard (57.9 mph) and Mercedes (57.7 mph). By comparison, the 1901 race on the same roads was won at 49 mph, the 1899 race at 30 mph and the 1895 race at 15.2 mph, meaning average speeds doubled in the four years from 1895 to 1899 and more than doubled in the next four years.
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The first five cars to Bordeaux in the famous 1,307 km (812 mile) Paris-to-Madrid race of 1903 all averaged remarkable speed under the conditions: Mors (65.3 mph), Renault (62.3 mph), Mors (59.1 mph), De Dietrich (58.2 mph), Panhard (57.9 mph) and Mercedes (57.7 mph). By comparison, the 1901 race on the same roads was won at 49 mph, the 1899 race at 30 mph and the 1895 race at 15.2 mph, meaning average speeds doubled in the four years from 1895 to 1899 and more than doubled in the next four years.
With a price tag of £1750 against the £2000 of the newly-introduced 70-hp Mercedes, the 50-hp Panhard was the second most expensive car on the British market and the Mercedes 70-hp (above) which eventually began production in 1907, were the cream of the crop for fast luxury touring, more than capable of travelling at 60 mph in the right conditions.
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With a price tag of £1750 against the £2000 of the newly-introduced 70-hp Mercedes, the 50-hp Panhard was the second most expensive car on the British market and the Mercedes 70-hp (above) which eventually began production in 1907, were the cream of the crop for fast luxury touring, more than capable of travelling at 60 mph in the right conditions.
The first person to achieve 100 miles in an hour was Percy Lambert, on 15 February 1913, driving a 4.5 liter sidevalve Talbot reportedly producing 105 bhp at 2,500 rpm
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The first person to achieve 100 miles in an hour was Percy Lambert, on 15 February 1913, driving a 4.5 liter sidevalve Talbot reportedly producing 105 bhp at 2,500 rpm
On 12 April 1913, Jules Goux took a specially streamlined version of the Grand Prix Peugeot named "La Torpille" with its DOHC 4-valve motor to a new world one hour distance record at Brooklands. Goux broke Lambert's one hour distance record by covering 106.2 miles in an hour, taking the 50 mile record (105.97 mph), 100 mile record (106.2 mph) and 150 mile record (105.9 mph). Goux would drive a very similar car with a smaller bore to win the 1913 Indianapolis 500 a few months later.
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On 12 April 1913, Jules Goux took a specially streamlined version of the Grand Prix Peugeot named "La Torpille" with its DOHC 4-valve motor to a new world one hour distance record at Brooklands.  Goux broke Lambert's one hour distance record by covering 106.2 miles in an hour, taking the 50 mile record (105.97 mph), 100 mile record (106.2 mph) and 150 mile record (105.9 mph). Goux would drive a very similar car with a smaller bore to win the 1913 Indianapolis 500 a few months later.
The Sunbeam "Coupe de L'Auto Replica" was a limited production road car that was sold by Sunbeam in 1913/14. It was a replica of the Sunbeam 3.0 litre "voiturette" (think F3) which competed in the French Grand Prix and "Coupe de l'Auto" of 1912, achieving a spectacular result against state-of-the-art open class Grand Prix cars. The major race in Europe for 3.0 litre "voiturette" racing cars at that time was the French "Coup de l'Auto" and in 1912 the race was run simultaneously with the 1912 French Grand Prix on 25–26 June in Dieppe. A massive field comprising 15 different makes of car started at one minute intervals, completing ten laps of the 47.8 mile (77 km) course each day with aggregate time over both days deciding the result.
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The Sunbeam "Coupe de L'Auto Replica" was a limited production road car that was sold by Sunbeam in 1913/14. It was a replica of the Sunbeam 3.0 litre "voiturette" (think F3) which competed in the French Grand Prix and "Coupe de l'Auto" of 1912, achieving a spectacular result against state-of-the-art open class Grand Prix cars. The major race in Europe for 3.0 litre "voiturette" racing cars at that time was the French "Coup de l'Auto" and in 1912 the race was run simultaneously with the 1912 French Grand Prix on 25–26 June in Dieppe. A massive field comprising 15 different makes of car started at one minute intervals, completing ten laps of the 47.8 mile (77 km) course each day with aggregate time over both days deciding the result. 
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In the Grand Prix class there was a high attrition rate with only 15 of 48 starters finishing the gruelling 957 mile (1540 km) distance and the lightweight, sweet handling and very quick Sunbeams placed 3-4-5-6 in the open class, scoring a podium position in the French Grand Prix, the most important race in the world at the time. The Sunbeam was beaten only by the new 7.6-litre DOHC 4-valve Peugeot Lion of French superstar Georges Boillot and the 14-litre Fiat S74 of Louis Wagner.
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In the Grand Prix class there was a high attrition rate with only 15 of 48 starters finishing the gruelling 957 mile (1540 km) distance and the lightweight, sweet handling and very quick Sunbeams placed 3-4-5-6 in the open class, scoring a podium position in the French Grand Prix, the most important race in the world at the time. The Sunbeam was beaten only by the new 7.6-litre DOHC 4-valve Peugeot Lion of French superstar Georges Boillot and the 14-litre Fiat S74 of Louis Wagner.
In a world defined by economic efficiency, the coming of the production line in 1913 had a profound effect. Before the production line, it required 12.5 hours of labour to produce a Model T. After the production line, a Model T could be produced using 93 minutes of manpower, reducing the cost of labour by 87.6%. In 1910, a Model T Ford Runabout cost $900. In 1916, the same car sold for $350. By the middle 1920s, the price was $260. Ford's price advantage meant its top selling vehicle could be offered at such a price that it drove adoption by the masses, enabling affordable personal transportation to the common man for the second time, though in a far faster and more comfortable form than the bicycle. 15 million Model T Fords would be sold in the next 20 years.
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In a world defined by economic efficiency, the coming of the production line in 1913 had a profound effect. Before the production line, it required  12.5 hours of labour to produce a  Model T. After the production line, a Model T could be produced using 93 minutes of manpower, reducing the cost of labour by 87.6%. In 1910, a Model T Ford Runabout cost $900. In 1916, the same car sold for $350. By the middle 1920s, the price was $260. Ford's price advantage meant its top selling vehicle could be offered at such a price that it drove adoption by the masses, enabling affordable personal transportation to the common man for the second time, though in a far faster and more comfortable form than the bicycle. 15 million Model T Fords would be sold in the next 20 years.
In a world defined by economic efficiency, the coming of the production line in 1913 had a profound effect. Before the production line, it required 12.5 hours of labour to produce a Model T. After the production line, a Model T could be produced using 93 minutes of manpower, reducing the cost of labour by 87.6%. In 1910, a Model T Ford Runabout cost $900. In 1916, the same car sold for $350. By the middle 1920s, the price was $260. Ford's price advantage meant its top selling vehicle could be offered at such a price that it drove adoption by the masses, enabling affordable personal transportation to the common man for the second time, though in a far faster and more comfortable form than the bicycle. 15 million Model T Fords would be sold in the next 20 years.
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In a world defined by economic efficiency, the coming of the production line in 1913 had a profound effect. Before the production line, it required  12.5 hours of labour to produce a  Model T. After the production line, a Model T could be produced using 93 minutes of manpower, reducing the cost of labour by 87.6%. In 1910, a Model T Ford Runabout cost $900. In 1916, the same car sold for $350. By the middle 1920s, the price was $260. Ford's price advantage meant its top selling vehicle could be offered at such a price that it drove adoption by the masses, enabling affordable personal transportation to the common man for the second time, though in a far faster and more comfortable form than the bicycle. 15 million Model T Fords would be sold in the next 20 years.
In 1900, a mass market for personal transportation had already existed for thousands of years - the horse drawn carriage. The largest producer of horse-drawn vehicles in the USA was Durant-Dort which was selling over 150,000 carriages a year and already had sophisticated manufacturing operations and a sales channel to America's wealthy. There was life before the motor car, just at a more leisurely pace.
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In 1900, a mass market for personal transportation had already existed for thousands of years - the horse drawn carriage. The largest producer of horse-drawn vehicles in the USA was Durant-Dort which was selling over 150,000 carriages a year and already had sophisticated manufacturing operations and a sales channel to America's wealthy. There was life before the motor car, just at a more leisurely pace.
On 17 November, 1905, two National Model C cars began the 24 hour, driven by W. F. "Jap" Clemens and Charlie Merz. Clemens crashed while six laps in the lead at the 150 mile mark, and was immediately drafted into rotating with Merz. The time for the 1000 miles was 21:58:00.8 and the new world's 24-hour distance record was set at 1,094.56 miles.
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On 17 November, 1905, two National Model C cars began the 24 hour, driven by W. F. "Jap" Clemens and Charlie Merz. Clemens crashed while six laps in the lead at the 150 mile mark, and was immediately drafted into rotating with Merz. The time for the 1000 miles was 21:58:00.8 and the new world's 24-hour distance record was set at 1,094.56 miles.
Using a one mile track at Empire City Racetrack in New York on 24 June 1905, 18-year-old Guy Vaughn, driving a 40-hp Decauville, set a new world 1000 mile record with a time of 23:33:20, and also a new record for covering 1015 and 5/8 miles in 24 hours.
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Using a one mile track at Empire City Racetrack in New York on 24 June 1905, 18-year-old Guy Vaughn, driving a 40-hp Decauville, set a new world 1000 mile record with a time of 23:33:20, and also a new record for covering 1015 and 5/8 miles in 24 hours.
The first 24-hour race in the world was held on 4/5 July 1905 in Colombus, Ohio and named the 24 Hours of Columbus. The race was won by the Soules brothers in a Pope-Toledo, covering a distance of 828.5 miles for an average speed of 34.5 mph
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The first 24-hour race in the world was held on 4/5 July 1905 in Colombus, Ohio and named the 24 Hours of Columbus. The race was won by the Soules brothers in a Pope-Toledo, covering a distance of 828.5 miles for an average speed of 34.5 mph
The annual mile sprint trials along the Nice (France) waterfront in 1904 saw Gobron-Brillié send its two leading drivers (Louis Rigolly and Arthur Duray) and two of the 'Paris-Madrid' racers prepared for the infamous race of the previous year. Duray was considered the lead driver, but on 31 March 1904, he could only coax 88.76 mph (142.85 km/h) out of his car. Louis Rigolly clocked 94.78 mph (152.53 km/h) along the Promenade des Anglais and the world speed record belonged to the unconventional Gobron-Brillié once more.
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The annual mile sprint trials along the Nice (France) waterfront in 1904 saw Gobron-Brillié send its two leading drivers (Louis Rigolly and Arthur Duray) and two of the 'Paris-Madrid' racers prepared for the infamous race of the previous year. Duray was considered the lead driver, but on 31 March 1904, he could only coax 88.76 mph (142.85 km/h) out of his car. Louis Rigolly clocked 94.78 mph (152.53 km/h) along the Promenade des Anglais and the world speed record belonged to the unconventional Gobron-Brillié once more.
On 10 December, 1907 at Brooklands, W. T. Clifford Earp's six-cylinder 60-hp Thames set a new record for an hour (76.26 miles) along with records for 50 miles (76.58 mph) and 150 miles (75.95 mph) and two hours (75.95 mph).
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On 10 December, 1907 at Brooklands, W. T. Clifford Earp's six-cylinder 60-hp Thames set a new record for an hour (76.26 miles) along with records for 50 miles (76.58 mph) and 150 miles (75.95 mph) and two hours (75.95 mph).
Charles Wridgway and passengers in his Peerless during the 1906 Glidden Tour. The car used in the record attempt was a similar car though stripped back to basics.
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Charles Wridgway and passengers in his Peerless during the 1906 Glidden Tour. The car used in the record attempt was a similar car though stripped back to basics.
On 6 March, 1905 a Peerless driven by Charles Wridgway set a record for 1000 miles with a time of 25:50:01, at an average speed of 38.7 mph (62.3 km/h) on a one mile dirt oval at Brighton Beach in New York.
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On 6 March, 1905 a  Peerless driven by  Charles Wridgway set a record for 1000 miles with a time of 25:50:01, at an average speed of 38.7 mph (62.3 km/h) on a one mile dirt oval at Brighton Beach in New York.
Napier's lead driver in 1908 was Frank Newton and on February 19, 1908, Newton used a 60hp Napier at Brooklands to take the 50-mile, 100-mile, 150-mile, one hour and two hour records. In the hour Newton covered 85 miles 555 yards, giving him a new record at 85.32 mph (137.3 km/h).
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Napier's lead driver in 1908 was Frank Newton and on February 19, 1908, Newton used a 60hp Napier at Brooklands to take the 50-mile, 100-mile, 150-mile, one hour and two hour records. In the hour Newton covered 85 miles 555 yards, giving him a new record at 85.32 mph (137.3 km/h).
Argued by some to be the world's first sportscar, the Benz Prinz Heinrich Wagen was first produced in 1908, three years ahead of the 1910 Prinz Heinrich Fahrt replicas from Vauxhall and Austro-Daimler that didn't hit showrooms until 1911.
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Argued by some to be the world's first sportscar, the Benz Prinz Heinrich Wagen was first produced in 1908, three years ahead of the 1910 Prinz Heinrich Fahrt replicas from Vauxhall and Austro-Daimler that didn't hit showrooms until 1911.
C.M. Smith took a host of World records on 5 November, 1909 in a 6-cylinder Thames car. He claimed the one-hour record at 89.51 mph and in a second attempt on the same day averaged 91.32mph over 50 miles.
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C.M. Smith took a host of World records on 5 November, 1909 in a 6-cylinder Thames car. He claimed the one-hour record at 89.51 mph and in a second attempt on the same day averaged 91.32mph over 50 miles.
The Vauxhall Prince Henry was named after three 20-hp A-type Vauxhall cars that competed in the 1910 Prinz Heinrich Fahrt as rhe Vauxhall factory team. Vauxhall subsequently launched the new 20-hp C-Type model in 1911, adopting the v- shaped radiator and fluted bonnet as used by the factory cars in the Prinz Heinrich Fahrt.
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The Vauxhall Prince Henry was named after three 20-hp A-type Vauxhall cars that competed in the 1910 Prinz Heinrich Fahrt as rhe Vauxhall factory team. Vauxhall subsequently  launched the new 20-hp C-Type model in 1911, adopting the v- shaped radiator and fluted bonnet as used by the factory cars in the Prinz Heinrich Fahrt.
The Austro-Daimler Prinz Heinrich is often referred to as the world's first sports car. It was built by Austro-Daimler, an Austrian subsidiary of the German DMG (Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft) which merged with Benz to become Mercedes-Benz 15 years later). The car was designed by Ferdinand Porsche and made a 1-2-3 clean sweep of the 1910 German Alpine "Prinz Heinrich Trial." The trial was named after the auto enthusiast younger brother of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and was a contest for four-seat passenger cars. Ferdinand Porsche actually drove the winning car in the trial (above), and the model was named after the trial, just as many replica cars after it were named in honour of a glorious victory for their respective marques. With its 95hp 5.7 litre engine, the Austro-Daimler Prinz Heinrich would have been one of the fastest road cars at this time. Initially a run of 100 cars was planned for production but around 50 were built before WW1 got underway.
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The Austro-Daimler Prinz Heinrich is often referred to as the world's first sports car. It was built by Austro-Daimler, an Austrian subsidiary of the German DMG (Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft) which merged with Benz to become Mercedes-Benz 15 years later). The car was designed by Ferdinand Porsche and made a 1-2-3 clean sweep of the 1910 German Alpine "Prinz Heinrich Trial." The trial was named after the auto enthusiast younger brother of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and was a contest for four-seat passenger cars. Ferdinand Porsche actually drove the winning car in the trial (above), and the model was named after the trial, just as many replica cars after it were named in honour of a glorious victory for their respective marques. With its 95hp 5.7 litre engine, the Austro-Daimler Prinz Heinrich would have been one of the fastest road cars at this time. Initially a run of 100 cars was planned for production but around 50 were built before WW1 got underway.
The American Mercer 35R Raceabout was a sportscar sold between 1910 and 1914, with a string of major victories in American racing from 1911 onwards. The 35R Raceabout sold for US$2,250 at that time, the price of a modest home, so it was not only very expensive, but a genuine production sportscar with a powerful 300 cubic inch T-head four-cylinder engine producing 58 hp at 1,900 rpm. The Raceabout's 293 ci (4,800 cc) 4-cylinder Raceabout won five of the six 1911 races it was entered in, losing only the first Indianapolis 500. Many racing victories followed and the Raceabout became one of the premier racing thoroughbreds of the era.
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The American Mercer 35R Raceabout was a sportscar sold between 1910 and 1914, with a string of major victories in American racing from 1911 onwards. The 35R Raceabout sold for US$2,250 at that time, the price of a modest home, so it was not only very expensive, but a genuine production sportscar with a powerful 300 cubic inch T-head four-cylinder engine producing 58 hp at 1,900 rpm. The Raceabout's 293 ci (4,800 cc) 4-cylinder Raceabout won five of the six 1911 races it was entered in, losing only the first Indianapolis 500. Many racing victories followed and the Raceabout became one of the premier racing thoroughbreds of the era.
There can be little doubt from looking at the advertisements above from 1907 that the American Apperson Jack Rabbit was a sportscar in every sense, with a guaranteed top speed of 75 mph (121 km/h) and the advertisement reading: In presenting 'The Jack Rabbit' we are catering to that limited class of owners who want a car that can be put to any service - racing or touring. The Jack Rabbit was a two-seat roadster with a 96-hp, four-cylinder engine with 4-speed transmission and was performing well in the inaugural 1910 Indianapolis 500 when a freak accident (the car was in the pits when another car crashed into it) took it out of the race, but not before it had been timed at 91.83 mph (147.78 km/h).
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There can be little doubt from looking at the advertisements above from 1907 that the American Apperson Jack Rabbit was a sportscar in every sense, with a guaranteed top speed of 75 mph (121 km/h) and the advertisement reading: In presenting 'The Jack Rabbit' we are catering to that limited class of owners who want a car that can be put to any service - racing or touring. The Jack Rabbit was a two-seat roadster with a 96-hp, four-cylinder engine with 4-speed transmission and was performing well in the inaugural 1910 Indianapolis 500 when a freak accident (the car was in the pits when another car crashed into it) took it out of the race, but not before it had been timed at 91.83 mph (147.78 km/h).
On 27 November, 1912, Victor Hemery took one of the four 15-litre Lorraine-Dietrich Grand Prix cars built for the French Grand Prix in June to Brooklands, establishing a raft of records . This car, now known as Vieux Charles III is still going strong as this story from the Brooklands Museum explains. Hemery set every record feasible but missed narrowly on becomi.ng the first person to cover 100 miles in an hour.
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On 27 November, 1912, Victor Hemery took one of the four 15-litre Lorraine-Dietrich Grand Prix cars built for the French Grand Prix in June to Brooklands, establishing a raft of records . This car, now known as Vieux Charles III is still going strong as this story from the Brooklands Museum explains. Hemery set every record feasible but missed narrowly on becomi.ng the first person to cover 100 miles in an hour.
Frenchman Jules Goux in the winning Peugeot at the 1913 Indianapolis 500.
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Frenchman Jules Goux in the winning Peugeot at the 1913 Indianapolis 500.
Sunbeam's new V12 of 1913 was far more powerful than anything previously fielded by the marque, effectively mating two of the record-breaking six-cylinder engines onto an aluminum crankcase for an engine displacing 9 liters (550 cu in) and producing 200 bhp (150 kW) at 2,400 rpm.
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Sunbeam's new V12 of 1913 was far more powerful than anything previously fielded by the marque, effectively mating two of the record-breaking six-cylinder engines onto an aluminum crankcase for an engine displacing 9 liters (550 cu in) and producing 200 bhp (150 kW) at 2,400 rpm. 
Jules Goux (top left) was part of the four-man team which revolutionised engine design with the Peugeot Grand Prix racer of 1912. The team, led by Ernest Henry (bottom right), produced a DOHC, four-valve-per-cylinder 7.6-litre four-cylinder engine which first competed in the 1912 French Grand Prix, winning in the hands of Georges Boillot. Success came easily for the high-revving Peugeot design, with Goux winning the 1912 Coupe de la Sarthe and the Indianapolis 500 the following year.
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Jules Goux (top left) was part of the four-man team which revolutionised engine design with the Peugeot Grand Prix racer of 1912. The team, led by Ernest Henry (bottom right), produced a DOHC, four-valve-per-cylinder 7.6-litre four-cylinder engine which first competed in the 1912 French Grand Prix, winning in the hands of Georges Boillot. Success came easily for the high-revving Peugeot design, with Goux winning the 1912 Coupe de la Sarthe and the Indianapolis 500 the following year.
Packard's V12 engine used a 60 degree cylinder angle, side valves and 6.821 liter displacement (76.2 mm × 127 mm) to produce 88 hp at 2,600 rpm
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Packard's V12 engine used a 60 degree cylinder angle, side valves and 6.821 liter displacement (76.2 mm × 127 mm) to produce 88 hp at 2,600 rpm
Jules Goux in one of the early Sunbeam record attempt cars
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Jules Goux in one of the early Sunbeam record attempt cars
View gallery - 105 images

Our history of the world's fastest production car is produced in three parts: pre-WWI, WWI to WWII and the already-published segment from WWII until now. This is article covers the earliest period from the first cars through to WW1. The nature of the data available means we've had to rely on disparate data points and some ballpark figures in tracing the early development of the fastest road cars, making it less clinical than our look at the cars of the modern era, but no less fascinating.

The modern car evolved from initial attempts to motorize a horse-drawn carriage in just two decades, from 1894 to 1914. In many ways, the rise in speeds from 1894 to 1914 charts that wave of innovation: from one cylinder to 12 cylinders, from two- to four-wheel brakes, from side-valve to DOHC 4-valve hemispherical combustion chambers, from open to streamlined, from solid axles to pneumatic suspension and incredibly, from 12 mph to 120 mph.

If the 20th century was the century of the automobile, the 19th century was the century of the bicycle. It was affordable, ran at close to zero cost, lightweight, easily garaged and much faster than walking.
If the 20th century was the century of the automobile, the 19th century was the century of the bicycle. It was affordable, ran at close to zero cost, lightweight, easily garaged and much faster than walking.

In one generation, the automobile was embraced by civilization as a symbol of personal freedom. The initial circumstance was ideal for the success of the automobile, as a ready-made market existed comprised of the millions who had experienced personal transport's first "killer app" – the bicycle.

Viewed in this narrow time-frame, the automobile's top speeds increased on average more than 5 mph per year for 20 years from 1894 to 1914. This was Moore's Law v 0.9.

When road registration laws were not black and white

Defining a road car during this period of time is problematic, as race cars and record cars were almost always based on road cars. It was a different time, and cannot be seen clearly with a mentality framed by 21st century mass production and road registration rules. Each jurisdiction meant that different road registration rules and applications of those rules existed and as you'll see in the research below, purpose built racetracks didn't exist, so all competition was staged on public roads throughout this period.

In 1900, a mass market for personal transportation had already existed for thousands of years - the horse drawn carriage. The largest producer of horse-drawn vehicles in the USA was Durant-Dort which was selling over 150,000 carriages a year and already had sophisticated manufacturing operations and a sales channel to America's wealthy. There was life before the motor car, just at a more leisurely pace.
In 1900, a mass market for personal transportation had already existed for thousands of years - the horse drawn carriage. The largest producer of horse-drawn vehicles in the USA was Durant-Dort which was selling over 150,000 carriages a year and already had sophisticated manufacturing operations and a sales channel to America's wealthy. There was life before the motor car, just at a more leisurely pace.

Personal transportation pre-history

In 1900, a mass market for personal transportation had already existed for thousands of years – the horse drawn carriage. The largest producer of horse-drawn vehicles in the USA was Durant-Dort which was selling over 150,000 carriages a year and already had sophisticated manufacturing operations and a sales channel to America's wealthy. There was life before the motor car, just at a more leisurely pace.

In 1891 at a time when the motor car was yet to become a commercial product, the Empire State Express covered the 436 miles from New York to Buffalo in 7 hours 6 minutes, averaging 61.4 mph (98.8 km/h), with a top speed of 82 mph (132 km/h). By 1893 the same company's latest 4-4-0 steam locomotive (No. 999 above) was capable of 100 mph. When the first speed record attempts were made by automobiles, they were a long way behind the steam train.
In 1891 at a time when the motor car was yet to become a commercial product, the Empire State Express covered the 436 miles from New York to Buffalo in 7 hours 6 minutes, averaging 61.4 mph (98.8 km/h), with a top speed of 82 mph (132 km/h). By 1893 the same company's latest 4-4-0 steam locomotive (No. 999 above) was capable of 100 mph. When the first speed record attempts were made by automobiles, they were a long way behind the steam train.

Trains owned the luxury travel market

Trains owned the market for luxury long-distance land travel at this time as the only alternative was the horse-drawn carriage over rough roads, with river boats and steam ships offering painless long-distance travel to only the most affluent.

Steam trains were still considerably faster than any other land vehicle. In 1891, at a time when the motor car was struggling to become a commercial reality, the Empire State Express covered the 436 miles from New York to Buffalo in 7 hours 6 minutes, averaging 61.4 mph (98.8 km/h), with a top speed of 82 mph (132 km/h).

In 1893 the same company's latest 4-4-0 steam locomotive (No. 999 above) was capable of 100 mph. So by the time of the first record attempts were made by automobiles, they were a long way behind the steam train.

The dawning of the automotive age

Trains might have owned the market for luxury long-distance land travel, but automotive pioneers could see that would change once the engine, roads, tires and cars achieved their full potential.

An automobile would ultimately offer greater possibilities than the steam train, most notably being able to transport you quickly and safely from A to B, instead of the train's station A to station B.

The world's road infrastructure was in its infancy 100 years ago. The first automobile crossing of America was not achieved until 26 July 1903. The 4,500-mile journey had taken 63 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes. The same New-York Los Angeles road record now stands at 28 hours and 50 minutes.

Before the production line, cars were built one by one

The vast majority of the world's cars prior to 1907 were built in Europe, with America overtaking France as the leading car manufacturer in the world in 1904 by volume and in 1905 by value. By 1907, America's 250 car manufacturers were producing more cars (44,000 per year) than France, Britain and Germany combined, and America's more equitable income distribution and far higher average wages put the dream of personal transportation within reach of the common man.

Ultimately, although America would start behind the European countries in its quest for mass personal transport, it would put the freedom machine in the hands of the people a full generation ahead of Europe.

Production capabilities were growing quickly in 1907 as America embraced the new low-priced four-cylinder Ford Model N and Buick Model 10 "Nifty". Ford was producing 100 Model N cars a day in one factory and the 6000 cars it made in 1908 were behind only Buick's 9000 as they fought to be the largest car manufacturer in the world.

From five vehicles for every 1000 Americans in 1910, there were 86 vehicles for every 1000 people by 1920, and by the end of WW2, Europe lay in ruins while America's homeland was untouched by war and there were 220 cars for every 1000 people. In just a few decades, one in five Americans had purchased a car. Next to a home, it was the most expensive discretionary purchase most people ever made and car ownership would eventually reach eight in 10 Americans.

This 1926 Department of Commerce Statistical Abstract of the United States clearly shows the growth of both the American automotive industry and the size of the U.S. carpark. You'll see the wholesale value of the passenger vehicles is also listed in the above table. Do the math and you'll find that the average wholesale cost of a car in 1909 was $1252. By 1916, the average wholesale price was $604.
This 1926 Department of Commerce Statistical Abstract of the United States clearly shows the growth of both the American automotive industry and the size of the U.S. carpark. You'll see the wholesale value of the passenger vehicles is also listed in the above table. Do the math and you'll find that the average wholesale cost of a car in 1909 was $1252. By 1916, the average wholesale price was $604.

The above excerpt from this 1926 Department of Commerce Statistical Abstract of the United States clearly shows the growth of both the American automotive industry and the size of the US carpark – 8,000 cars in 1900, 400,000 in 1910, 9,000,000 in 1920 and 22,000,000 in 1926. You'll see the wholesale value of the passenger vehicles is also listed in the above table. Do the math and you'll find that the average wholesale cost of a car in 1909 was $1252. By 1916, the average wholesale price was $604.

Two world wars based in Europe stimulated global technological development and the American economy, while twice near destroying all European economies, including the only other countries producing cars: England, France, Germany and Italy. By 1926, America had achieved global automotive domination, producing and consuming more cars each year than all other countries combined.

It did so by catering to the American public's need for transportation in a big country, and the compelling proposition of being able to travel vast distances in short times. Journeys that had taken days now took hours. Previously insurmountable distances now took days.

On October 7, 1913, Henry Ford's production line was switched on. Its effects on the by-then booming automotive industry were profound. The automotive industry might well be measured by the terms "Before Production-Line" and "After-Production Line."

In a world defined by economic efficiency, the coming of the production line in 1913 had a profound effect. Before the production line, it required 12.5 hours of labour to produce a Model T. After the production line, a Model T could be produced using 93 minutes of manpower, reducing the cost of labour by 87.6%. In 1910, a Model T Ford Runabout cost $900. In 1916, the same car sold for $350. By the middle 1920s, the price was $260. Ford's price advantage meant its top selling vehicle could be offered at such a price that it drove adoption by the masses, enabling affordable personal transportation to the common man for the second time, though in a far faster and more comfortable form than the bicycle. 15 million Model T Fords would be sold in the next 20 years.
In a world defined by economic efficiency, the coming of the production line in 1913 had a profound effect. Before the production line, it required  12.5 hours of labour to produce a  Model T. After the production line, a Model T could be produced using 93 minutes of manpower, reducing the cost of labour by 87.6%. In 1910, a Model T Ford Runabout cost $900. In 1916, the same car sold for $350. By the middle 1920s, the price was $260. Ford's price advantage meant its top selling vehicle could be offered at such a price that it drove adoption by the masses, enabling affordable personal transportation to the common man for the second time, though in a far faster and more comfortable form than the bicycle. 15 million Model T Fords would be sold in the next 20 years.

Henry Ford's Production Line

In a world defined by economic efficiency, the coming of the production line in 1913 had a profound effect.

Before the production line, a Model T could be produced using 12.5 hours of labour. On a production line, a Model T could be produced using 93 minutes of manpower, reducing the cost of labour by 87.6 percent.

In 1910, a Model T Ford Runabout cost $900. In 1916, the same car sold for $350. By the middle 1920s, the price was $260.

Ford's price advantage meant its top selling vehicle could be offered at such a price that it drove adoption by the masses, enabling affordable personal transportation to the common man for the second time, though in a far faster and more comfortable form than the bicycle or the horse drawn carriage. Fifteen million Model T Fords would be sold in the next 20 years.

In a world defined by economic efficiency, the coming of the production line in 1913 had a profound effect. Before the production line, it required 12.5 hours of labour to produce a Model T. After the production line, a Model T could be produced using 93 minutes of manpower, reducing the cost of labour by 87.6%. In 1910, a Model T Ford Runabout cost $900. In 1916, the same car sold for $350. By the middle 1920s, the price was $260. Ford's price advantage meant its top selling vehicle could be offered at such a price that it drove adoption by the masses, enabling affordable personal transportation to the common man for the second time, though in a far faster and more comfortable form than the bicycle. 15 million Model T Fords would be sold in the next 20 years.
In a world defined by economic efficiency, the coming of the production line in 1913 had a profound effect. Before the production line, it required  12.5 hours of labour to produce a  Model T. After the production line, a Model T could be produced using 93 minutes of manpower, reducing the cost of labour by 87.6%. In 1910, a Model T Ford Runabout cost $900. In 1916, the same car sold for $350. By the middle 1920s, the price was $260. Ford's price advantage meant its top selling vehicle could be offered at such a price that it drove adoption by the masses, enabling affordable personal transportation to the common man for the second time, though in a far faster and more comfortable form than the bicycle. 15 million Model T Fords would be sold in the next 20 years.

This revolutionary production technique meant that Ford grew incredibly quickly. At one stage it had produced more than half the cars in the world. Moves such as doubling the pay of his workers helped Henry Ford find a special place in modern folklore as a benevolent industrialist.

What's more, this quantum leap in technology drove America to automotive dominance globally with mass automobile production quickly reshaping not just the automotive industry but the finance, insurance, oil, tire, dealership networks, spare part supply chains and other industries around it.

The coming of the automobile industry effectively supercharged the American economy.

The Industrial Revolution (1760 – 1840) spawned new materials and manufacturing processes and efficiencies in many industries with the development of machine tools that provided the basic prerequisites for the first assembly lines. The concept of interchangeable parts is taken for granted these days, but was less than a century old when the Ford's production line began. We truly have come a long way in a short time.

Technological capability increased dramatically from 1894 onwards as a new global industry emerged and production numbers rose from thousands in those last few years of the 1890s to millions as the "century of the automobile" unfolded, bringing high speed personal transport to the masses.

The world's fastest cars from 1894 to 1914

Many very fast road cars were built from 1910 onwards, but not necessarily in large quantities, and whereas the 1945-2016 section of this history of the world's fastest cars had references to specific speeds, this part will rely more on ballpark figures and disparate data points including average speeds and distance records to trace the early development of the fastest road cars.

It's the only data available, and top speed was more theoretical then than it is now in a land where 99 percent of the roads were unpaved. Durability was the most important variable in this harsh climate, and the fastest cars of yesteryear had to have "good bones" to cope with the inevitable potholes along the way.

To put the rise of the motor car in perspective, we've also made occasional reference to other vehicles such as trains, planes and motorcycles that held speed records during the era.

Benz & Cie Velo | 12 mph (19 km/h)

Benz announced the first series production automobile at the Chicago World Expo on May 1, 1893 | Availability begins in 1894

The Benz & Cie Velo is generally regarded as the world's first production automobile, though there were many cars produced prior in modest quantities. The top speed was just 12 mph (19 km/h) but it was a big deal when Benz announced the first series production automobile at the Chicago World Expo on 1 May 1893. Deliveries began in 1894
The Benz & Cie Velo is generally regarded as the world's first production automobile, though there were many cars produced prior in modest quantities. The top speed was just 12 mph (19 km/h) but it was a big deal when Benz announced the first series production automobile at the Chicago World Expo on 1 May 1893. Deliveries began in 1894

The Benz & Cie Velo is generally regarded as the world's first production automobile, though there were many cars produced prior in modest quantities. The top speed was just 12 mph (19 km/h) so it wasn't the fastest for long, as the late 1890s was a period of great automotive innovation with ever increasing speeds in all three genres of drive train –electric, petroleum and steam power.

Unfortunately, all these cars had very low production runs, and it's difficult to say which cars were really the fastest because though electric vehicles were probably the quickest over a short distance, range was a major issue and prevented them from showing up in the longer speed trials. Steam cars offered greater power but were fraught with reliability issues on top of the inconvenience that restricted general adoption.

De Dion Bouton (Steam) | 12 mph (19 km/h)

July 22, 1894 | Average speed of first finisher in the Paris-Rouen Trial

The winner of the first motorsport event in history was a De Dion Bouton steam car pulling a trailer and driven by Count De Dion himself. The race ran over a 78 mile (126 km) route from Paris to Rouen of 22 July 1894, and though he was the first car across the finishing line, he was disqualified because the car required a stoker (someone to tend the boiler). De Dion's time for the distance was 6 hours 48 minutes giving him an average speed of 19 km/h (12 mph).
The winner of the first motorsport event in history was a De Dion Bouton steam car pulling a trailer and driven by Count De Dion himself. The race ran over a 78 mile (126 km) route from  Paris to Rouen of 22 July 1894, and though he was the first car across the finishing line, he was disqualified because the car required a stoker (someone to tend the boiler). De Dion's time for the distance was 6 hours 48 minutes giving him an average speed of 19 km/h (12 mph).

The first motorsport event in history was the 78 mile (126 km) Paris to Rouen on July 22, 1894, and the first car across the finishing line was a De Dion Bouton steam car pulling a trailer (above). Driven by Count De Dion himself, it was disqualified because it needed a stoker (someone to tend the boiler). De Dion's time for the distance was 6 hours 48 minutes giving him an average speed of 19 km/h (12 mph), indicating it had the potential to travel at much higher speeds but was no doubt limited by the solid axles of the trailer and the quality of roads. 120 years ago, the steam-powered De Dion Bouton was the equivalent of the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.

Panhard & Levassor | 15.25 mph (24.54 km/h)

July 11, 1895 | Average speed first finisher Paris-Bordeaux Race

On 11 July, 1895 a Panhard & Levassor car driven by Émile Levassor finished first in the 1,178 km Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race but was disqualified as it only had two seats instead of the required four. Levassor's total time of 48 hours and 48 minutes yields an average of 24.5 km/h including several lengthy stops for meals. It's not recorded whether he slept during the ordeal.
On 11 July, 1895 a Panhard & Levassor car driven by Émile Levassor finished first in the 1,178 km Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race but was disqualified as it only had two seats instead of the required four. Levassor's  total time of 48 hours and 48 minutes yields an average of 24.5 km/h including several lengthy stops for meals. It's not recorded whether he slept during the ordeal.

The following year a Panhard & Levassor car driven by Émile Levassor finished first in what is generally regarded as the first true motor race, the 1,178 km Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race. Unfortunately, the race was for four seater cars and the Panhard only had two seats so it was disqualified. Levassor's time does however give us an indication of the speed potential of the fastest road car of the day, and his total time of 48 hours and 48 minutes gives an average of 24.5 km/h including several lengthy stops for meals. It's not recorded whether he slept during the ordeal.

The specimen pictured above from 1895 is an example of the type of car which Panhard & Levassor produced in those early races, all of them based on a "Système Daimler" engine license, but in a new configuration not seen previously. The company's "Système Panhard" of 1891 was the first iteration of the now familiar front-engine and rear-wheel-drive configuration.

Panhard & Levassor produced many fast cars in the years prior to the turn of the century, winning more than any other manufacturer in competition, and it did so based on a "Système Daimler" engine license, but in a new configuration not seen previously. The company's "Système Panhard" of 1891 was the first iteration of the now familiar front-engine and rear-wheel-drive configuration.
Panhard & Levassor produced many fast cars in the years prior to the turn of the century, winning more than any other manufacturer in competition, and it did so based on a "Système Daimler" engine license, but in a new configuration not seen previously. The company's "Système Panhard" of 1891 was the first iteration of the now familiar front-engine and rear-wheel-drive configuration.

As competition improved the breed, the performance of road cars was progressing rapidly. The race cars were the road cars in most cases, and any improvements that could be found on the race car were immediately incorporated into next year's road car.

Duryea | 6.66 mph (10.6 km/h)

November 28, 1895 | Average speed of America's first auto race winner

America's first auto race had just two finishers, and was won by a car with a single cylinder engine that averaged just 6.7 mph for the shortened 52.3 mile distance from Chicago to Evanston and back. A blizzard made for near impassable roads and though the average speed wasn't really indicative of the Duryea's performance on good roads, its win in such conditions helped convince the American public of the viability of the automobile for mission-critical tasks. As the event was run by the Chicago Times Herald newspaper, Duryea's triumph over adversity was well documented and the America-wide newspaper reports created many prospects for his just-formed Duryea Motor Wagon Company, kickstarting the American automotive industry.
America's first auto race had just two finishers, and was won by a car with a single cylinder engine that averaged just 6.7 mph for the shortened 52.3 mile distance from Chicago to Evanston and back. A blizzard made for near impassable roads and though the average speed wasn't really indicative of the Duryea's performance on good roads, its win in such conditions helped convince the American public of the viability of the automobile for mission-critical tasks. As the event was run by the Chicago Times Herald newspaper, Duryea's triumph over adversity was well documented and the America-wide newspaper reports created many prospects for his just-formed Duryea Motor Wagon Company, kickstarting the American automotive industry.

America's first auto race had just two finishers, and was won by a car with a single cylinder engine that averaged just 6.7 mph for the shortened 52.3 mile distance from Chicago to Evanston and back.

A blizzard made for near impassable roads and though the average speed wasn't really indicative of the Duryea's performance on good roads, its win in such conditions helped convince the American public of the viability of the automobile for mission-critical tasks. As the event was run by the Chicago Times Herald newspaper, Duryea's triumph over adversity was well documented and the America-wide newspaper reports created many prospects for his just-formed Duryea Motor Wagon Company, kickstarting the American automotive industry.

1893 Duryea Automobile Replica

Duryea's story of the race is retold here, and the original car has been recreated and is examined in detail in the above video from antique and custom auto specialist Bill Eggers.

Panhard & Levassor | 15.69 mph (25.25 km/h)

September 24 – October 3, 1896 | Average speed winner Paris-Marseille-Paris Race

The epic ten-day, 1,710 km Paris–Marseille–Paris race of February 1896 was won by a 2.4 liter 8 horsepower Panhard & Levassor at an average speed of 15.69 mph (25.25 km/h).
The epic ten-day, 1,710 km Paris–Marseille–Paris race of February 1896 was won by a 2.4 liter 8 horsepower Panhard & Levassor at an average speed of 15.69 mph (25.25 km/h).

Motor racing was becoming very important to sales in those early years as evidenced by the number of quality entries for the epic ten-day, 1,710 km Paris–Marseille–Paris race in February 1896. Entries included seven De Dion-Boutons (five gasoline powered tricycles and two steam powered cars); five Leon Bollées (four Léon Bollée tricycles and tandems plus an Amédée Bollée); four Panhard et Levassors; three Peugeots and two Delahayes, indicating the growing momentum of the industry. The race was won by a new 2.4 liter, 8 horsepower Panhard & Levassor (above) at an average speed of 15.69 mph (25.25 km/h). Panhard won more races than any other marque in the years 1894-1900.

Jeantaud Duc EV | 39 mph (63.13 km/h)

December 18, 1898 | Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat wins the first speed trials in Achères, France with Jeantead electric vehicle

On 18 December 1898, the very first speed record for automobiles was set when the French magazine "La France Automobile" held the world's first outright speed contest for cars, with the fastest car on the day being a Jeantaud driven by as French Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat
On 18 December 1898, the very first speed record for automobiles was set when the French magazine "La France Automobile" held the world's first outright speed contest for cars, with the fastest car on the day being a Jeantaud driven by as French Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat 

On 18 December 1898, the very first speed record for automobiles was set when the French magazine La France Automobile held the world's first outright speed contest for cars, giving the fledgling automotive industry a simple and desirable goal – going faster than anyone had ever gone before.

The challenge was almost perfectly framed, requiring the application of advanced engineering ingenuity and devil-may-care bravery in the relentless pursuit of the title of "the world's fastest."

This was a time when newspapers delivered the world's news – radio had not yet been invented, and the newspaper publicity that speed contests generated from this point onward is hard to equate to today's world. It soon became obvious to the fledgling automobile industry that getting your name in an advert wasn't nearly as good as getting your name in the story.

On 18 December 1898, the very first speed record for automobiles was set when the French magazine "La France Automobile" held the world's first outright speed contest for cars, with the fastest car on the day being a Jeantaud driven by as French Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat
On 18 December 1898, the very first speed record for automobiles was set when the French magazine "La France Automobile" held the world's first outright speed contest for cars, with the fastest car on the day being a Jeantaud driven by as French Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat

This initial foray into outright speed saw the record broken five times in the subsequent four months, jumping from 63.13 km/h (39 mph) in December, 1898 to 105.26 km/h (65.79 mph) by April, 1899.

The fastest speed recorded in that magazine contest on December 18, 1898 was the Jeantaud Duc Electric Vehicle of Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat (subsequently known to newspaper readers as "the Electric Count") who covered a flying kilometer in 57 seconds for an average speed of 63.13 km/h (39 mph).

At that point in time, electric cars had an edge in speed over their petrol-engined rivals, a point not often recognized because EVs did not feature in the big city-to-city races of the day. This was almost entirely due to the difficulty they had replenishing energy reserves in provincial France.

Not a great deal is known about Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat's motivations, but prior to his first land speed record, he competed in many of the first autoracing events in history, and in all but one event in his racing career, he chose steam or electric propulsion methods.

Count Gaston's initial record was almost certainly set with a standard Jeantaud model and involved him covering one kilometer (0.62 miles) with a flying-start in 57 seconds for an average speed 62.78 km/h. A look at photographs of his car suggests he'd personalized the car and removed anything unnecessary – this was the high powered urban road car of 1898, and the "Electric Count" would have been a regular sight on Paris streets, enjoying his newfound recognition and status.

CGA Dogcart EV | 41.42 mph (66.27 km/h)

January 17, 1899 | Achères, France | First speed record challenge/broken

Belgian Camille Jenatzy challenged Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat to a run-off at Achères (France) on 17 January 1899, running 41.42 mph (66.27 km/h) and breaking the first speed record.
Belgian Camille Jenatzy challenged Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat to a run-off at  Achères (France) on 17 January 1899, running 41.42 mph (66.27 km/h) and breaking the first speed record.

Count Gaston's speed record created a target at which others could aim, and it roused the interest of Belgian Camille Jenatzy. Jenatzy studied electrical engineering in Brussels before moving to Paris to work in the epicenter of the new and growing electric vehicle industry. Following the initial triumph of Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat, Jenatzy challenged him to a run-off and the date for the showdown was 17 January 1899.

Jenatzy arrived with a CGA Dogcart (some early styles of automotive models were referred to as "dogcarts" after the horse drawn carriages of the same description). Little information is available on the car other than that it was powered by one 80 cell Fulmen lead acid battery and that it established a new record of 66.7 km/h (41.42 mph).

Jeantaud Duc EV | 43.6 mph (70.17 km/h)

January 17, 1899 | Achères, France | Record reclaimed same day

At Achères (France) on 17 January 1899, after Jenatzy had broken his record, the "Electric Count" as de Chasseloup-Laubat became known by the newspapers, responded with his Jeantaud, running 70.17 km/h (43.6 mph) and yet another record was established.
At  Achères (France) on 17 January 1899, after Jenatzy had broken his record, the "Electric Count" as de Chasseloup-Laubat became known by the newspapers, responded with his Jeantaud, running 70.17 km/h (43.6 mph) and yet another record was established. 

Chasseloup-Laubat responded in his Jeantaud, running 70.17 km/h (43.6 mph) and yet another record was established. As battery technology of the day was primitive in comparison to today, both cars had "spent" their batteries and no further runs were possible. Hence Jenatzy had held the record for just a few minutes, the Electric Count prevailed on the day ... but not for long.

CGA Dogcart EV | 49.93 mph (80.35 km/h)

January 27, 1899 | Achères, France | Jenatzy again

Belgian Camille Jenatzy in his Jenatzy CGA Dogcart, challenged Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat to a run-off at Achères (France) on 17 January 1899, running 41.42 mph (66.27 km/h) and breaking the first speed record.
Belgian Camille Jenatzy in his Jenatzy CGA Dogcart, challenged Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat to a run-off at  Achères (France) on 17 January 1899, running 41.42 mph (66.27 km/h) and breaking the first speed record.

Ten days after the January 27 run-off, Jenatzy returned to Achères with the same CGA Dogcart of his own manufacture and ran a speed of 49.93 mph (80.35 km/h), breaking the speed record for the second time. Jenatzy's understanding of engineering alongside his prowess as a driver was to see him go on to become one of motorsport's greats.

Jeantaud Duc Profilee EV | 92.7 km/h (57.59 mph)

March 4, 1899 | Achères, France | The 'Electric Count" reclaims title

Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat and the "Jeantaud Duc Profilée," with which he took the record back with a run of 92.7 km/h (57.6 mph) on 4 March 1899
Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat and the  "Jeantaud Duc Profilée," with which he took the record back with a run of 92.7 km/h (57.6 mph) on 4 March 1899

The battle was now all consuming for both Jeantaud and Jenatzy, and on 4 March 1899, six weeks after Jenatzy's record, the Electric Count rolled out a new car dubbed the "Jeantaud Duc Profilée," which included the first notion of aerodynamic efficiency in an automobile. The drag coefficient was no doubt reduced with the greatest gain coming from a much smaller frontal area and the Count took the record back with a run of 92.7 km/h (57.6 mph).

La Jamais Contente (EV) | 65.79 mph (105.26 km/h)

April 29, 1899 | Achères, France | Jenatzy breaks record a third time

Jenatzy created the first "purpose built" car for a land speed record which he named the "Jamais Contente." The torpedo-shaped electric vehicle made extensive use of "partinium", a strong, lightweight and expensive alloy made of aluminum, copper, zinc, silicon and iron which had not been previously used in a car. The car ran 65.79 mph (105.26 km/h) for the final chapter in the duel.
Jenatzy created the first "purpose built" car for a land speed record which he named the "Jamais Contente." The torpedo-shaped electric vehicle made extensive use of "partinium", a strong, lightweight and expensive alloy made of aluminum, copper, zinc, silicon and iron which had not been previously used in a car. The car ran  65.79 mph (105.26 km/h) for the final chapter in the duel.

Jenatzy had also been working on a new car, a torpedo-shaped electric vehicle with extensive use of "partinium" – a strong, lightweight and expensive alloy made of aluminum, copper, zinc, silicon and iron that had not been previously used in a car. This was the first "purpose built" car for a land speed record and was appropriately named "Jamais Contente" (Never Satisfied). The car used two direct drive Postel-Vinay electric motors for a total of 68 hp and it was interesting to note that both contenders for the initial record had quickly realized that aerodynamics would play a part in the ultimate outcome. Jenatzy finally captured the speed record with a run of 65.79 mph (105.26 km/h).

Mercedes 35 hp | 36 mph (58 km/h)

March 25-29, 1901 | Nice, France | Nice-Salon-Nice winner average speed

In March, 1901, the new Mercedes 35 hp stormed at Nice Speed Week produced a clean sweep of the Nice-La Turbie event, raising the average speed from the previous best of 19.4 mph (31.3 km/h) to 31.9 mph (51.4 km/h) and the Mercedes was reportedly timed at 86 km/h during the race. The Mercedes also won the 1901 Nice-Salon-Nice race in the hands of Wilhelm Werner, averaging 36 mph (58 km/h) during the week of automotive festivities. This car went into series production as the Mercedes 35-hp and would have been the fastest road car in the world at that time, with state-of-the-art roadholding.
In March, 1901, the new Mercedes 35 hp stormed at Nice Speed Week produced a clean sweep of the Nice-La Turbie event, raising the average speed from the previous best of 19.4 mph (31.3 km/h) to 31.9 mph (51.4 km/h) and the Mercedes was reportedly timed at 86 km/h during the race. The Mercedes also won the 1901 Nice-Salon-Nice race in the hands of Wilhelm Werner, averaging 36 mph (58 km/h) during the week of automotive festivities. This car went into series production as the Mercedes 35-hp and would have been the fastest road car in the world at that time, with state-of-the-art roadholding.

The Mercedes 35 hp was the first time the Mercedes name appears in automobile production, though Austrian diplomat and entrepreneur Emil Jellinek did have a prestige auto dealership in Nice named Mercedes. Jellinek's prestige car dealership ran a racing team to promote its wares, and Jellinek asked DMG (Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft) to produce 34 cars of his own design. His concept was to lower the centre-of-gravity of the cars at the same time as lengthening the wheelbase and widening the car, all resulting in much better roadholding. The design that finally emanated from the drawing boards of designed in 1901 by Wilhelm Maybach and Paul Daimler is quite distinct from the stagecoach layouts inherited from the horse-drawn era, which had dominated automobile design prior to then. Most agree that this vehicle was the first modern car. I believe it should also be regarded as the world's first sports car. It was conceived with motorsport in mind, won countless races, and the entire species immediately evolved in that direction. This is the perfect example of competition improving the breed.

Jellinek's concept was to lower the centre-of-gravity of the cars at the same time as lengthening the wheelbase and widening the car, all resulting in much better roadholding. The design is quite distinct from the stagecoach layouts inherited from the horse-drawn era which dominated automobile design prior to then. Most agree that this vehicle was the first modern car. I believe it should also be regarded as the world's first sports car. It was conceived with motorsport in mind, won countless races, and the entire species immediately evolved in that direction.
Jellinek's concept was to lower the centre-of-gravity of the cars at the same time as lengthening the wheelbase and widening the car, all resulting in much better roadholding. The design is quite distinct from the stagecoach layouts inherited from the horse-drawn era which dominated automobile design prior to then. Most agree that this vehicle was the first modern car. I believe it should also be regarded as the world's first sports car. It was conceived with motorsport in mind, won countless races, and the entire species immediately evolved in that direction.

Jellinek's car and the name he chose for his business was the same pet name he had for his daughter: Mercedes. The car's racing debut in January 1901 at Grand Prix du Sud-Ouest was unspectacular, with teething issues perhaps resulting from the first of the 34 cars being delivered on 22 December 1900. The next competitive outing in March at Nice Speed Week produced a clean sweep of the Nice-La Turbie event, raising the average speed from the previous best of 19.4 mph (31.3 km/h) to 31.9 mph (51.4 km/h) and the Mercedes was reportedly timed at 86 km/h during the race. The Mercedes also won the 1901 Nice-Salon-Nice race in the hands of Wilhelm Werner, averaging 36 mph (58 km/h) during the week of automotive festivities. This car went into series production as the Mercedes 35-hp and would have been the fastest road car in the world at that time, with state-of-the-art roadholding. It was the first production car one sat "in" rather than "on".

Mors | 69.5 mph (111.8 km/h)

November 16, 1901 | Coney Island Boulevard, New York

On 16 November, 1901, Mors factory driver Henri Fournier, during a promotional visit to America, set a time of 51.8 seconds for the flying mile, giving him a speed of 69.498 mph (111.846 km/h) and what was claimed at the time to be a world record. That's a clipping above from the Los Angeles Herald at right above, and the image at left is of Fournier in his Morz Type Z and came from this excellent coverage of events in the Digital History project.
On 16 November, 1901, Mors factory driver Henri Fournier, during a promotional visit to America, set a time of 51.8 seconds for the flying mile, giving him a speed of 69.498 mph (111.846 km/h) and what was claimed at the time to be a world record. That's a clipping above from the Los Angeles Herald at right above, and the image at left is of Fournier in his Morz Type Z and came from this excellent coverage of events in the Digital History project.

We're not sure why this record hasn't previously been recognized, but on November 16, 1901, Mors factory driver Henri Fournier, during a promotional visit to America, set a time of 51.8 seconds for the flying mile, giving him a speed of 69.5 mph (111.8 km/h) and what was claimed at the time to be a world record. That's a clipping from the Los Angeles Herald at right above, and the image at left is of Fournier in his Morz Type Z and came from this excellent coverage of events in the Digital History project.

Gardner-Serpollet "Easter Egg" | 75.06 mph (120.8 km/h)

April 13, 1902 | Promenade des Anglais, Nice Speed Week, France

The French Serpollet Brothers were steam automotive industry pioneers and competed in all the early European races, having four cars in the inaugural 1894 Paris-Rouen event. Leon Serpollet patented his flash boiler in 1896, enabling a more practical and convenient power unit, and in 1898 the brothers secured backing from American Frank Gardner for the formation of the Gardener-Serpollet Company, which began producing cars in 1900. Leon drove the car that would put his company in the history books, clocking 120 km/h (75 mph) on 13 April 1902 over the flying kilometer on the Promenade des Anglais during Nice Speed Week.

The French "Œuf de Pâques" Serpollet steam car ran 120 km/h (75 mph) on 13 April 1902 over the flying kilometre on the Promenade des Anglais during Nice Speed Week.
The French "Œuf de Pâques" Serpollet steam car ran 120 km/h (75 mph) on 13 April 1902 over the flying kilometre on the Promenade des Anglais during Nice Speed Week.

It wasn't a standard car, but more a rolling development prototype, being the culmination of a several-year project evolved from the original Easter Egg design shown above, the shape being responsible for its name in French, "Œuf de Pâques." The bow-cutter aerodynamic shape of the car is rarely seen, but the car proved that steam cars were capable of speeds beyond today's speed limits 114 years ago. All previous photos I've seen of this car show it as an Easter Egg design, though all of them were taken in Paris where Serpollet was a well recognized regular motorist about town in the car, which must certainly have been the fastest road car in the world at the time.

Mors | 76.08 mph (122.4 km/h)

August 5, 1902 | First internal combustion engine to hold the car speed record

The first car with an internal combustion engine (ICE) to hold the automobile speed record, was the 60-hp, 10 liter four-cylinder Mors. At Chartres, France the mors Type Z ran 76.08 mph (122.44 km/h) in the hands of William K Vanderbilt.
The first car with an internal combustion engine (ICE) to hold the automobile speed record, was the 60-hp, 10 liter four-cylinder Mors. At Chartres, France the mors Type Z ran 76.08 mph (122.44 km/h) in the hands of William K Vanderbilt.

This was the first car powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE) to hold the automobile speed record, with electric and then steam having led the way before August 5, 1902 when speed trials were held near Chartres, France.

The driver on this occasion is of equal interest, being American William Kissam Vanderbilt II, the great grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, and a noted racer and sportsman of the day. Vanderbilt could buy whatever he wished in order to pursue his greatest passion, and in 1902 he chose a 60 hp four-cylinder 9232 cc Mors Model Z, driving it in the Paris-Vienna race in late June. Knowing how fast the car was during the open sections of the Paris-Vienna race, he realized the opportunity to set a record with it, which he did. Willie went on to found the famous American Vanderbilt Cup races, serve in the United States Navy (in his own yacht which became USS Tarantula for the duration of WWI) and he won the Sir Thomas Lipton Cup in 1900 with his new 70-foot yacht named Virginia after his wife, the heiress of the man who discovered the famous "Comstock Load" gold deposit. Willie K will appear again in this story.

With wins in the 1901 Paris-Bordeaux and 1901 Paris-Berlin great races, the Mors Type Z was the fastest road car in the world by the later months of 1902. The above image comes of a Revs Institute article on the car and there are some awesome detail shots of a fully restored 1902 Mors Type Z. The car set numerous speed records too.
With wins in the 1901 Paris-Bordeaux and 1901 Paris-Berlin great races, the Mors Type Z was the fastest road car in the world by the later months of 1902. The above image comes of a Revs Institute article on the car and there are some awesome detail shots of a fully restored 1902 Mors Type Z. The car set numerous speed records too.

For Mors, the record was yet another of many achievements for the marque at this time, with wins in the 1901 Paris-Bordeaux and 1901 Paris-Berlin great races, making the Mors Type Z the fastest road car in the world by the later months of 1902. The above image comes of a Revs Institute article on the car and there are some awesome detail shots of a fully restored 1902 Mors Type Z. It is a beautiful thing.

Mors | 76.6 mph (123.3 km/h)

November 5, 1902 | Mors improves its own record |Dourdan, France

Mors improved its own record to 76.60 mph (123.28 km/h) on 5 November, 1902 at Dourdan, France when Henri Fournier used his 1902 Paris-Vienna race car to break Vanderbilt's record.
Mors improved its own record to  76.60 mph (123.28 km/h) on 5 November, 1902 at Dourdan, France when Henri Fournier used his 1902 Paris-Vienna race car to break Vanderbilt's record.

Just three months later on November 5, 1902, Henri Fournier used a stripped down Mors Type Z to push the speed record to 76.6 mph, reclaiming the record he had seemingly held during the previous year. Fournier had also driven in the 1902 Paris-Vienna race several months earlier and had dominated the first leg of the event with an average speed of 70.8 mph (114 km/h) to Provins, but a gear shaft broke when he was leading. In only beating Vanderbilt's record by the narrowest of margins, the opportunity was there to continue to create publicity for the brand by breaking the record again.

Mors | 77.1 mph (124.1 km/h)

November 17, 1902 | Mors improves its own record |Dourdan, France

On 17 November, 1902, Maurice Augières used Fournier's Mors Type Z to push the speed record to 77.13 mph (123.41 km/h). That's Maurice pictured above with his passenger or riding mechanic.
On 17 November, 1902, Maurice Augières used Fournier's Mors Type Z to push the speed record to 77.13 mph (123.41 km/h). That's Maurice pictured above with his passenger or riding mechanic.

On 17 November, 1902,Maurice Augières used Fournier's Mors Type Zto push the speed record to 77.13 mph (123.41 km/h). That's Maurice pictured above with his passenger or riding mechanic. The riding mechanics had an even more precarious existence than the driver without the glory or pay, and as this article from AutoWeek points out, it must have been an interesting time for them:"The Type Z Mors is credited with being the first automobile with four-wheel shock absorbers. The engine's great reciprocating masses at certain speeds match the springs' harmonics and cause the Mors to 'gallop.' For a modern driver, sitting high up in the exposed driver's seat, the