The history of land speed records

Because going fast is a serious hobby
by | Oct 10, 2018
PHOTO: Fiat Media


Magnificently named Frenchman Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat sets the first recognized land-speed record, hitting a dizzy 39mph (63kph) in his electric-powered Jeantaud Duc. "See? Told you this petrol thing would never catch on," says everyone. Several disgruntled horses point out they can easily do the same speed, but no one's ever given them a shiny certificate.


American mogul William K Vanderbilt reaches 76mph (122kph) in his petrol-powered Mors Z. "See? Told you this electric thing would never catch on," says everyone.


In Ostend, Belgium, Louis Rigolly and his Gobron-Brillie pass the 100mph (160kph) barrier for the first time. To this day, this remains the most exciting thing to have happened in Belgium.


British daredevil Ernest Eldridge breaks the speed record on the public road, hitting 146mph (235kph) in Fiat's ferocious Mephistopheles. Adjudicators suggest that, in future, warning other road users first might be polite.


At Pendine Sands in Wales, Malcolm Campbell sets his first speed record, reaching 146mph (235kph) with a little help from an 18.0-liter V12 aircraft engine. To this day, this remains the most exciting thing to have happened in Wales.

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Malcolm Campbell becomes the first man to break300mph (480kph), having relocated to Bonneville Salt Flats after complaining, "There's nowhere in Britain to really put your foot down nowadays."


Craig Breedlove passes 400mph (640kph) in his missile-shaped, jet-powered Spirit of America. "Told you this petrol thing would never catch on," says everyone. Debate rages over whether Spirit of America should technically be classed as a car, on account of its turbojet not driving its wheels, and also not having a glovebox large enough to fit a copy of the Highway Code.


Thrust SSC clocks 763mph (1,228kph) in Nevada's Black Rock desert, becoming the first car to break the sound barrier. Wing Commander Andy Green discovers that, at such speed, bystanders can actually hear your screams before they've exited your mouth. (This is a joke. Wing Commander Andy Green has never screamed in his life.)


Bloodhound, the car aiming to crack the 1,000mph (1,610kph) barrier, makes its first public run at Newquay Airport in Cornwall. Despite the 54,000hp car only reaching a modest 200mph (322kph), to this day locals still speak in hushed tones of the "fearsome orange mechanical beastie and its furious hunger for speed."

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PHOTO: Fiat Media
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