Thursday Trivia

Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars! 
This week’s question: What was the ultimate speed of the first recorded land speed record holder?
If you think you know the answer, make the jump and see if you are right!
At its inception, the automobile was intended to allow people to travel faster and farther than horses or track-bound steam locomotives could muster. Farmers could get their produce to market more quickly, workers could choose from a broader selection of job opportunities, and businesses would see unprecedented growth supporting all these people enjoying their new-found freedom.
Because of this singular purpose in giving people greater freedom of movement, the interest in speed, and the pushing of the envelope of just how fast an automobile can go, has been an important metric, arguably since day one. According to Guinness World Records, the present land-speed record holder is Englishman Andy Green, who in October of 1997 set a recorded speed of 739.666 mph in the Thrust SSC on the Nevada desert. That was good enough to break the sound barrier (Mach 1.020) but required a pair of Rolls-Royce Spey 202 jet engines to do so. 
I don’t know about you, but I think that using jets is… well not exactly cheating. I’m more interested however in how fast a wheel-driven car can go. That record is presently held by the appropriately named Speed Demon, which in 2013 hit a remarkable 462.345 mph powered by a 2,200-bhp 6-litre V8. The earliest documented speed record was a bit tame by those standards, but I’m sure it still caused a stir back in the day.


Who? Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat
Where? France
When? 1898
The Jeantaud was a French automobile manufactured in Paris between 1893 and 1906. Its creator was Charles Jeantaud, a body builder who made his first electric car in 1881. Among the cars built by him, there was one which established the first land speed record (39.24mph/63.15kph), driven by Gaston Chasseloup-Laubat.

While Laubat piloted the car for its record run, it was actually owned by his older brother, the Marquis de Chasseloup-Laubat. The run has made on a cold, wet day on a stretch of road near the town of Acheres, just outside of Paris. Not only did the Jeantaud Duc set the first world speed record, but also the third as the Marquis had the car re-bodied to be less brick-like and retook the title (43.6 mph) again the following year.
Image: NewsAtlas

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7 responses to “Thursday Trivia”

  1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    That car looks surprised that its driver is wearing a Guy Fawkes mask.

  2. outback_ute Avatar

    I must have been thinking of record 3 or 4 at about 60 mph, but I’m sure I have read of these earlier ones.
    It is worth remembering that it wouldn’t have been so long ago that people and perhaps even doctors seriously thought that if you went faster than about 20 mph (the top speed of a horse), the air would be sucked out of your lungs and you would die! This came up when trains began to exceed that speed.

    1. Maymar Avatar
      I immediately thought of La Jamais Contente, which was apparently the first car to cross 100km/h (62mph). Considering it did it late April or early May 1899, it’s impressive that the speed record was doubled in about a year.

      1. outback_ute Avatar

        Yes that is the one and I dare say the last time the land speed record was doubled. Quite likely also the first.

    2. 0A5599 Avatar

      Trains were exceeding these speeds before the Civil War, so I suppose the answer to the question depends on whether you consider a driven wheel on a train track capable of a land speed record. By 1898, locomotives were capable of around 100 mph.

      1. outback_ute Avatar

        Or 80 mph in 1854 in reality, by the Bristol & Exeter Railway with a train identical to that shown below. Also 60 mph near Boston in 1850.