Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Tag: land speed

December 18, 1898 – The first automobile land speed record is set
This Day

December 18, 1898 – The first automobile land speed record is set

Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat in his record setting Jeantaud. Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat of France set the first official automobile land speed record on this day in 1898 when he completed the flying kilometer in an electric Jeantaud in 57 seconds, an average speed of 63.13 km/h (39 mph). The record was set during a competition in France hosted by a relatively new magazine, La France Automobile. The record would kickoff a fierce speed contest between Chasseloup-Laubat and another car builder and driver, Camille Jenatzy of Belgium.  Georges Bouton and the count de Chasseloup-Laubat on a steam automobile Trépardoux & Cie. Dog Cart de route (1885), possibly the winning vehicle of the Marseille-La Turbie contest of 1897. Between January and March of 1899 the two ...
December 7, 1928 – Hot rodder & racer Mickey Thompson is born
Features, This Day

December 7, 1928 – Hot rodder & racer Mickey Thompson is born

Marion Lee "Mickey" Thompson, born on this day in 1928, set more automotive endurance and speed records during his life than any person before or since. Among those feats: becoming the first American to travel 400 miles per hour on the ground. His journey to 400 mph begins in his native California, where he worked for the Los Angeles Times. During his time as a pressman in his early 20s, a new fad took over the SoCal streets: hot rods. Mickey became infatuated with them and speed. Mickey was a active participant in the new sport, but not just from behind the steering wheel. He wrenched tirelessly to make his cars unbeatable. Mickey even had an oath to speed, exclaiming, "I hereby solemnly swear, to stand on the gas and leave all others in my dust, undisputed, forever, until the end...
December 6, 1976 – Kitty O’Neil sets a land speed record
This Day

December 6, 1976 – Kitty O’Neil sets a land speed record

Kitty O'Neil On this day in 1976, daredevil Kitty O’Neil successfully set the women’s land speed record in Alvord Desert in Oregon. The run came after Kitty met Bill Fredrick, a stunt technology maker, when she was a stuntwoman herself. Fredrick built the SMI Motivator, and recruited Kitty to pilot it. She accepted the challenge and set out to conquer the existing women’s land speed record of 308.506 mph (496.492 km/h). It had been set in 1965 by Lee Breedlove in the Spirit of America - Sonic 1.  SMI Motivator Kitty landed a $20,000 contract to drive the vehicle, under the stipulation that she could not pursue the broader (men's) land speed record of 630.478 mph (1014.656 km/h). Stuntman Hal Needham chased that record in the same car. She agreed to the terms and put the pedal to ...
March 29, 1927 – Henry Segrave becomes the first person to go 200 MPH on land
This Day

March 29, 1927 – Henry Segrave becomes the first person to go 200 MPH on land

On this day in 1927, residents of Daytona Beach, Florida, rose to clear, sunny skies. The early spring sun pushed temperatures to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Perfect conditions for setting a new land speed record, which is just what British race car driver Henry Segrave intended to do on the sands of the beach. Segrave, who set his first land speed record in 1926, was anxious to earn the top spot once again. This time from behind the wheel of the 1,000 horsepower Sunbeam. The Sunbeam, also known as “Mystery” and “The Slug,” was powered by two Sunbeam Matabele aircraft engine. More unique is the fact that one sat in front of the driver and one behind.   During his record run on this day in 1927, Segrave recorded a speed of 203.79 mph (327.97 km/h), making him the first person to ever dri...
March 11, 1885 – Land speed record setter Sir Malcolm Campbell is born
This Day

March 11, 1885 – Land speed record setter Sir Malcolm Campbell is born

Royal Flying Corps veteran, race car driver and land speed record setter Sir Malcolm Campbell was born on this day in 1885. Prior to the breakout of WWI, Campbell began racing cars and motorcycles in England. When drafted into service in 1914, he began his military career as a motorcycle dispatch. By war's end he'd find himself as a pilot, a job that only increased his love of speed. Above: Malcolm Campbell. Top: Campbell with 1931 Napier Bluebird Though he would remain an active military member until age 60, he made plenty of time for his speed obsessions. He broke the land speed record for the first time in 1924, when he reached 146.16 mph in a V12 Sunbeam. He'd fight to maintain his position as fastest man on the ground up through his final record setting run in 1935. In that fi...
March 23, 1921 – Daredevil Donald Campbell is born
This Day

March 23, 1921 – Daredevil Donald Campbell is born

Malcolm Campbell  was an English race car driver and daredevil who snagged 13 land and water speed records during the 1920s and 1930s in the famous Bluebird cars and boats. His son Donald, born on this day in 1921, followed in his father’s footsteps, starting with speed trials in 1949.  After 15 years of trial and error, Donald was able to do what no person had done before, set the land speed record and the water speed record in the same year. On July 17, 1964, in Australia he posted a new land speed record of 403.1 miles per hour (648.73 km/h) driving the Bluebird-Proteus CN7, which was designed to go 500 mph. Then, on the last day 1964, the anniversary of his father’s death, he piloted the Bluebird K7 to his seventh water speed record at 276.33 mph (444.71 km/h) on Lake Dum...
February 1, 1907 – The first steam powered land speed record holder dies
This Day

February 1, 1907 – The first steam powered land speed record holder dies

French inventor and industrialist Léon Serpollet is said to have done more for the steam automobile than anyone else. While experimenting with steam vehicles in the late 1880s, he and his brother Henri built a promising steam powered tricycle that helped them convince investors to fund further developments. His funds went to the development of the flash boiler, which he patented In 1896. The device made steam a more viable fuel option for vehicles, as drivers would now have a much shorter wait time before their vehicle was ready to go.  To demonstrate the power of steam, Serpollet set out to break the land speed record, which he did on April 13, 1902 while driving a car he built and dubbed Easter Egg. Hitting a top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph), he became the first driver to hold the land...
January 25, 1905 – A new land speed record
This Day

January 25, 1905 – A new land speed record

The sands of Daytona Beach, Florida were the perfect location for early auto racing and speed tests and the area remains popular with the auto sport industry to this day. It was there, on this day in 1905, that Brit Arthur Macdonald piloted a Napier six-cylinder racing car named Samson to a new land speed record of 104.65 mph (168.42 km/h).  The L48, as the car was formally known, featured tubular radiators running along each side of the bonnet, giving it a one of a kind appearance. With an 848 cubic inch engine pumping out more than 90 horsepower, Macdonald was able to cover the five mile course in 3 minutes and 17 seconds. The car would find success in races across Great Britain and France before having its motor mounted to a boat in Australia. A replica of Samson was created by Bob ...
January 4, 1967 – Donald Campbell dies during water speed record attempt
This Day, Videos

January 4, 1967 – Donald Campbell dies during water speed record attempt

Lake Coniston, Cumberland, UK. Jan 4, 1967. Donald Campbell dies as his jet-powered boat somersaults while attempting the World Water Speed Record. The boat takes off from the surface of Lake Coniston. seuence 1 of 3. On the morning of January 4, 1967, Donald Malcolm Campbell raced across the top of Coniston Water in the Lake District, England. His mission: break the water-speed record in his craft, Bluebird K7. After a successful, yet bumpy, first run, Campbell decided to skip refueling and turned the boat around to immediately tackle the necessary second run that would solidify a new record. About 230 kilometers from the end of the measured kilometer, Bluebird flew into the air and almost completed a somersault before slamming into the water and breaking apart. Rescue workers rushed ...
November 15, 1965 – Craig Breedlove breaks 600 MPH
This Day

November 15, 1965 – Craig Breedlove breaks 600 MPH

Craig Breedlove with Spirit of America Craig Breedlove, driving the jet-powered Spirit of America, established a new land speed record on this day in 1965 when he reached a speed of 600.601 mph (966.574 km/h). The record run took place at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Breedlove became the first person to break the 400 mph (644 km/h), 500 mph (805 km/h) and now the 600 mph barriers in his quest for speed. Gary Gabelich would outdo Breedlove five years later when he piloted the rocket-powered Blue Flame to 622.407 mph (1001.1 km/h) at the same location. Tune up the closet of the car lover in your life. Order now for holiday deliver. Use code CARS for 15% off at checkout.

Support This Day in Automotive History