What is it about speed that fascinates us? Since the first steam-powered cars in the late 1900s, people have been obsessed with how fast cars can travel. The faster the better, apparently. Over the years, several innovative cars have broken land speed records that had been considered impossible to break, and changed the automotive industry in the process. Each time a new land speed record is reached, it sends automotive engineers around the world running to their laboratories to begin examining new ways of configuring car engines and making the vehicles we drive faster. Here are the 10 most significant land speed records that helped to chart the course of automotive history as we know it.
10. Ford 999 (1904)
The first land speed record was set in 1904, and it was none other than Henry Ford himself who set the record in his then-newly built Ford 999 prototype. Onlookers who turned out to watch Ford drive the car across a frozen Lake St. Clair outside Detroit arrived at the frigid January event on horses or in horse-drawn carriages. One can only imagine how startled these people were to see Henry Ford reach a then-record setting 91.37 miles per hour. At that time, nobody had ever seen anything travel that fast, period. The first land speed record set by a young and daring Henry Ford would only stand for one month. But that didn’t matter to Henry Ford. His goal was to attract publicity for his then fledging start-up, the Ford Motor Company. Mission accomplished.