1904: Mercedes driven by P. de Caters

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4 cyl. Petrol
90 bhp
8,700 cc
Bore x Stroke:
140 x 220 mm
4 spd. rear via chains
Top Speed:

97.26 mph


Baron de Caters snatched the record from Rigolly after the Frenchman had held it for only two months, in a year which saw no fewer than five changes of title of fastest man, the keenest competition since the 1899 battle between the two electric giants, Jenatzy and Chasseloup-Laubat.

De Caters chose the now-popular Ostend promenade for his run, driving what was known as a Gordon-Bennett Mercedes.

This was a road-racing model which took its model name from successes in the Gordon Bennett cup races organised by the American newspaper proprietor who had become a patron of the new sport.

The car conformed to the pattern of the day, but was remarkable in that it made no concession to streamlining and presented its blunt, square nose to the wind. In spite of this it achieved nearly 100 miles an hour.

The only token admission that perhaps the shape did matter was made by giving a pointed nose to the oil tank which sat at the side of the chassis, although this was not in a position to affect the issue very much.

Shapely or not the Mercedes covered the flying kilometre in 23 seconds flat.

The year before he successfully attacked the world speed record de Caters drove a 60 horse-power Mercedes in the Gordon Bennett race in Ireland, one of the few places in the British Isles where a motor race could be run.

In 1904, his year of triumph on the record scene, de Caters also had his first victory in ten years of motor racing. He was first in the Grand Prix class in the Circuit Des Ardennes in France, a well-deserved win after so many years of unrewarded effort.

The vehicle de Caters used in his successful bid for the record was very similar to the Mercedes in which Vanderbilt achieved a speed of 92.30 m.p.h. earlier in the year.

Also See:

Land Speed Record Drivers
Herbert Austin LSR Attempt
History Of The Land Speed Record
Unique Cars and Parts USA - The Ultimate Classic Car Resource