1905: Darracq driven by Victor Hemery

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2 x 4 cyl. Petrol V Form
90 bhp
22,518 cc
Bore x Stroke:
170 x 140 mm
2 spd. Cardan shaft
Pressed Steel
Top Speed:

104.65 mph


Victor Hemery, who had already made his name in the Grand Prix races of the early part of last century, waited until one day before the end of 1905 for his attempt on the ultimate speed record.

Hemery gave himself a good margin towards success by using a car which had a rated output of twice that used by Baras in 1904. His choice was the 200 horse-power Darracq, which had already successfully taken a number of standing-start records.

The Darracq was powered by a 221 liter V8 engine with overhead valves operated by pushrods, and the use of short stub exhausts gave onlookers the thrill of seeing flames shooting from the cylinders.

The car used shaft drive instead of the so-far almost universal chains, and also had a chassis of lighter construction than had been used before.

The bodywork consisted of a D-shaped gilled-tube radiator round the front of the engine, and two bucket seats for driver and mechanic.

It was in fact the first of the cars built for the purpose of breaking the land speed record, as opposed to the modified road-racers which had dominated the scene so far.

This may have accounted for some of Hemery's success, for he covered the kilometre in 20.4 seconds, raising the speed to 109.65 m.p.h., more than five miles an hour faster than the 100 horse-power Darracq.

Hemery chose a new speed venue for his run, the road from Aries to Salon in southern France, apparently the only time this stretch was used.

The so-called 200 horse-power Darracq which Hemery used to snatch the record was made to the formula of the day, which made cars go faster by making the engine bigger. Baras had used 100 horsepower, so Hemery thought if he had twice the power he would go much faster. And he did just that, however it wasn’t quite the duplication in speed as would have been expected.

Rather, the larger capacity engine only afforded an increase of five miles an hour. Hemery's car was a giant of 170 x 140 mm, producing a volume of 22,518 cc from it’s V8 engine. It used some very modern aids for its day, including mechanical inlet valves, shaft drive, a cone clutch, gilled tube radiator, and coil ignition.

The designer, the celebrated Alexandre Darracq, started life as a draughtsman and, like so many of the day, actually started out manufacturing sewing machines, then bicycles, before he turned to cars, making 1,200 a year of his early 6/12 horse-power model.

Darracq remained a successful manufacturer right up to 1919 when he merged with the French Talbot concern, thus starting the complicated interweaving of the three firms Sunbeam, Talbot, and Darracq which came later.

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