Some people tend to take high speed for granted. With interstate speed limits in part of Texas now at 80 mph and nationally 70 seems to be the average now, it’s not uncommon to see someone break 100 on a regular basis. Even the lowliest of modern economy and family cars, is typically capable of such a feat. Events like the Texas Mile, and others may have left us a little jaded in how we look at speed, making it look easy.
However, just over a century ago, 100 mph was quite the big deal. Such a big deal in fact, that those early hot rodding pioneers spent an immense amount of time and money just to try. In the early part of the twentieth century cars were just a novel play item for the rich. Everyone else still got by either on their own two feet, or the feet of an animal they owned. However, since there have been cars, men have been finding ways to hot rod them and race them against one another.
All those years ago, there was an annual meet in Ormond Beach, Florida, where wealthy car enthusiasts gathered to find out who had the fastest car. On January 31, 1905, S.E. Edge enlisted driver Arhtur MacDonald to drive his Napier for a record in the flying mile at the Ormond Beach event. During this era, cars required frequent mechanical adjustments while driving, everything from adjusting timing advance as you drove, to keeping the fuel system pressurized, and much more complex tasks were required. Driving a souped up car in a race, was as much about being a mechanic who could work at speed, as it was about being a wheel man.
MacDonald and Edge succeeded in their attempt to break the record, setting it at 104.65. It would seem as long as there has been racing, there has been big money involved, that record was bested a few minutes later by the $50,000 twin engined Mercedes, of H.B. Bowden, which was later disqualified. $50k in 1905 is roughly the equivalent of $1.2 million today.
We recently found this rare footage of some of the cars when it was posted online, you can see MacDonald right around the two minute mark. While the cars have changed, as well as the venue, one thing remains the same. As long as it has four wheels and an engine we’ll find a way to make it faster and to race it.