1899: Jenatzy driven by the 'Red Devil' - Camille Jenatzy

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Electric (Fulmen batteries)
1000 kg
Direct driv rear wheels
Top Speed:
41.42/49.92/65.79 mph

Camille Jenatzy was a red-bearded Belgian who favoured villainous looking fur coats and later became a successful racing driver. His rivalry with Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat and the Count's elder brother, the Marquis (who built the cars that the Count drove), led to Jenatzy and Count Gaston both competing for the World Land Speed Record in electric cars before the steam, and then the petrol engine, virtually drove the electric car off the roads.

Jenatzy had no backer, but himself headed a company intended to produce electric-cars in mass production. Count Gaston took the record first in December 1898, but the next month, January 1899, Jenatzy and Count Gaston met on the same stretch of road outside Paris, between St. Germain and Constans, to pit their skill and their cars against each other.

The Belgian went first and achieved 41.42 mph, a new record. Count Gaston answered with 43.69 mph. Then both returned to their workshops to construct bigger and better batteries to boost the speed of their electric motors. Jenatzy was ready first and put the speed up to 49.22. Count Gaston, with the honour of France at stake, replied with 57.60 mph. At this point the French ruling body of motor sport, the Automobile Club of France, stepped in and announced that in view of the growing interest in these records and the high speeds being reached they would impose a set of rules and themselves appoint official timekeepers.

Jenatzy, not deterred by the appearance of officialdom, turned out again, this time with bigger batteries and more powerful electric motors in his car, which he had named "La Jamais Contente". The body was made from thin metal sheets and he stuck out from the waist upwards. It featured two electric motors each running at 1000 rpm driving the back axle, and with the driver exposed to the wind, as he crouched over his tiller; 'Jamais Contente' (Never Satisfied) raised the record to a remarkable 65.79mph, breaking both the 60mph and 100 kph barriers.

This was a very quick time for an electric car (it used fat Michelin tyres) and it is significant that when the celebrated Hon Charles Rolls tried to go faster with a Mors petrol car, he was unsuccessful. However, the record soon passed to an internal-combustion-engined machine. It was freely said at the time, and believed, that there was some magic about the 100 km/h figure and that no driver would survive the effects on their breathing and nervous system of traveling at more than 60 miles an hour. Jenatzy's car was more business-like in appearance than that of his rival and certainly the first recorded vehicle to make use of a aerodynamic shape which would later come to be known as "streamlining".

Camille Jenatzy - The Red Devil
Camille Jenatzy - known as the Red Devil because of his red beard, pictured with his electrically powered 'Jamais Contente', which he used to raise the speed record in 1899 to 65.79 miles per hour. This was Jenatzy's second car, and had two motors, each driving the rear wheels and running at 900 rpm.

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