1903: Gordon-Brillie driven by Arthur Duray

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4 cyl. 8 piston Petrol
995 kg
100 bhp
13,500 cc
Bore x Stroke:
140 x 220 mm
4 speed
Top Speed:
83.47/84.73 mph

Arthur Duray was the first man to drive at more than 80 miles an hour, no mean achievement when you look at the bone-shaker in which he did it.

Duray, a large man belonging to the fur-coat brigade, was the first to use the new Ostend road for record breaking, and there he covered the measured kilometre in 26.8 seconds, much faster than the then-standing record of 29 seconds held by the Mors.

This was an increase of more than six miles an hour, or of the order of eight per cent, and since it was achieved by what was regarded as a peculiar car with its opposed-piston engine there was a good deal of public interest and excitement.

But Duray was not content with his new speed of 83.47 mph, and four months later was out again to push the figure up to 84.73 mph, this time at the old official road stretch at Dourdan.

The Gobron-Brillie featured an opposed-piston layout, but in Duray's day a vast strap held the front of the pointed bonnet in place and the centre section was heavily louvred, while later drivers made a change in this arrangement and, in doing so, found a little more speed.

This was one of the first cars to appear with the stiffening struts under the chassis, a feature of nearly all Vintage cars of the 1920's.

It was a rather ugly contraption, with about 90 per cent of its length projecting in front of the driver, who sat right over the rear wheels.

The Gobron-Brillie was famous for having eight pistons in four cylinders, a feat achieved by an opposed-piston layout.

This was pretty advanced for 1903, particularly as the monster produced 100 horse-power and ran on a pretty potent fuel mixture (some commentators of the time believing it to actually be pure alcohol).

While the French Automobile Club may have started imposing some record rules, fuel was one of the subjects they had not yet tackled, so all was fair. The engine sat at the front, and the power went back through a gearbox to a countershaft driving the chains to the rear axle.

Also See:

Land Speed Record Drivers
Herbert Austin LSR Attempt
History Of The Land Speed Record
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