1910: Blitzen Benz driven by Barney Oldfield

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"Blitzen" Benz

4 cyl. Petrol
21,500 cc
Bore x Stroke:
185 x 200 mm
200 bhp
Rear via chains
1,635 kg
Top Speed:

131.72 mph

Blitzen Benz

Barney Oldfield was a name well known in the United States to earlier generations of motor sport fans. But his name appears only once in the list of world record holders, although you will find him honoured in many other connections in North America.

There was a gap of four years between Marriott's fantastic 127.57 mph. in the Stanley Steamer and Oldfield's successful attempt in 1910.

This was not for want of trying by many contenders, but the record stood for so long because Marriott had pushed it up by nearly 20 miles an hour in one go, an unprecedented jump.

If we look back over the list of highest speeds from the start in 1898 we find that the new record is usually only a mile or two faster than the previous best, and Marriott's leap had proved too much for the petrol-engine to conquer easily.

The car Oldfield used at Daytona Beach was the Blitzen Benz, which Hemery had pushed to 125.95 mph at the Brooklands track (near London, UK) the year before, however he failed to have it accepted into the official records.

This was one of the outsize monsters produced at that time. Oldfield in fact covered the kilometre slightly faster than the mile, at 132.04 m.p.h., but the slower speed is the one quoted in the official records.

This car was always known as the Blitzen Benz, although it was in reality a 200 horse-power Benz.

It looked like a Grand Prix car of about five years earlier, except that it had very clean, modern lines broken only by exhaust pipes from the side of the engine. Its versatility is shown by the fact that it won the Ries hill climb at an average speed of 50 mph in the hands of Franz Heim.

The car had a four-cylinder engine of 21,500 cc., rated by the R.A.C. at 59.6 horse-power, although it was said to give 200 horse-power at 1,650 rpm. It had a 9ft 4 in wheelbase and weighed only 32 cwt in racing form. The Benz had push-rod operated valves, two magnetos per cylinder, and contemporary accounts say it "steered like a dream."

Burman covered a half mile at Brooklands in 14.1 seconds in this car from a flying start. He is also said to have driven it at 142.5 mph, the highest speed of the time. Oldfield even took a passenger (some would say daredevil) on one of his runs at 121.8 mph over the flying mile.

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