January 31: The first 100-mph car ran on this date in 1905

31 January 2013

In the early years of the 20th century, wealthy car owners would gather every winter in Ormond Beach, Fla., to race their machines for bragging rights and world records. Often that meant hiring a driver to do the actual work, since the steam and gas-powered machinery of the day often needed major adjustments mid-drive. On this date in 1905, Arthur MacDonald, a Brit, drove a 90-hp Napier owned by S.E. Edge to a speed of 104.65 mph in a flying mile — the first car to break 100 mph. His record stood for 15 minutes before it was topped by H.B. Bowden, who had spent $50,000 building a twin-engined Mercedes that was later disqualified from the record books. In the rare footage of the 1905 races below, you can see MacDonald at the wheel about two minutes in, with the Napier wearing number 5:

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