1899: Jeantaud driven by Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat
Chain drive rear wheels
Although there are many conflicting lists of challengers
for the World Land Speed Records held by different
authorities throughout the world, it is a curious
whim of history that the first six entries are always
the same: the three runs each by Camille Jenatzy and the Count de Chasseloup-Laubat.
is easy to record, because he used the same car, "La
Jamais Contente", for all runs. But the Chasseloup-Laubat
brothers, one the constructor, the other and younger
the driver, re-built and re-bodied their car for
their last run.
It is difficult to discover much detail
about these cars of more than 100 years ago, but
it is recorded that when the two electric champions
first met on the famous Acheres road outside Paris
three other cars, all petrol-engined, also attacked
the record over the measured kilometre on the same
One was a de Dion tricycle and both the
others were Bollee three-wheelers of the familiar
pattern (some still run in the annual London - Brighton
event) in which the fearless passenger sat in front
of the driver.
But the petrol engine in its contemporary
stage of development proved slower than the short-range
electric cars. Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat
used a far less streamlined body for his first two
runs, but when he was beaten both times by Jenatzy
he re-bodied the car, having attributed Jenatzy's
superior speed to the wind-cheating shape of the "La
Mechanically the Count's two
cars was identical, with a combination of quarter and
half-elliptic springs both front and rear and chain
drive to the rear wheels, but for the third run the
body was given a pointed prow and smoother contours.
Mechanical changes were confined to improving the performance
of the electric motors and using larger-capacity batteries.
The Count remained faithful to large-diameter coach-type
wheels with solid tyres, while his rival Jenatzy used
the smallest wheels employed on any motor vehicle at
that time, with much larger-section tyres.
the three electric cars had any visible braking system,
and evidently relied on the electric motors for braking
as well as supplying power. In spite of Count Gaston's
effort to reduce frontal area and improve the power-weight
ratio, it was Jenatzy who won the electric-powered
battle in the end.