1899: Jenatzy driven by Camille Jenatzy

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Jenatzy driven by Camille Jenatzy


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. With a speed of 65.79 mph he took the record for the third, and last, time with an electric car. It was freely said at the time, and believed, that there was some magic about this figure and that no driver would survive the effects on his 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 "stream-lining".

It was torpedo-shaped with a pointed nose and tail, and the driver sat in the middle, steering the vehicle via a tiller. All wheels had a primitive form of coach-like spring suspension, and power was transmitted by 25.6-inch diameter rear wheels. The batteries provided enough energy to drive the electric motors to 900 rpm at full speed.

Also See:

Land Speed Record Drivers
Herbert Austin LSR Attempt
History Of The Land Speed Record
Latest Classic Car Classifieds

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