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.
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
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."
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.