René Thomas, motor racing champion of France in
1924, took the record on the Arpajon stretch of road
near Paris, during the June-July speed trials. Rend
Thomas made his run over the kilometre in a car built
in his own country, the 10 litre Delage, and achieved
But his triumph was very short lived,
because six days later a British driver, Ernest Eldridge,
driving another of the aero-engined monsters, the
21 litre Fiat "Mephistopheles" topped Rend
Thomas' best speed.
But another rule had crept into
the book by this time, which required all record-breakers
to be equipped with "the means for reversing." The
French driver strolled across to his rival's car
and was quick to notice that the chain-driven monster
lacked a reverse gear.
Not unnaturally he made a
protest against Eldridge's time being recognised
since his car did not conform to the rules, and this
was upheld by the A.I.A.C.R. Eldridge was somewhat put
out by his rival's protest, but went away to think
about it and came up with a simple answer.
with his mechanics to a local garage where they had
the use of the workshop, and by a process of trial
and error introduced enough extra links into his
spare final drive chains to enable him to put them
on the sprockets crossed, and thus move slowly in
reverse to the satisfaction of the officials.
made his point he reverted to normal drive and went
out to put up a speed of 146.01 mph., beating Rend
Thomas' record speed. The handsome Delage was originally
built as a sprint machine by the French firm, founded
by Louis Delage after he had worked for Peugeot. The
first Delage was powered by a De Dion engine back in
1906, but the firm was soon making their own power
plants. Rend Thomas was associated with Delage from
the early days and won the Indianapolis 500 in 1913
His world land speed record car was built
at the Paris works in 1923, by which time he was racing
manager. This record-breaker was a 10.5 litre machine
with a V12 engine having two valves per cylinder
worked by pushrods, and a five-bearing crank.
would run up to 3,200 rpm. and the engine was installed
in a 9 ft 3 in chassis. Front wheel brakes were by
no means common in 1924, especially on racing cars,
but the Delage was so equipped. This car became a
regular Brooklands performer in later years, and
among famous drivers who handled it was John Cobb,
later so active in the world record field himself.