The first car to break 100mph was a 90hp Napier owned by a chap called S.E. Edge. In the early 20th century, rich petrolheads would race their cars on Ormond Beach in Florida. Edge’s Napier was driven by a British man named Arthur MacDonald, who managed 104.65mph over the measured mile in 1905.
His record stood for about 15 minutes, however, when a twin-engined Mercedes went faster, although that car was later disqualified. Either way, MacDonald will always be remembered as the first to break 100mph in a car.
The SSC Ultimate Aero held the record for the fastest production car in the world, when it was clocked at 256.14mph (412.22kph). That’s not surprising considering the fact that when it entered production in 2006, it was also the first production car to officially make over 1000bhp; its 6.3-litre supercharged Chevrolet V8 has an output of 1047bhp.
Unofficially, the Bugatti Veyron beat it a year earlier. While the quoted figure for that car is too low at 987bhp (1001ps), it’s widely accepted that this is a conservative estimate, with the quad-turbo W16 realistically making around 1085bhp.
Back in 1986 the 959 arrived, built as an homologation special for Porsche’s Group B rally efforts. It had aerodynamic devices that were activated at certain speeds to increase stability. The first ‘normal’ car to feature such aero was the Volkswagen Corrado a year later.
There are a number of ‘firsts’ with this one. As early as 1893, an English engineer by the name of Bramah Joseph Diplock had patented a four-wheel drive system, which was subsequently placed into cars. In the 30s and 40s, Willys, Volkswagen and Gaz made military vehicles with four-wheel drive, with the latter also introducing the Gaz-61 passenger vehicle in 1938.
The first car - i.e. a vehicle not intended for off-roading - to feature four-wheel drive was the Jensen FF, introduced in 1966. It was loosely based on Jensen’s rear-wheel drive Interceptor, however it was slightly longer, far more expensive and exclusive: only 320 units were sold. The first mass-produced four-wheel drive car was the Subaru Leone in 1972.
The first passenger car to use a turbocharger was the Oldsmobile Jetfire, which was a model of Cutlass introduced in 1962. It ran a 3.5-litre V8 with a Garrett turbo attached, and was good for 215bhp and 301lb ft of torque.
Fuel injection had largely been in use during the Second World War in larger aircraft, and in diesel cars since the 1930s. The first petrol-powered car to run a fuel injected engine, however, was the Goliath GP700. The original carburettor model had a claimed 25bhp, however once the fuel injection engine was introduced in 1952, this increased to a whopping 29bhp!
Seat belts had been around in one form or another for many years, when two Americans created the three-point system we know today. The design was developed to its modern form by Swedish inventor Nils Bohlin for Volvo, which introduced the belts as standard equipment in 1959.
The current World Land Speed Record holder is the Thrust SSC, which hit 763mph in October 1997. In the process, it became the first car to break the sound barrier. It was powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce jet engines which made a combined 110,000bhp. It was driven by fighter pilot Andy Green, who is also set to take charge of the Bloodhound SSC, a new project that is hoping to smash past 1000mph.
We’d imagine that as long as there have been cars on the road, people have been driving them while under the influence of alcohol. The first reported arrest in the UK for drink driving was in 1897 in London, after a 25-year-old cab driver called George Smith crashed his electric taxi while intoxicated. He was fined 20 shillings.
The first man in Britain to be successfully charged with speeding was Walter Arnold, who was caught travelling at a giddy 8mph in a 2mph limit on 28 January 1896. Hooligan. Brilliantly, Arnold was caught after being successfully chased down by a policeman… who was riding a bicycle.