The Fastest Men on Earth, 100 Years of the Land Speed Record


Fastest Men on Earth book coverAuthor and acknowledged land speed historian Peter Holthusen presents an absorbing and meticulously researched record of land speed racing in the twentieth century. From the very first 39 mph-plus speed record of Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat’s electric car in 1898 to Thrust SSC’s convincing sonic boom in 1997 Holthusen delivers a thoroughly riveting narrative covering a golden century of record breaking. It took 99 years to break the sound barrier without leaving the ground and Holthusen takes little more than twice that many pages to relate the tale in all its fascinating detail.

Wonderful period photographs from the author’s collection and other generous sources reinforce the written record revealing the challenges, dangers, tragedies, triumphs of each record achievement and most of all the character of the courageous souls determined to advance the world’s land speed record. Holthusen captures the essence of these men in a chronological revelation of their epic struggle to advance the record. He unveils some basic details about the fire breathing monsters that represented the ultimate expression of contemporary automotive expertise, but those seeking the last word in technical details of each machine will not find them here. That would take a far larger book and Holthusen is already hard pressed to pack the basic story into some 200 pages.

Railton Special cutaway drawing

John Cobb's Railton Special, 1st car to exceed 400 mph

Nonetheless, the reader gains a thorough understanding of what the land speed record is all about and why men pursue it with near reckless abandon. Holthusen relates a tale of classic rivalries and solitary endeavors fraught with peril. If you’re into land speed racing, you will recognize all the names: Campbell, Segrave, Cobb, Eyston, Thompson, Summers Brothers, Arfons, Breedlove, Noble, Green and so many more. Their exceptional stories are divulged here with Holthusen’s unique perspective on the passion and pursuit of record breaking. The back story reveals the fascinating progression from electric vehicles to steam power to gasoline, methanol, rocket fuel and ultimately jet fuel. And it reveals how record cars progressed from massive monsters with enormous aircraft engines to aerodynamically elegant, pencil thin streamliners that pay little heed to the wind as the streak toward the record.

Wingfoot Express
The sound barrier has been broken and the next great goal is 500 mph with a wheel-driven vehicle and 800- 1000 mph from a jet or a rocket. Holthusen provides a concise detailed record of how we got to where we are today and where we’re headed at mach speed. Most of us have grown up with hot rods, street machines and drag racing and relative limited knowledge of the land speed record and what it represents. Holthusen’s superb book will change all that. Grab a copy and hang on. It’s speed reading at its best.

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Sutton Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 0750922036
  • ISBN-13: 978-0750922036