In 1886 German engineer Karl Benz invented a petrol-powered automobile that became the first production motor vehicle. Steam and electric cars already existed but they were slow and cumbersome, and the internal-combustion engine revolutionised the industry. Only a decade or so later, drivers of all three types of car were battling for the outright speed record but progress was slow and it took until 1904 before Frenchman Louis Rigolly reached 100mph.
By the 1920s, motor racing had entered a golden age and stars like Sir Henry Segrave, John Cobb and Sir Malcolm Campbell all built dedicated land speed record cars in pursuit of sporting immortality. Competition was stiff, particularly from the United States, and by the 1960s the Arfons brothers and Craig Breedlove were using jet power to reach speeds of 600mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
In 1983 Richard Noble recaptured the record for Britain in Thrust 2. Fourteen years later, RAF pilot Andy Green became the first man to drive faster than sound in Thrust SSC at the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. Today, at least eight teams are developing cars to run at more than 1,000mph. This book chronicles the record from humble beginnings to the supersonic records of tomorrow.