Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat set the first officially recognized land speed record of 39 mph today in 1898. Now WE know em


Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat was born in France sometime in 1867.

His older brother Marquis de Chasseloup-Laubat was interested in the automobile and became a founding member of the Automobile Club de France in 1895.

In these early days of the automobile, the two main proponents of the electric car were Gaston’s brother Marquis and the Belgian, Camille Jenatzy.

Gaston also became fascinated with the automobile and became his brothers driver.


Marquis bought his first French electric automobile, a Jeantaud, manufactured in Paris beginning in 1893. The auto was the brainchild of Charles Jeantaud, a coachbuilder who built his first electric carriage in 1881.

The Jeantaud powered the rear wheels with a chain-driven 36 hp electric motor. The auto weighed approximately 3,196 pounds.

On the Jeantaud, the driver sat high and to the rear. The model Marquis bought had an unusual bevel-gear front steering layout.

Gaston began driving the auto for his brother, and in December of 1898, the brothers decided to take the Jeantaud and participate in a competition to set the first World Land Speed Record.

December 18, 1898

The World Land Speed Record attempt was part of a competition organized by the French automobile magazine “La France Automobile.”

The attempt was to take place on a deserted stretch of road outside of Paris near the hamlet of Achères, Yvelines between the villages of St. Germain and Constans.

December 18, 1898 was a cold, wet day and the timekeepers operated their primitive apparatus in one direction only over a flying kilometre (0.62 miles).

The Jeantaud was powered by a battery that gave him only a short range without recharging.

Then, Gaston drove the Jeantaud on a single run.

After due calculation, Gaston and Marquis were informed they had completed the run in 57 seconds for the First World Land Speed Record of 63.13 km/h or 39.24 mph.

Gaston and Marquis were challenged by Belgian driver Camille Jenatzy.

Camille was nicknamed Le Diable Rouge (The Red Devil) for the color of his beard.

January 17, 1899

Gaston and Marquis faced off against Camille on January 17, 1899 once more at

Achères, Yvelines near Paris.

Camille drove his CGA Dogcart for a speed of 66.65 km/h (41.41 mph) breaking Gaston’s earlier land speed record.

Then it was Gaston’s turn.

He drove the run, and after a lengthy deliberation, it was calculated that he broke the record again with a speed of 66.66 km/h (41.42 mph).

Ten days later, Camille managed to break this record without Gaston present on January 27, 1899 with a speed of 80.35 km/h (49.93 mph).

Then Gaston broke the record once more, when on March 4, 1899 he increased his speed to 92.69 km/h (57.59 mph).

April 29, 1899

Then Camille Jenatzy broke the 100 km/h (62 mph) mark with a speed of 105 km/h (65.79 mph) on April 29, 1899.

Camille Jenatzy and his wife riding his Jamais Contente, the first vehicle to break the 100 km/h.

Camille Jenatzy and his wife riding his Jamais Contente, the first vehicle to break the 100 km/h.

This record held until April of 1902, when Leon Serpollet broke the Land Speed Record with a speed of 120.80 km/h (75.06 mph) driving a steam powered

Gardner-Serpollet Oeuf de Pacques (‘Easter Egg’).

Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat died November 20, 1903 in Paris at the age of 36.

Now WE know em


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