Barney Oldfield


Blitzen Benz #1

Blitzen Benz #1

Blitzen Benz #1

Blitzen Benz #1

Barney Oldfield at Ormond Beach in 1910... Barney was the first to drive a car at 60 mph, and in 1910 he broke all existing speed records for the mile, two miles, and the kilometer in special runs at Ormond Beach, Fla. in the Blitzen Benz

Date Location Driver Driver Country Vehicle Power Speed over
1 Km
Speed over
1 Mile
March 23, 1910 Daytona Beach, USA Barney Oldfield   Blitzen Benz #1
4-cylinder in-line
IC 131.275 mph    

Beach racing might have died with the whimper of 1909 except for Barney Old-field. He was the most famous race driver in America. The Stanley Steamer's 127 mph in 1906 remained the fastest any automobile had thus far traveled, and Oldfield wanted to set a new speed record and so bought the Blitzen Benz.
Scarcely had it been announced there would be no beach racing in 1910 than the statement was retracted and the Speed Carnival was reinstated in March "chiefly to give Barney Oldfield an opportunity to attack world's straightaway records."

Oldfield's name was sufficient to ensure the success of the carnival (and draw a big crowd with lots of money) but to spice the proceedings, competing cars were encouraged to enter.

Oldfield put on a spectacular show and set a speed record of 131.724 mph. "As near to the absolute limit of speed as humanity will ever travel," said Barney loftily. The Florida Times-Union declared that only a bullet had traveled faster, making a superb advertising line for the Benz importer in New York.

Kaiser Wilhelm II cabled congratulations from Germany.

Thereafter Oldfield barnstormed the nation with the Benz, until that fall, when he engineered a match race against the heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson—a fine gimmick but illegal because Johnson was not an accredited race driver. Suspended by the AAA for a year, Oldfield raced in Mexico for a while, then sold the Benz to his manager, Ernie Moross, announced his retirement, and opened a saloon in Los Angeles.

To Oldfield's considerable chagrin, Moross returned the Benz to the beach at Daytona in April 1911. His driver was Bob Burman, and there were no challengers to the car this time, but still, a large crowd gathered along the measured mile to watch Burman try for a new record.

"'Here he comes—there he goes!' summed up the story of the ride in a nutshell," reported The Horseless Age after the run. Burman's speed was 141.732 mph—a full ten miles an hour faster than Oldfield's. Barney had typically held back during his Benz run so he could promote another "go-for-the-record" exhibition. Needless to say, Oldfield was furious and came out of retirement to seek vengeance. But the "fastest speed at which man has ever traveled over the earth's surface" belonged to Burman for eight years. So phenomenal was 141-plus mph that automobile makers throughout the world were loath to consider building a car to attempt to top it.

Source: American Heritage