Barney Oldfield

American race car driver Barney Oldfield was the first person to drive an automobile more than 60 miles per hour.

When he drove the car pictured below at 131.25 mph (1910), it was the fastest a human had ever traveled. [For reference: in 1913 airplanes had a average top speed ranging from 45 to 75 mph. The airspeed record was 126.67 mph.] 

At age 16, Oldfield began bicycle racing in 1894 when he entered his first race. Following the race, officials Dauntless bicycle factory asked him to ride for the Ohio state championship. Although he came in second, the race was a turning point and he was hired as a parts sales representative for the Stearns bicycle factory, where he met his future wife, Beatrice Lovetta Oatis; they married in 1896. By 1896, he was paid by Stearns in Syracuse New York, to race on its amateur team.

Oldfield was lent a gasoline-powered bicycle to race at Salt Lake City, which led to a meeting with Henry Ford, who had readied two automobiles for racing, and he asked Oldfield if he would like to test one at Ford’s Grosse Pointe track. Oldfield agreed and traveled to Michigan for the trial, but neither car started. Despite the fact that Oldfield had never even driven an automobile, he and fellow racing cyclist Tom Cooper purchased both test vehicles when Ford offered to sell them for $800. One of them was the famous “No. 999” that debuted in October 1902 at the Manufacturer’s Challenge Cup. Today it is displayed at the Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield Village. [Source Wikipedia]

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