From the moment man first climbed behind the wheel of an automobile, he began looking for ways to make cars faster. Now the fascinating journey of man's obsession with speed can be followed through a display of Land Speed Record models at the DFW Elite Toy Museum in Ft. Worth, Texas.
The collection features 81 replicas in 1:43 scale, offering a view of an often-overlooked segment of automotive history. All of the models are either very limited editions or hand-built models that are rarely seen individually, let alone in one showroom. The models range from the 1898 Jeantaud Profilee to the 1995 Minnesota Special.
"We have [replicas of] nearly every car that has held the Land Speed Record, including the very first record-holder from 1898," said Ron Sturgeon, owner of DFW Elite Toy Museum. "It is incredible to be able to see them all together and to witness how the vehicles have evolved."
The first human to set a Land Speed Record was Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat of France, who hit the then-unheard-of speed of 39.24 mph, a speed that rivaled the full-out gallop of a horse. Laubat's 1898 attempt to prove that automobiles were a viable alternative to horse-driven vehicles launched an eternal quest to set, and then shatter, new speed records.
Some cars in the museum are certainly more famous than others. The 1927 Napier-Campbell Bluebird is notable because it was the first car built specifically for breaking the existing Land Speed Record. Piloted by famed English driver Malcolm Campbell, the car hit 174.883 mph on the beach at Pendine Sands. Campbell set (and broke) eight more records over the next eight years.
Campbell's son Donald followed in his father's footsteps. More than four decades later, Donald pushed his Bluebird-Proteus CN7 to 403.125 mph at Lake Eyre, Australia, using a gas turbine engine.
"The history of these cars is so rich and fascinating, "Sturgeon added. "To see what these drivers set out to do ' to drive at speeds that were unheard of at the time ' is absolutely amazing. And then, to be able to see the cars that accomplished these feats [is] a unique aspect of automotive history."
The collection of Land Speed Record models can be seen, along with other rare and antique toys cars in the museum, inside the DFW Elite Auto Rental at 5940 Eden in Ft. Worth. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with weekend hours by appointment. For more information, call 817-838-7368, or log on to www.dfwelitetoymuseum.com.
Looking for more information about model cars? Check out the Toy Cars & Models Web site at www.toycarsandmodels.com, and sign up for the TC&M Late Brakin' E-Newsletter, which will launch later this summer.