The Spirit of Adventure in Speed


Ever since Leonardo Da Vinci and then Isaac Newton first came up with the idea of a car, man has had a love affair with it. We’ve built cars that are faster, bigger, cheaper, smarter and more economic ever since.

The first real cars were built at the end of the nineteenth century by classic car makers such as Daimler and Benz. There was a time when the top speed was 12mph ( ironically, these days the top speed in many of our congested cities is not far off that! ). But it wasn’t long before cars got faster. Between 1894 and 1914 a car’s top speed rose to 120 mph. And in the true spirit of adventure, as with scaling mountains, exploring space and diving down into the oceans, so too man has continued to advance his quest for greater speed. This ambition has been measured in various ways, and times, so to speak, have changed; It’s 4,500 miles from New York to Los Angeles, but whilst in 1903 it took a fast car 63 days to travel this distance, the current record time is just over 28 hours ( but don’t ask about speed limits ).

In the twentieth century one family dominated the ‘speed news’- Donald Campbell and his father Malcolm. Between them they achieved 10 land speed records. Donald also attempted to break speed records on water. Tragically he died during one of these attempts, with famous news footage of his craft – the ‘Bluebird’ ( as  portrayed above) – bearing witness to the accident. At the time Bluebird was seen as a triumph of British engineering but ultimately it was beaten to its final record by an American car called ‘The Spirit of America.‘ There are all sorts of measures of speed – and cost. The fastest production car is said to be a Bugati which was featured in an episode of ‘Top Gear’, travelling at quite ludicrous speeds.

The car with the fastest acceleration takes 2.3 seconds to go from 0 – 60 mph. The world’s most expensive car, meanwhile, costs a staggering £ 4.8 million. The most recent ‘fast car’ is in fact a prototype for a jet plane. The ‘Bloodhound’ has been unveiled recently in Cornwall and put through its paces at a ‘cruising’ speed of 200 mph. It’s a cooperative venture between the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain and the idea is to prepare it to go much faster. It will soon be “unleashed” in South Africa, where it will attempt to break the current land speed record of 800 mph – And to go beyond that!

It would be good to think that projects The Bloodhound will help us continue international cooperation as well as to make progress with scientific, engineering and maybe even ecological research.

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My last job was as a tutor for OOL. I taught on courses providing professional training for school support staff, as well as A level English Literature and English Literature GCSE. Prior to that, I worked in schools, colleges, adult education and the Arts, including a period as a local authority inspector. I'm going to make myself busy trying to keep you up to date with different aspects of education news – and also to keep you interested.

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