Mankind's great quest to move faster, to shorten the time between distant points, is one of the pillars of progress. It's also a huge rush. Pushing the limit can be fraught with danger, too, which is why we honor those brave pioneers who have expanded the boundaries of automotive speed. The climb up our collective speedometer has been a huge technical challenge, and so we highlight the innovations that have aided our pursuit. Naturally, we touch down at the great racetracks, where driving fast is elevated to an art form. We also take an insider's tour of Bonneville, America's bright white temple of speed. And then there are the cars. We chose a handful for their significance in advancing the cause of speed, no easy choice given the automobile's 100-plus-year history. Finally, what's it like to drive 200 mph? Ride along with the man who's done it in more cars than just about anyone.
OLD DOG, NEW TRICKS
> Henry Ford
Henry Ford was an unheralded middle-aged mechanic who was so new to racing that he took a driving lesson immediately before squaring off against the heavily favored Alexander Winton on a one-mile dirt track near Detroit. The date was October 10, 1901, and at that point, Ford had neither the money nor the backing to start the Ford Motor Company. Reluctantly driving a 26-hp race car of his own design, Ford whipped Winton in the ten-mile sprint, winning $1000 and earning some much-needed credibility. Racing would become a critical part of Ford's corporate DNA.
> Frank Lockhart
Elbows outside the cockpit, the numeral two on his coveralls and the side of his Perfect Circle Miller racing car, Frank Lockhart was a fury in 1927. Abetted by his own invention - the intercooler, which made the supercharger more effective - he clocked a sensational 144.2-mph lap at Culver City. The 1926 Indy 500 trophy, the Muroc dry lake measured-mile record of 171 mph, and eight of twenty-two board-track races he entered were in his pocket when he died on Daytona's sands in 1928, already a legend at the age of 25.
Fourteen years after Gustave Eiffel's tower was completed, the noted French engineer found an excellent use for the structure. Shortly before the Wright brothers' first flight in 1903, Eiffel began quantifying the drag of experimental airfoils by measuring their rate of fall from his second-level laboratory with a vertical guy wire guiding descent. To extend the time available for testing, Eiffel constructed two wind tunnels next to his tower in 1909 and '12. Evaluating the same shapes he had previously dropped, Eiffel proved that air moving around a stationary body duplicates the drag of a body moving through still air.