Milestones in Speed - Power

Don Sherman Matthew Phenix David Yochum
Ian Dawson Getty Images IMS Photo
David Johnson

Richie Ginther praised the speed and handling of his Ferrari 246SP Dino sports racer in 1961, but he was irritated by exhaust fumes migrating into the cockpit. To solve the problem, Ginther proposed adding a vertically oriented blocker panel to the car's tail. Imagine his surprise when testing demonstrated that the new "spoiler," as it was later called, improved rear-wheel grip and all-around stability, albeit at a slight top-speed penalty. A ducktailed Dino (left) won for the first time at the 1961 Targa Florio, with Wolfgang von Trips and Olivier Gendebien sharing the driving duties.

Radar-detector builders and leadfoots everywhere owe a huge debt of gratitude to one man. Dale Smith, an electronics expert from Dayton, Ohio, invented the first commercial radar detector in 1968. As the story goes, Smith had been unfairly ticketed for speeding. So to avoid any future problems with the law, he created a small device that detected police radio waves from a distance of one mile or more. As his first "Fuzzbuster" detector picked up such waves, it emitted a high-pitched noise and flashed a small light, warning the driver of what lay ahead. After the Fuzzbuster I's debut, radar detectors evolved with each advancement in law-enforcement technology and eventually were able to detect radio waves for X-, K-, and Ka-bands. Modern radar detectors, such as the Valentine One and various Escort units, are also expected to recognize pulsed, infrared laser beams and even signals from the Ku-band, which is being used by traffic police in Europe but not in the United States - yet.

Porsche 917s had exceeded 240 mph at Le Mans in the early '70s, but it remained for the tiny French manufacturer WM, with fearless driver Roger Dorchy, to surpass 250 mph in 1988 with a turbocharged Peugeot and bodywork trimmed for terminal velocity.

The Chaparral Show
He came from Texas oil money and attended Caltech, so it should come as no surprise that Jim Hall thought big and outside the box. His white Chaparrals - built in the remote oil town of Midland, Texas, with covert support from General Motors R&D and tested on Hall's private Rattlesnake Raceway - were the most inventive road-racing cars of the '60s. With these cars, Hall pioneered the development of monocoque construction, composite structures, semiautomatic transmissions, a crude form of ground effects, and, most significant of all, gigantic wings that brought aerodynamics to the forefront of automotive design.

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