Aug 23 2011

Willie K’s Cars: #5 The 90-HP Mercedes that Broke the One-Mile Land Speed Record in 1904

William K. Vanderbilt Jr. was among the first generation of people who grew up with the automobile. With his family’s fortune predicated on transportation perhaps it was inevitable that he was drawn to the latest innovation in machinery to transport goods and people from one place to another. Regardless, his fascination with the new mechanical marvels led him to some of his greatest adventures in a very adventurous life. Today's focus: The 90-HP Mercedes that he raced at the Ormond-Daytona Automobile Races in 1904


Willie K. preparing to race in his Mercedes in January 1904.


The zenith of Vanderbilt’s racing career was the Ormond-Daytona Beach Automobile Tournament in January 1904. For the event, he purchased a giant 90-hp Mercedes, among the most powerful cars in the world. On January 27th, he set the one-mile land speed record on the beach going 92.3 mph, surpassing the record established earlier in the month by Henry Ford.


The silver trophy given to Vanderbilt for breaking the one-mile land speed record..

This month Sports Car Digest published an article " History of Sports Cars-Speed Records at Daytona Beach". It noted:

The first Daytona record that appears in record books took place on January 27, 1904. William K. Vanderbilt (Jr.) sped over the measured mile in his Mercedes clocking 92.30 mph in 39 seconds. Millionaire Vanderbilt had been racing in Europe including the famous 1903 Paris to Madrid. In 1904, the first Vanderbilt Cup race took place on Long Island. Although sanctioned by the AAA, Vanderbilt’s record was not recognized by the FIA, the authority in Paris. It’s interesting to note that Henry Ford in his “Arrow” had set a new record of 91.37 mph earlier in January on the icy-surface of Lake St. Clair near Detroit.


Note: The article misidentifies the image of Vanderbilt in his 1905 Mercedes that he drove at the 1905 Ormond-Daytona Races as his 1904 car.

Links to related posts on William K. Vanderbilt, Jr's automobiles on and the Internet:

Archives: Willie K's Cars

Archives:William K. Vanderbilt Jr.

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