The top speed at the world's first real automobile race in 1895 was just 15 mph.
Our history of the world's fastest production car is produced in three parts: pre-WWI, WWI to WWII, and the already-published segment from WWII until now. This is article covers the earliest period from the first cars through to WW1. The nature of the data available means we've had to rely on disparate data points and some ballpark figures in tracing the early development of the fastest road cars, making it less clinical than our look at the cars of the modern era, but no less fascinating.
The modern car evolved from initial attempts to motorize a horse-drawn carriage in just two decades, from 1894 to 1914. In many ways, the rise in speeds from 1894 to 1914 charts that wave of innovation: from one cylinder to 12 cylinders, from two- to four-wheel brakes, from side-valve to DOHC 4-valve hemispherical combustion chambers, from open to streamlined, from solid axles to pneumatic suspension and incredibly, from 12 mph to 120 mph.