The Never Contented: The Pioneering Speed of La Jamais Contente

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In the late 19th century, a remarkable vehicle named La Jamais Contente, meaning “The Never Contented” in English, made history as the first road vehicle to exceed 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph). This groundbreaking achievement marked a significant milestone in automotive progress.

La Jamais Contente was a Belgian electric vehicle featuring a light-alloy torpedo-shaped bodywork and batteries, although its aerodynamics were compromised by the high position of the driver and the exposed chassis underneath. The body was constructed using a light alloy called partinium, a mixture of aluminium, tungsten, and magnesium.


On either April 29 or May 1, 1899, near Paris, France, the land speed record was set by La Jamais Contente in Achères, Yvelines. The vehicle was equipped with two Postel-Vinay 25 kW motors, each powering the rear axle through a chain. These motors operated at 200 V and drew 124 A each, resulting in a combined power output of approximately 68 hp. Michelin tires provided the necessary traction, while the chassis bore the number 25.

Behind the wheel of La Jamais Contente was the Belgian driver Camille Jenatzy, the son of Constant Jenatzy, a manufacturer of rubber products (a novelty at that time). Camille, who had studied as an engineer with a particular interest in electric-traction automobiles, gained renown for his record-breaking speed runs. His distinctive red beard earned him the nickname “Le Diable Rouge” or “The Red Devil.” Tragically, Camille Jenatzy’s life was cut short in 1913 when he was accidentally shot during a hunting expedition.

Jenatzy piloted La Jamais Contente to a remarkable speed of 105.882 kilometers per hour (65.792 mph), surpassing the previous record set by Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat driving a Jeantaud. Chasseloup-Laubat had achieved a speed of 92.78 kilometers per hour (57.65 mph) on March 4, 1899. Following this momentous feat, the dominance of gasoline-fueled combustion engines began to eclipse electric technology for the next century.

Today, La Jamais Contente is proudly showcased at the automobile museum in Compiègne, France, where visitors can marvel at this iconic vehicle that forever left its mark on the history of automotive innovation.


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