The first car to ever get a speeding ticket was travelling at a whopping 13 km/h (actually, eight miles per hour). It was 1896 and the car was doing four times the legal limit, prompting an officer on a bicycle to chase down the driver. Now that car will be celebrated at the Concours of Elegance, held this year at Hampton Court Palace, in the south-west of London, England.
The car was an 1896 Arnold Benz Motor Carriage, driven by Walter Arnold. The law at the time required a top speed of two mph (3.2 km/h) and for a man on foot in front of the car waving a red flag. Arnold, in true pioneering fashion, was having none of that. He was fined one shilling, the equivalent of about $10 today. It’s not clear if officers at the time had steam-powered radar devices, if they used a stopwatch, or if the speed was just an estimate.
The law was abolished later that year, raising the limit to a more reasonable 23 km/h. To celebrate that day, cars raced 100 km from London to Brighton, with Arnold competing in the first running. That race exists to this day, allowing “veteran cars” – built before 1905 – to make the same journey.
Walter Arnold’s place as first speeding ticket recipient doesn’t come without controversy. While Arnold certainly got the first fine, at the end of an eight-kilometre chase, he may not have received an actual ticket. Ohio claims that honour, saying that Harry Myers got the first written paper ticket, in 1904.
It’s not clear who was the lucky recipient of the first speeding ticket in Canada, but one of the earliest was also one of the most notable. Zoé Laurier, Lady Laurier, wife of Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier, was issued a ticket in Ottawa in 1910. She was exceeding the 16 km/h speed limit in the city at the time.
The Arnold Benz Motor Carriage will be on display at this year’s Concours of Elegance, held in September. It will be part of a parade of pre-1905 cars at the show, then will be on display for the remainder of the event. Other highlights include the Le Mans-winning Jaguar XJR-9 and a race-ready McLaren F1 GTR. The event hosts some of the most notable and rare cars from across the world.
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