268.8 miles per hour (432.59 kilometers per hour): Mercedes-Benz W125

Shown from left to right: Earl Francis Curzon Howe, Captain Malcolm Campbell, and Rudolf Caracciola -- after winning the Irish Grand Prix on July 21, 1930, at Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland.

AP Photo/Staff/Putnam

How fast was Rosemeyer's rival? A half a mile an hour. No joke. A record so close it seemed sane to set out again to try to break it.

Ninety minutes before Rosemeyer made his final run, driver Rudolf Caracciola set an autobahn speed record of 268.8 miles per hour (432.59 kilometers per hour) that has not been broken since in a Mercedes-Benz W125 with a V-12 engine.

How is it possible that these two could set records that have stood for the better part of a century? Well, first of all, they were using cars built for the purpose of vanquishing a rival, not production cars like half the rest of the guys on this list. Second, Rosemeyer and Caracciola didn't have to deal with traffic. They had sections of the autobahn shut down so these guys could go all out. And there were certainly no construction crews around.