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Date Posted：07/26/2012 2:16 AMCopy HTML
Google "200 MPH Club" and you will find that land speed record venues like Bonneville maintain a roster of drivers who have set records at or above that speed. You will not find my wife's name on any of those lists, and it was one item on
her "bucket list" she had given up on ever achieving.
A few years ago "Peggy Sue" and I were in Germany to visit relatives and celebrate a milestone birthday. Her favorite cousin, "Fritz", operates a small "tuner" shop for high end German cars and always has something interesting for us to drive. This time he handed Peggy the keys to the latest BMW M5, and while the black sedan looked rather innocuous I knew it had serious mechanical upgrades and a 500 hp V-10 under the hood. The number "zweihundert" (200) came up frequently in their animated conversation, but I couldn't follow the torrent of German and failed to appreciate the significance.
On a crisp fall morning a few days later we were headed south on the autobahn for a day of shopping in the historic walled town of Rothenburg. Peggy looked like a local in her wool suit, Bavarian hat, and black boots with sturdy 3 inch heels for a day of walking on cobblestones. This stretch of the A7 autobahn is only 2 lanes wide and in no better condition than the average US Interstate, but the terrain is fairly flat and the speed limit is gloriously unlimited. The M5 was loafing along at about 150 kph on the metric speedometer, or a little over 90 mph.
When the local traffic cleared and an empty road stretched invitingly to the horizon, Peggy took a deep breath and buried the throttle beneath her booted foot. With an animal moan from the beast under the hood the big Bimmer surged forward, but I thought it would be a brief rush as these cars were supposed to be electronically limited to 250 kph or about 155 mph. Not this one, apparently, as it was accelerating hard when we rushed past that mark.
Far ahead Peggy saw a silver Porsche puling out to pass a lone tour bus and began flashing her lights in the recognized signal for a clear road. The disciplined German driver pulled back into the slow lane as we thundered past at three miles a minute, giving the tourists a great story for the folks back home.
I had read that buried deep in the engine software was a secondary speed limiter set for 300 kph, but the needle moved relentlessly past that point as well. "Call the speed," Peggy instructed me tersely, and I noticed that she had stopped scanning the mirrors and instruments and was focused intently on the road ahead. Suddenly I realized that "zweihundert" referred to miles per hour and Peggy was charging hard for the goal.
A quick check of my pocket calculator indicated that 231 kph was the metric equivalent. Careful not to jostle the driver, I leaned over and read the numbers. "Three hundred ten.... fifteen ..... eighteen....... nineteen........... twenty........................ twenty one................. two............................ three." Flat out with all 500 (or perhaps more) horses locked in battle with the wind, the car stopped accelerating and the needle settled on an incredible 324 kph. Made it, with a little to spare!
It was a surreal moment. We were in a comfortable luxury sedan on a public road traveling 200 mph and it was perfectly legal. As Peggy backed gently out of the throttle and aerodynamic forces bled off our speed she was smiling from ear to ear. On the very day she became eligible to join the AARP, a lovely lady who neither looks nor acts her age joined her own personal 200 MPH Club.