Yesterday, over 400 pre-First World War cars made a 60-mile pilgrimage from Hyde Park, London to their finish in Brighton. On its 118th anniversary, the Bonham’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run took a new route through Croydon.
On previous runs, the veteran cars, none of which were made after 1905, passed through Croydon by going up West Street and then turning onto South End. The route was revised this year as some cars had trouble with the slight incline on West Street, and the (not so) hairpin right turn onto South End.
The first cars set off at the crack of dawn from Hyde Park and started their journey with a “red carpet” drive down The Mall before making their way to Westminster Bridge, then through Croydon and onto Brighton.
The Mall used to be a regular part of the route, but has only been used once in recent memory to celebrate the London to Brighton Car Run’s 100th Anniversary in 1996.
The first ‘Emancipation Run’ was organised by Harry Lawson and the Motor Car Club of Britain which he founded with Frederick Simms. It was held on November 14, 1896 to celebrate the relaxation of The Locomotive Act 1865. This act of parliament, known as the Red Flag Act, required all road locomotives to travel at a maximum of 4 mph, as well as requiring a man carrying a red flag to walk in front of the car to warn pedestrians and other road vehicles of the locomotive’s approach.
The new Locomotives on Highways Act 1896 raised the speed limit to 14 mph and abolished the need for the red flag. Participants honour the history of the event by destroying a red flag at the start in Hyde Park, as it was done over 100 years ago.
Out of the 440 veteran cars that left the safety of Hyde Park, 357 vehicles made it to the finish line. These cars included over 100 different makes and manufacturers including the UK’s oldest surviving car manufacturer, Vauxhall.
With every car being at least 110 years old, petrol power wasn’t the only choice. Battery powered vehicles and cars that chugged along via the power of steam were also on display.
Tom Purves, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club, congratulated the participants who give the event its “individuality, personality, and character” especially those who have travelled overseas. He said: “The breadth of the field of entrants from all over the world is an essential part of what makes the Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run such a great annual run and testament to the popularity of the event.”
Purves also recognised the significance of authorities in the event’s continued success. He said: “We thank the police authorities, Westminster City Council, Croydon Council, Brighton and Hove City Council, Royal Parks, and Transport for London for their continued support and co-operation.”
Due to the age and operating mechanisms of the veteran cars, the RAC was on hand to ensure safety on the roads from the numerous and expected breakdowns.
Ben Cussons, Motoring Committee Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club, said: ““The Bonhams Veteran Car Run is a remarkable event. It salutes the bravery and ingenuity of those pioneering motorists… many of the participants will experience the same technical issues their forebears faced and making it to Brighton in cars that are well over 100 years old can be considered a real achievement.”
The Veteran Car Run also has its fair share of celebrity participants including two knights with nine Olympic gold medals between them, Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Ben Ainslie.
The Run was a highlight within a long weekend of nostalgic motoring events in the capital, which included a Veteran Motor Car auction in New Bond Street and the Regent Street Motor Show.
The Veteran Car Run is the longest running motoring event in the world and has captured the attention and appreciation of the public across its entire 60-mile and 118-year stretch.