From capital to coast as the pioneering vintage classics made their annual pilgrimage to celebrate another iconic Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run supported by Hiscox.
As the capital remained under the cover of a mild November darkness on Sunday 4th November 2018, nearly 400 vintage cars and pilots awaited the beginning of their quest to conquer this year’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.
It’s now more than 120 years since the original Emancipation Run, which was held in 1896 to celebrate the recently passed Locomotives on Highways Act. This raised the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ from 4 to 14 mph and abolished the need for a man to walk ahead waving a red flag.
Symbolising that new found freedom, the annual Run always commences with the symbolic tearing of the red flag – a ritual pre-dawn feat this year performed by supermodel and car enthusiast Yasmin Le Bon representing The Movember Foundation and F1 team boss Christian Horner who was joined at the finish by his Spice Girl wife Geri and young family.
Phutted and Hissed
Then, at 06:59am sunrise, the first of the pre-1905 horseless carriages was flagged away from the start with the earliest of the Victorian vehicles leading the way as they phutted and hissed their way through Wellington Arch, down Constitution Hill, past Buckingham Palace and Admiralty Arch and Whitehall into Parliament Square. Here, for the first time in its 122-year history the 60-mile route split into two, thus alleviating traffic congestion in South London.
Half of the plucky participants travelled over Westminster Bridge and then followed the traditional A23 route via Kennington, Brixton and Streatham Common; the other half left via Millbank, over Lambeth Bridge then journeyed via Vauxhall, Clapham Common and Tooting. The two routes merged on the A236 just north of Croydon with the entire magical cavalcade reunited as it headed to the spectator-friendly halfway point in Crawley High Street, the South Downs and eventually the Madeira Drive seafront in Brighton.
First away from Hyde Park was a Peugeot Type 3 dating back to the dawn of motoring in 1893. Hailing from the Turin Motor Museum, it is believed to be the first car to have been driven on Italian roads. Other early starters included the crowd-pleasing 1896 Salvesen Steam Cart – basically a steam locomotive running on the road complete with stoker shoveling coal into the boiler’s fiery furnace plus an evocative choo choo steam whistle – and a number of primitive motorised tricycles complete with riders and passengers regaled in period costumes.
Thereafter followed a staggering variety of antique machinery dating back to the era of innovative and experimental vehicles – some petrol powered, others propelled by steam and electricity; some fitted with steering-wheels, others with naval inspired tillers and helms.
Le Bon was equally enthusiastic and enthralled, saying:
“I absolutely loved it,” she beamed at the finish. “I was grinning from ear to ear, even in the few more gripping moments that we had. The car behaved beautifully. The crowds were just astonishing – I had no idea quite how many people come out, but I’m delighted that they do to see these incredible vehicles all together on the road. It’s an extraordinary sight. What’s more, I was doing the Run for a wonderful cause – men should definitely be talking together more about health issues and taking charge of their wellbeing.”
Ninety Per Cent
Success was the order of the day, as nearly ninety per cent of the starters made it to Brighton before the 4.30pm deadline to claim a coveted finishers’ medal – just 44 of the starters failing to reach the sea front. The first car home was the 1901 Oldsmobile of Andres Melkus from Austria arriving on Madeira Drive. Next across the line was Tom Loder driving a 1900 Stephens.
While the Run is famously not a race, the increasingly popular Regularity Time Trial does provide a competitive element. More than 320 entrants, more than ever before, elected to take part in the Trial by attempting to keep to a strict average speed for the stretch between Crawley and Burgess Hill. The winner was Paul Kelling in an Oldsmobile who covered the 13 miles at an average speed of 12.05mph compared to his 12mph target.
Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club, said:
“It has been another exceptional Run in this quite remarkable event. The split route out of London definitely alleviated the traffic problems of the past, and it has been a real pleasure to complete the Run today.
“The weather has been kind this year, which makes a big difference for these types of extraordinary vehicles, and I have seen lots of happy smiley faces amongst our participants.
“I would just like to thank all the people that have come together to make this such a special event. Thanks must go to the marshals all the way down the route that continue to make it a real pleasure to drive this event, those at Goose Live Events who run the event on behalf of the Royal Automobile Club, plus the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain particularly in dating these cars and making sure of their authenticity.
“My final thank you is to the spectators who have lined the route. It is such a fantastic family event and it is great to see people of all ages enjoying themselves in the autumnal sunshine.”
As in recent years, the Bonhams Veteran Car Run supported by Hiscox provided a fitting finale to the Royal Automobile Club’s busy London Motor Week – during which the Club presented an array of functions and events.
The penultimate event in the week was the free-to-view Illinois Route 66 Regent Street Motor Show, on Saturday 3 November, which turned London’s flagship shopping street into a motoring showcase that put the spotlight on veterans and moderns alike and attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors.