Nearly 400 veteran cars, drivers and passengers gathered in Hyde Park on Sunday (4 November) waiting for daybreak to signal the start of the Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run supported by Hiscox.
It’s 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 tearing of the red flag – a ritual pre-dawn feat this year performed by Yasmin Le Bon.
Then, at 06:59am sunrise, the first of the pre-1905 horseless carriages were flagged away. They made 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 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 cavalcade reunited as it headed to the 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.
The Run enjoys worldwide participation and attracts huge crowds along the entire route. Among this year’s entries were cars from Argentina, Australia, Hong Kong, and South Africa as well as 21 from the United States.
In total, 117 different marques ranging from Achilles (built in Frome, Somerset) to Yale (from Toledo in Ohio, US) were represented on this year’s Run – some, like Cadillac, Renault and Mercedes, still well-known today, but the vast majority lost to history.
In total, nearly ninety per cent of the starters made it to Brighton before the 4.30pm deadline to claim a 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.
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.’