Veteran car drivers won’t be stopping for a Croydon cuppa

As celebrities, such as Chris Evans, the new presenter of Top Gear, sports stars and minor royals get themselves ready for tomorrow’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Rally, Inside Croydon has heard from one disgruntled south London  trader who has been told by the organisers, the Royal Automobile Club, that they would have to pay a fee if they want to stage their usual car run brunch.

TV presenter Chris Evans will be driving a vintage bus in tomorrow's London to Brighton Rally. But he won't be stopping for a cuppa in Croydon

TV presenter Chris Evans will be driving a vintage bus in tomorrow’s London to Brighton Rally. But he won’t be stopping for a cuppa in Croydon

Kingham’s is an award-winning car dealership in South Croydon, whose forecourts are close to the Brighton Road route used by the historic event.

For years, they offered some modest hospitality – bacon rolls and tea or coffee – to their customers, and for some of the passing rally drivers, too, if the old jalopies needed to stop.

But Kingham’s felt forced to halt the practice last year and won’t be holding their event tomorrow, after they were contacted by the organisers and effecively were told what they could, or could not do, outside their own property.

A spokesman for the organisers today told Inside Croydon, “We absolutely encourage everyone to celebrate the event and support the participants along the route. But what we won’t allow is for people to stage road-side events for commercial purposes.”

The spokesman for the rally, which is sponsored by West End auction house Bonham’s, said that they prefer the rally participants only to use the official halfway refreshments stop. Which is sponsored, commercially, by Knightsbridge department store Harrod’s.

Kingham’s Veteran Car Run brunch never charged for its food and drink, but with recent alterations to the rally’s traditional route and the organisers’ apparent disapproval, they felt they had no alternative but to end their annual roadside party. Apart from creating some goodwill, Kingham’s are thought never to have sold as much as a spark plug at their brunch.

Andrew Pelling, a councillor for Waddon ward, through which the route passes, said, “The Veteran Car Run is a long-standing tradition in Croydon. But stopping people in Waddon and central Croydon from seeing the cars stopped briefly, so they see them up close, is a negative effect of an attempt to commercialise the event.

“Kingham’s always acted in a community manner, for the participants and for local residents, so it is a great pity that after many years this local business feels forced to stop hosting their road-side event under pressure from the rally organisers, in favour of their big-money, West End sponsors.”

The rally has been an annual fixture in Croydon life since 1927, apart from during World War II and petrol rationing. It sets off from Hyde Park before dawn tomorrow, with cars driving down the old Brighton Road through Norbury and Thornton Heath, through South Croydon and on to Purley and Coulsdon from around 7.30am until about 11am.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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