One of the great celebrations of eccentric British life will be pottering through Croydon early tomorrow morning.
More than 400 veteran cars, their drivers and passengers – many in period costume – will have set off from Hyde Park at 7am for the splendid spectacle that is the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.
The A23 is the stage for this celebration of pioneering engineering, with vehicles all dating from before 1905 trundling their way to the coast, through Norbury, Thornton Heath, along Roman Way and under the Croydon Flyover, on to South Croydon, Purley and chugging into Coulsdon.
The event, which is sponsored by auction house Bonhams and supported by Hiscox, comprises an array of eye-catching antiques of the road, with some three- and four-wheelers, mostly petrol-driven but including 14 powered by steam, and even a pair of pioneering electric vehicles.
With the vehicles setting off one-by-one from central London, by the time they’ve chuntered up Brixton Hill and begin to arrive in Croydon, they will be coming down a road near you thick and fast.
Cars are expected to arrive on Norbury High Street from around 7.25am, with the last vehicles expected to pass through by 9.45am.
The timings of the procession reaching Coulsdon are from 7.35 to 11am.
Detailed maps of the route through Croydon are available in pdf format here:
Of course, some vehicles may have to make brief stops along the route, but the scheduled stopping points nearby are at the Honda showrooms at Redhill (from 8am), and at the halfway checkpoint in Crawley (8.20am to 2pm).
There is a celebration of motoring being staged today on Regent Street, at which many of the Veteran Car Run vehicles are also on display.
The cars include many makes familiar to today’s motorist: Renault, Peugeot, Daimler, Mercedes and Benz. But there are also plenty of long forgotten marques, too: Mors, De Dion Bouton, Colliot, Purtian and Milwaukee.
The London to Brighton is the largest free-to-view motoring event in the world.
Among the celebrities driving cars on the run or going along for the ride will be Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason and TV’s Edd China, while Ross Brawn and Eddie Jordan will be swapping the high octane world of Formula 1 for a more sedate form of motoring. Jodie Kidd will be taking the wheel of Harrods’ veteran Pope Waverley, while BBC stars Chris Evans, Alex Jones and Ken Bruce will be following the Run in vintage buses, raising funds for BBC Children in Need.
One four-wheeled star is Genevieve, the 1904 Darracq that was the eponymous lead in the 1953 film comedy about the Run.
“I hope you don’t mind me addressing you without an introduction, sir, but a Darracq, sir! My word!”
It is 120 years since the Houses of Parliament, one of the landmarks along the route, saw the passing of the Locomotives on the Highway Act. This raised the speed limit for “light locomotives” from 4mph to 14mph and abolished the need for the vehicles to be preceded by a man carrying a red flag.
The passing of the Act was celebrated by the first “Emancipation Run” when 30 cars travelled from London to Brighton. It was held on November 14 1896, the very day the Act came into law.
For more details of the event visit www.veterancarrun.com
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