The clocks went back by an hour on Sunday, but this weekend they will be going back more than 125 years as hundreds of veteran cars set off from London on their annual pilgrimage to Brighton, and all of them with be pootling along a road near you.
It’s the RAC London to Brighton Veteran Car Rally this Sunday, the world’s longest-running motoring event which provides a glimpse at a slice of living history on the high roads through Norbury and Thornton Heath, South Croydon and Purley, and on to Coulsdon and the south coast. At least one residents’ association – Norbury Green – is organising a bit of a roadside get-together to mark the occasion.
This year will see an extraordinary entry of more than 400 cars, every one of them having been built before 1905. They will leave Hyde Park as dawn breaks for their 60-mile drive from the capital to the coast.
The Veteran Car Run dates back to 1927. It was founded to commemorate the Emancipation Run of 1896, which celebrated motorists’ new-found freedom by the repeal of the Red Flag Act. This abolished the need for motor vehicles to have a man carrying a red flag walking ahead of the cars whenever they were being driven, and it saw the speed limit increased to a death-defying… 14mph.
Clearly, in our more enlightened times, and as some of us try to cope with the environmental impact of the infernal combustion engine, the consequences of such law changes might be seen in a different context. But let’s not get all Lewis Hamilton (and he’s burned more than his share of carbon fuels in his time).
The London to Brighton rally is a spectacular and impressive display of Victorian and Edwardian era engineering.
From 6am a wonderful gathering of veteran cars, their drivers and their passengers – many dressed in period costume – will be preparing for their annual trip down memory lane.
Some of the makes represented – Fiat, Renault, Peugeot, Daimler, Vauxhall, Mercedes and Benz – will be familiar. But there are plenty of long-forgotten car makes there, too: Daley, Napoleon, Yale, Durkopp, Maxim, Star, Lambert and Gladiator feature among the entrants.
As ever, the historic event’s unique charisma has attracted a number of star cars and well-known personalities and among this year’s notable machines is Britain’s oldest Fiat, a splendid four-seater vis-à-vis bodied model which will be helping the illustrious Italian company to celebrate its 120th anniversary.
According to the event’s press release, “TV personality and classic car enthusiast Alan Titchmarsh” will be fulfilling a lifetime ambition when driving a 1902 Mors, while fellow TV presenter and motoring guru, Fuzz Townshend (Who he? Ed) , will be behind the wheel of the National Motor Museum’s meticulously prepared 1904 De Dion Bouton.
Three- and four-wheelers – mostly petrol-driven but with eight vehicles powered by steam, plus a quartet of pioneering electric vehicles including a 1901 Waverley owned by Harrods, are also among the glittering parade of vintage cars.
With sun rise at 6.56am, it means that the first vehicles are expected to reach Streatham Common, at the northernmost end of Croydon on their A23 route, not long after 7am.
After leaving Hyde Park and this year crossing the Thames over Lambeth Bridge, the cars split along two routes into south London, with half of the field following the A23 through Kennington, Brixton and Streatham while the other half will take the A3, A24, A217 and A236 over Clapham Common and then through Tooting and Mitcham.
The two routes merge on the A236 at the roundabout just past Mitcham Common, meaning that for most of the route through Croydon (down the A236 Roman Way, through Old Town, under the Flyover, down to South End and on towards Purley), spectators lining the road can see all of the cars.
The organisers have suggested the following locations as popular viewing points:
7.05 am – 9.15 am: Streatham Common
7.35 am – 11.00 am: Croydon – A236, A235 and A23
9.56 am – 4.30 pm: Brighton – Madeira Drive
“Seeing all these lovingly maintained cars is more than a spectacle,” said Miles Wade, the club secretary of the Royal Automobile Club. “It’s a piece of living history.”
The Veteran Car Run is a Royal Automobile Club event sponsored by Bonhams. and is the final act in the Club’s annual London Motor Week, which also includes the Regent Street Motor Show on Saturday N,ovember 2.
For more information on London Motor Week visit www.londonmotorweek.co.uk. Full details of the 2019 Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run are available on the event website at www.veterancarrun.com.
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