London to Brighton Veteran Car Run build-up begins
From before sunrise on Sunday, 5 November, London’s Hyde Park will be full of the sights, sounds and smells of the dawn of motoring, as 400 intrepid drivers ready themselves and their pioneering machines for the annual RM Sotheby’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.
Then, following the symbolic tearing up of the red flag, as the sun rises at 7:00am all the participants will set off on the historic 60-mile journey to the Sussex coast.
First away this year will be two very special movie star cars. It is now exactly 70 years since the BAFTA-winning film Genevieve first hit the silver screens and, to mark that milestone, the eponymously named Darracq and the Spyker from the much-loved comedy caper have been reunited specially for this year’s Run.
Behind them the evocative field of two-, three- and four-wheelers will all head south through Wellington Arch. The majority of the pre-1905 pioneers are petrol-driven but include a few powered by steam, and even some very early electric vehicles! Moreover, with an eye on the future, this year increasing numbers of the veterans are running on sustainable biofuels.
Some of the 100+ makes represented such as Chevrolet, Ford, Renault, Peugeot and Mercedes will be familiar to today’s motorists. But there are plenty of long forgotten marques too: Mors, De Dion Bouton, Covert, Alldays and Gladiator to name but a few.
The oldest car lining up in Hyde Park – and thus one of the first to leave – is a plucky Peugeot dating back to around 1892, entered by The National Automobile Museum in Turin, Italy. More than 50 of this year’s entries hail from Europe, while others are travelling from America, Hong Kong and Australia to be part of this world-famous occasion.
Adding to the spectacle, a number of veteran cycles and motorcycles are also now invited to join the Run. This includes eye-catching penny-farthings and the legendary 1903 Dreadnought, hailed as the first motorbike built for competition.
From Hyde Park, the traditional starting point since 1936, the veterans head down Constitution Hill, passing Buckingham Palace and on to The Mall, before making their way under Admiralty Arch and into Trafalgar Square. They then turn right on to Whitehall, skirting The Cenotaph, towards Westminster Square.
Once there, the veterans pass Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament – where 127 years ago the Locomotives on the Highway Act was passed. 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 issuing of the Act was celebrated by the first ‘Emancipation Run’ when 30 cars travelled from London to Brighton. It was held on 14th November 1896, the very day the Act came into operation, and it is that original capital-to-coast escapade that the Run honours to this very day.
This year the entire field will cross Westminster Bridge, just as Genevieve and the Spyker did 70 years ago. Once across the Thames, the route splits into two with half taking the traditional A23 direction via Kennington, Brixton and Streatham. The other half travels along Albert Embankment before heading across Clapham Common and on through Tooting and Mitcham.
The two routes merge once again on the A236 north of Croydon with all cars reunited as they head south through Surrey and towards Crawley for the official halfway halt at The Hawth Theatre.
Although there’s no public access to the CARS-supported Pit Stop at The Hawth, there will be ample opportunity for spectators in Crawley to get close to the veterans along the town’s Boulevard.
Once refreshed, the crews and cars will then head over the scenic South Downs towards the finishing line on Brighton’s Madeira Drive. The first vehicles are expected to arrive shortly after 10.00am and their occupants will receive a hard-earned hot toddy courtesy of Aberfeldy single malt whisky. To be sure of a coveted finishers’ medal, participants need to make it to the seafront before the 4.30pm dusk curfew.
There are no special prizes for those reaching Brighton first because the Run is not a race. However, to entertain participants, there is the A. Lange & Söhne Timepiece Trail between Croydon and Redhill, with prizes for the most correct answers spotted along the way.
Aside from the paddocks at Hyde Park and Madeira Drive, the organisers have suggested the following locations as popular viewing points:
6:50am Ceremonial Tearing of Red Flag, Hyde Park, London
7:00am The Start, Hyde Park, London
7:00am – 8:45am Constitution Hill, London
7:00am – 8:45am The Mall, London
7:10am – 9:00am Whitehall, London
7:10am – 9:00am Westminster Bridge, London
7:10am – 9:00am Lambeth Palace, London
7:20am – 9:20am Clapham Common, London
7:25am – 9:50am Mitcham, London
7:35am – 11:05am Coulsdon High Street, London
7:40am – 11:05am Merstham, Surrey
7:55am – 11:35am Redhill, Surrey
8:10am – 2:00pm The Boulevard, Crawley, West Sussex
8:25am – 2:10pm Handcross High Street, West Sussex
8:30am – 2:25pm Staplefield village, West Sussex
8:50am – 2:35pm Cuckfield High Street, West Sussex
10:00pm – 4:25pm Brighton, West Sussex
“There is nothing else like the RM Sotheby’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run,” explained Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club, organiser since 1930 of what’s become the world’s longest-established motoring event since 1930. “Now in its 127th year, it is an extraordinary showcase celebrating the introduction of motorised transport, and the pleasures and freedoms that the new technology introduced.
“2023 marks 70 years of the film Genevieve, which follows two couples participating in the London to Brighton in a Darracq – the titular Genevieve – and a Spyker. Thanks to the Louwman Museum in the Netherlands, we are delighted to welcome both cars back to the Run this year. They will be a glorious and evocative sight to look out for on the road,” enthused Cussons who will be driving a 1901 Mors (reg RAC 1) entered by the Royal Automobile Club.
“Here we are on the eve of another fantastic RM Sotheby’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, which I am certain everyone taking part is going to relish,” said Peter Wallman, Chairman, UK and EMEA, RM Sotheby’s. “Above all, last year’s relentless rain proved that veteran car owners and enthusiasts are a hardy community. Let’s hope for better weather this time around.”
The Run is just one element of the Royal Automobile Club’s London Motor Week – a seven-day celebration of all things motoring, which includes the Motoring Lectures, the 10th anniversary Motoring Book of the Year Awards and the Art of Motoring Exhibition, which is taking place at the Iconic Images Gallery, a stone’s throw from Pall Mall. More information is available on the Club’s website and social media, and at www.theartofmotoring.co.uk.
Two other highlights are the prestigious RM Sotheby’s London Sale and the free-to-view St James’s International Concours, both taking place right in the heart of regal Westminster on Saturday, 4 November, the eve of the Run. The former is set in the grounds of Marlborough House and the latter is close by – right outside St James’s Palace on Marlborough Road, which links Pall Mall to The Mall.