LONDON, England – At dawn on November 6 London’s Hyde Park will look like the set of a period movie with families in strange clothes and cars made a at least a century earlier being driven or parked all over the place.
From 6am, 426 veteran cars, their drivers and their passengers – many in period costume – will be lining up to ‘putt-putt’ their way to the holiday town of Brighton on the English south coast as the annual London-to-Brighton Veteran Car Run gets under way.
And an hour later, after the and the traditional tearing-up of the red flag which once-upon-a-time in England had to carried by a man ahead of an automobile, the three- and four-wheelers, mostly petrol-driven but including 14 powered by steam and a few pioneering electric vehicles, all built before 1905, will set off for the 120th drive to the coast.
Some of the makes represented – Renault, Peugeot, Daimler, Mercedes and Benz – will still be familiar today but many others will not: De Dion Bouton, Colliot, Purtian and Milwaukee but a few.
‘GENEVIEVE’ ON ROAD AGAIN
The 2016 event is the largest free-to-view annual motoring event in the world: hundreds of thousands of spectators will line the route. Those aboard the cars this year will include Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason while Ross Brawn and Eddie Jordan will be swopping the high-octane world of Formula 1 for a much slower form of motoring.
Jodie Kidd will be at the wheel of Harrods’ veteran Pope Waverley; BBC stars Chris Evans, Alex Jones and Ken Bruce will be following the run in vintage buses to raising money for BBC Children in Need.
One four-wheeled star will be Genevieve, the 1904 Darracq used in the 1953 film comedy about the event; this year’s event will be 130th anniversary of the ‘birth’ of the first automobile, the 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen.
From Hyde Park, from where the last cars will leave at about 8.15am, the veterans wil head down Constitution Hill, passing Buckingham Palace, before turning right onto Horse Guards Road and then left on to Birdcage Walk towards Westminster Bridge.
HALF-WAY PAUSE FOR ‘FETTLING’
From there they’ll pass the Houses of Parliament where, 120 years earlier, the Locomotives on the Highway Acts was passed to raise the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ from walking pace to 22km/h and abolished that requirement for a man and a red flag.
The passing of the Act was celebrated by the first ‘Emancipation Run’ when 30 cars travelled from London to Brighton on November 14 1896, the day the Act came into operation.
Leaving London along the A23 through Lambeth, Norbury, Croydon and Redhill, the cars will head for the Honda dealer in Gatwick, about halfway on the 87km route, and pause for the veterans to be fettled, legs to be stretched.
The first car is expected to reach the Brighton beachfront around 10am, the last around 4.30pm.
IT’S ALL PART OF ANNUAL ‘MOTOR WEEK’
Peter Read, chairman of the Royal Automobile Club’s motoring committee, told The Corner in a media release: “Being part of this wonderful cavalcade of 400+ veteran cars is an incredibly special privilege.”
The run is but one element of the RAC’s London Motor Week – a seven-day celebration of motoring that will include an art exhibition, motoring lectures, a motoring forum and a motoring book awards evening.
The penultimate event in the week will be a free-to-view Regent Street Motor Show which will turn London’s premier shopping street into a motoring showroom.
For more details of the event visit the Veteran Car Club’s website.