Thousands of spectators will line the route of the annual London to Brighton Run Veteran Car Run, which starts at dawn on Sunday
It’s time to put the spanners down and for the fettling to stop: the world’s longest running motoring event is about to begin.
On Sunday (2 November) no fewer than 440 veteran cars – some 34 more than in 2013 – will line up in Hyde Park ready to tackle the Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.
As tradition dictates, the first car will set off on the 60-mile trip to the coast as dawn breaks… regardless of what the weather is doing. Very few of the veterans offer any protection against the elements, showing that the pioneer motorists were a hardy bunch.
As well as petrol-powered cars there will be veterans powered by steam and, proving there’s nothing new under the sun, even some battery-powered electric vehicles. Open to cars built in 1904 or earlier, all the entries are at least 110 years old.
But some are a great deal older: the oldest is a Panhard et Levassor from around 1892, built just seven years after Karl Benz invented his ‘Patent Motor Wagen’. Some 36 of the cars taking part were built before 1900.
The vast majority of the entries – some 336 cars – come from the United Kingdom but this is a truly international event with entries from all over the globe, including the United States, Hong Kong, Canada, Sweden, Denmark and Australia. Europe is well represented with cars from Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, the Channel Islands, Ireland, Monaco, Spain and Switzerland.
Leading the European charge, however, is France with no fewer than 23 entries. These include a couple of very famous motoring names, Peugeot and Panhard… names that appear not just on radiator grilles but also in the driving seats.
Descendants from both companies will be driving to Brighton: Thierry Peugeot will be on a 1904 Peugeot while Robert Panhard will be steering the 1892 Panhard et Levassor.
Other famous names taking part include former Grand Prix team owner Ross Brawn, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, MP Robert Goodwill, Olympic gold medallists Sir Ben Ainslie and Sir Steve Redgrave, Jonathan Montagu from Beaulieu and TV baker Paul Hollywood.
Though there are some familiar names on the entry list – Vauxhall, Renault, Mercedes, Ford and Fiat, to name a few – there are many long forgotten marques, too, sometimes represented by the only known survivor. The most numerically popular marque is De Dion Bouton with 70 entries.
Uniquely, the Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run is a free to view event. Spectators line the entire 60-mile route ready to cheer on the cars and their hardy passengers.
This year, after leaving Hyde Park, the route heads down Constitution Hill, past Buckingham Palace and down The Mall, before turning right onto Horse Guards Road and then left to cross Westminster Bridge. The first cars will leave at sunrise, 6.56am, with the last car leaving just before 8:30am.
The next major checkpoint on the route is the Harrods Stop at Crawley in West Sussex where a break is organised. The first cars should arrive at around 8.45am and will head for a welcome weather protected paddock inside the local Honda dealership on London Road.
The traditional finish is on Brighton’s Madeira Drive on the seafront, with the first cars expected at just after 10am with the event officially closing at 4.30pm.
The Run is the culmination of three days of motoring activity in the capital: Friday 31 October marks the annual Bonhams Veteran Car auction while many of the London to Brighton stars take part in the annual Regent Street Motor Show on Saturday (1 November).
Veteran Car fever is also taking over the TV airwaves. Motors TV is broadcasting its review of the 2013 event at various times on 30 October, and on 01, 02, 03, 06 and 14 November.
“The Bonhams Veteran Car Run is a remarkable event. It salutes the bravery and ingenuity of those pioneering motorists… many of the participants will experience the same technical issues their forebears faced and making it to Brighton in cars that are well over 100 years old can be considered a real achievement,” said Ben Cussons, Motoring Committee Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club.
The Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run celebrates the original Emancipation Run, held on 14 November 1896, and which marked the Locomotives on the Highway Act. This landmark Act raised the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ from 4 to 14mph and abolished the need for a man walking ahead of the cars waving a red flag.
The first re-enactment of the Emancipation Run took place in 1927 and has taken place every year since, with the exception of the war years and 1947 when petrol rationing was in force.
The Run is the highlight of a long weekend of motoring nostalgia in the capital, much it of it free to view. Other events include the popular free Regent Street Motor Show (Saturday, 1 November) and the annual Bonhams Veteran Car auction (Friday 31 October).