The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run is the longest-running motoring event in the world. More than 400 pioneering veteran cars (built before 1905), their drivers and passengers gathered in Hyde Park on Sunday 5 November waiting for daybreak to signal the start of the annual Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run supported by Hiscox.
Participants headed off for a nostalgic drive to the Sussex coast, where I was waiting to photograph them cross the finishing line to the rapturous cheers and applause of the crowds at Madeira Drive, Brighton.
This year the Run featured the largest entry in recent years, staged as it has been since 1930, by the Royal Automobile Club. The route this year took a detour to avoid the roadworks in Brixton as the map below shows.
Although a number of cars were diverted following a road traffic accident involving one of the participating vehicles, 315 of the 401 starters made it to Brighton to claim a coveted finishers’ medal before sunset at 4.30pm.
This year's Veteran Car Run marked 121 years since the original 'Emancipation Run', which was held in 1896 to celebrate the Locomotive on the Highway Act. This raised the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ from 4 to 14 mph and abolished the need for a man to walk ahead waving a red flag to warn pedestrians and horse riders of its approach. The event’s ceremonial start includes the tearing in half of one such red flag, a poignant reminder of the liberation we commemorate on this annual ‘Emancipation Run'.
I particularly enjoy photographing this annual event because of the atmosphere and the fascinating history associated with each car, I have included some of the histories to accompany a few of the photographs from the day.
The maximum speed the cars can travel is 20 mph, the first car above, to cross the finishing line at 10.45am - number 111, a 1902 Oldsmobile, 1 cylinder 4.5 HP driven by Andreas Melkus from Austria.
Not far behind, above in car number 034, Robert Abery driving an 1899 Daimler, 2 cylinders 8 HP and car number 150 driven by Jiri Horice a 1902 Autocar, 2 cylinders 10 HP.
In all, 23 countries are represented in an entry list, which includes 34 new participants on the Run, while a further 18 have returned after missing the 2016 event.
John Dennis driving the car above number 125, knows exactly where he was on Sunday, 1 November 1959, he knows exactly where he was on Sunday, 6 November 1960, too.
In fact, he can pinpoint where he was on the first Sunday of November of every year, ever since - bar one year in the 1990s, when he was in America on a business trip. On the first Sunday of every November, Dennis has been behind the wheel of his veteran car, making his way from London to Brighton.
Not just any veteran car either, but one made by his grandfather’s company 115 years ago. It’s a 1902 Dennis Tonneau, 1 cylinder 8 HP, built by the Guildford-based Dennis Brothers, a company better known today for its buses, trucks and fire appliances. This year, John Dennis OBE drove the same car – registered P 26 – for the 58th time on the annual Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. The car however, will be on its 66th Run, having completed eight Runs with John’s father at the wheel in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
John and two other drivers who have taken part in 50 or more Runs are to be given special Gold Medals by the Royal Automobile Club in recognition of their remarkable achievements. John will be joined at the ceremony by John Kemsley and John Newens below driving car number 312, his 1904 Star, 2 cylinders 7 HP - who have participated in 50 and 61 Runs respectively.
Passenger, Charley Boorman TV presenter, travel writer and actor with driver Damon Hill OBE, British former racing driver, above in a 1904 Rover, 1 cylinder 8 HP from the British Motor Musem.
Above photograph of Malcolm Barber Co-Chairman of the Bonhams Group, driving car number 260 a 1903 Peerless, 2 cylinder 16 HP.
Guy Middleton above, has been the proud owner of car number 218, a 1903 Wolseley Tonneau, 2 cylinders 7.5 HP for the past seven years, and his father before him the owner since 1984.
Guy has taken part in the Run on and off since 1983 as a passenger, he then completed a series of Runs in a single cylinder Bare as the driver.
I asked him to share any special memories about any of the Runs, this is his reply: "The first Run we had a puncture in Croydon High Street. Fortunately, we had inner tubes, a jack and some tyre levers and when we got going again we received an amazing round of applause for changing a tyre in about half an hour! A few Runs later we hired mobile phones (the ones that look like a brick with a rat tail), we had to keep it in the umbrella basket!"
I was also curious to know if he owns any other cars, and if so which was his favourite and why, Guy explained: "No, this is the only one and I have to look after it. We used it on our wedding day, to go from the church to our reception, so it does have a lot of great memories. At one point we had three cars in the Run, including my mother in a 1901 Baker electric. I shall wait and see if my daughters get the bug!"
Guy above, driving with his friends.
Ms Quirina Louwman above with her children and with her father driving 'Genevieve' their 1904 Darracq, 2 cylinders 12 HP, from the Louwman Museum in the Netherlands.
This car was the star of the 1953 British comedy film 'Genevieve' - about two couples who took part in the Run. Always a pleasure to see 'Genevieve' and her faithful occupants at the Run!
Above a 1901 De Dion, 1 cylinder 4.5 HP driven by Jerome Stevens.
Following the Run were 60 auction winners who bid for a seat on one of three vintage buses.
The 60 Go Bonkers to Brighton auction was organised by BBC Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans to raise money for BBC Children in Need. In the three years Children in Need has been involved in the Run, more than £741,000 has been raised for the charity. Many congratulations to them for raising much-needed funds for such a worthy cause!
Above Chris Evans, seen here with Pudsey Bear, drove one of the busses - the passengers were the auction winners who bid for a seat to raise money for BBC Children in Need.
Above presenter Alex Jones from BBC One, The One Show driving one of the 1950s Bedford coaches.
(Photograph supplied by MPA Creative)
Although the Run is not a race, in recent years the Chopard Regularity Trial has introduced an additional interesting element to the Run.
The Regularity Time Trial starts halfway through the Run after participants have regrouped at the Crawley half-way checkpoint. The Time Trial starts at Crawley High Street and finishes 13 miles later at another checkpoint at Burgess Hill in Sussex.
Before the Run, each entrant will nominate the average speed they think they will maintain over the 13 miles – the options are 8 mph, 10 mph, 12 mph, 14 mph, 16 mph and 18 mph. If no speed is nominated, the default average speed is set at 12 mph. The car and driver that gets closest to its nominated average speed wins the watch.
This year’s winner of a Chopard Mille Miglia Chronograph, worth £4,900 is Ymer Sletter, who opted for a 12 mph average between the two points and came closest to his nominated speed. Driving a Cadillac dating back to 1904 shown in the photograph above (supplied), Sletter’s actual speed for the allocated section in the Sussex Downs was an amazing 12.01 mph.
The crowds gathered to cheer and applaud the participants and their wonderful array of veteran cars on a sunny, but chilly Sunday.
Above, an 1899 steam Locomobile, 2 cylinders 3.5 HP driven by Kempton Moody finished just before sunset.
Safely back on the trailer and homeward bound!
Thanks for reading, I'm already looking forward to Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run 2018!
To view more photographs from the day please follow this link to my website. I'll be back soon with more news in the next week or so.
Bye for now.