Growing up in Croydon, south London in the 1950/60s had a few perks. One was the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run which passed through the town along the main A23 London to Brighton Road.
As snotty nosed kids (and we were, especially in November) still getting their kicks from playing marbles with not a electronic game in sight, the Run was a highlight and we cycled madly across town to see the cars chug pass. Or not. This was before the classic car industry became as professional as it is today, and often the cars were little changed from when they were first made. It’s slightly disconcerting to think that in 1960, many of the cars were ‘only’ 56-57 years old. Now, of course, they’re nearing twice that.
Anyway, these days the world’s longest running motoring event is sponsored by Bonhams. It’s being staged this Sunday, 5 November 2017, and there’s a huge entry of more than 450 horseless carriages. They’ll leave Hyde Park as dawn breaks with a 60-mile drive ahead down to Brighton on the south coast.
The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run dates back to 1927, and was founded to commemorate the Emancipation Run of 1896, which celebrated the new-found freedom of motorists granted by the ‘repeal of the Red Flag Act.’ The Act raised the speed limit to 14mph and abolished the need for a man carrying a red flag to walk ahead of the cars whenever they were being driven.
This year, the Run has a French theme in honour of the country’s contribution to motoring’s early days – in 1903, for example, France built 30,000 cars, more than half of the world’s total production in that year. Almost half of this year’s entry are of French-built cars, and include an 1893 Peugeot Type 14 – the oldest vehicle on the Run and the first car to have been driven on Italian roads.
Due to on-going road works in Brixton, this year’s Run will take a slightly different route out of London. After leaving Hyde Park, the veterans will drive down the Mall past Buckingham Palace, before heading down Horse Guards Parade on the way to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. It will then cross the Thames at Westminster Bridge before heading towards Stockwell, Clapham Common, Balham and Morden rather than Brixton and Croydon.
On leaving London, the Run will take in Banstead, Tolworth and Reigate before re-joining the traditional route at Redhill. From here it heads to a spectator-friendly halfway halt at Crawley High Street.
Crawley High Street marks an important stage on the Run as it’s the start of the Chopard Regularity Time Trial, the only competitive element of the event. Finishing 13 miles away in Burgess Hill, the Regularity Time Trail requires drivers to get as close to a chosen average speed as possible with a Chopard Mille Miglia Chronograph, worth £4,950, awaiting the Trial winner.
After Burgess Hill, the Run tackles yet more scenic but demanding Sussex roads, passing through Hassocks and Clayton where it joins the A23 for the run into Brighton and the finish at Madeira Drive.
Aside from the start – the first car will be flagged away from Hyde Park at 7.03am precisely – timings are approximate, but the first cars are expected at the Crawley halt from 8.15am with the last leaving by 2.00pm. The first car is due at the Madeira Drive finish at shortly after 10am while to be sure of a finishers’ medal, participants need to make it to the finish before 4.30pm.
Good viewing points:
7.03 am – 8.15 am: Constitution Hill, London
7.03 am – 8.15 am: The Mall, London
7.03 am – 8.15 am: Horse Guards Parade, London
7.10 am – 8.20 am: Westminster Bridge, London
7.10 am – 9.15 am: Clapham Common, London
8.20 am – 2.05 pm: Handcross – The Red Lion, High Street, B2110
8.25 am – 2.10 pm: Staplefield, B2114 – The Jolly Tanners, RH17 6EF and The Victory Inn, RH17 6EU
8.45 am – 2.30 pm: Cuckfield High Street, B2036
10.00 am – 4.25 pm: Brighton – St Peters Church, York Place, BN1 4GU
The Veteran Car Run is organised by the Royal Automobile Club and is the final act in the Club’s annual London Motor Week – seven days filled with an array of functions and events to suit all motoring tastes.
For more information on London Motor Week and the Veteran Car Run, visit www.londonmotorweek.co.uk