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2015 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run (copyright image)

The 1901 De Dion Bouton owned from new by the Gresham family on the 2014 London to Brighton Run. (copyright image)

The 1901 De Dion Bouton in its early years.

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16th August, 2015

  • Annual event: this year the event is being held Sunday 1st November

Each of the 450 remarkable vehicles that enter the UK's annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run has its own extraordinary tale to tell.

Some of these venerable machines dating back to the dawn of motoring have been passed down through generations, continuing long-running family traditions; others have been rescued from automotive graveyards all around the globe and restored especially to follow the iconic trail from central London to the Sussex coast.

The family tradition is being firmly upheld by the 1901 De Dion Bouton (pictured) owned by James Gresham which was purchased when new by his grandfather. A slightly more ‘modern’ De Dion Bouton dating back to 1903 has faithfully transported no fewer than four generations of the Clough family from Hyde Park to Madeira Drive. It seems the Run is part of the Clough mindset as the latest in the lineage, Xavier, completed his first Run when aged just six-weeks-old!

Not all pre-1905 cars have been quite so treasured but somehow they have stood the test of time having received attention in more recent times. One example is the 1902 Delahaye entered into this year’s Run by Dr. Dan Suskin. This car found derelict under a pile of apple boxes in rural Normandy and, though still in its original ownership, had been unused for nearly 80 years. Ivan Odds’ stylish 1903 Clement is another example of a car that previously suffered some neglect having come to light as little more than a pile of bits on the Isle of Wight. Martin Tacon’s 1903 Humber trike was discovered languishing in a Norfolk chicken farm by his father, before being meticulously restored in time for its first Run back in 1951. Then there is the 1903 Peugeot owned by Dr. Ken Butcher which was chanced upon in an even more unlikely hideaway – the smart two-seater had been dismantled, put into packaging cases and stored under the dusty floorboards of a London house. These cars are now regular sights on the world’s longest-running motoring event and will take their place at the start in Hyde Park on 1st November.

Incredibly, at least two of the veterans embarking on this year’s extraordinary 60-mile spectacle to Brighton were among the first participants partaking in the inaugural revival which took place back in 1927. It was then that 37 vehicles set off on the hallowed route from London to Brighton to commemorate the very first Emancipation Run that had famously taken place on a wet Saturday on the 14th November in 1896. That original journey – still followed to this very day – had been in celebration of the passing of new laws raising the speed limit to 14mph and removing the need for an escort carrying a red flag to walk 60 yards in front of any powered locomotive.

One of these cars was Dick Sheppard’s 1901 Panhard et Levassor which successfully completed the so-called 1927 ‘Old Crocks Race'; this well-engineered French car had originally been built specifically for Chevalier Rene de Knyff – he was a racing car driver of the day, as well as a director of the Panhard Company. The light blue 7hp tonneau-bodied French machine was subsequently named ‘Le Papillon Bleu’ by the daughter of its second owner, Leslie Bucknall and, later in its life, was the first car to be damaged in the Mersey Tunnel soon after its official opening by King George V in July 1934. The Panhard et Levassor has enjoyed somewhat better fortune on the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run having now completed no fewer than 57 of the 59 events it has started – a figure it will be looking to increase in November.

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The 1898 Stephens, now entered by Chistopher Loder, is another of today’s regulars to have completed in that very first recreation Run, driven by its designer Richard Stephens. Indeed, enhancing its claim to be one of the very first British sports cars, the racy little 10hp 'dogcart' won a Gold Medal from the Daily Sketch for its performance back in 1927 and, nearly 90 years on, the Somerset-built speedster is still always among the first to reach Brighton.

About the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

With its unique atmosphere and camaraderie, the Veteran Car Run travelling from London to Brighton (staged specifically as a non-profit making veneration) commemorates the Emancipation Run of 14th November 1896, which celebrated the Locomotives on the Highway Act. The Act raised the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ from 4 to 14mph, and abolished the need for these vehicles to be preceded by a man on foot waving a red flag.

The Emancipation Run was first commemorated in 1897 with a re-enactment following the same route in 1927 and has taken place every November since, with the exception of the war years and 1947 when petrol was rationed. The Royal Automobile Club has managed the Run with the support of the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain since 1930.

The 'Run' is scheduled for the first Sunday of November each year.

About London Motor Week

The Veteran Car Run is an integral part of London Motor Week, which in 2015 incorporates the following events:

  • Monday 26th October – Royal College of Art - Design Presentation Evening
  • Wednesday 28th October – Literary Festival and Motoring Book of the Year Awards
  • Thursday 29th October – Royal Automobile Club Motoring Forum
  • Friday 30th October – Bonhams Auction
  • Saturday 31st October – Regent Street Motor Show
  • Sunday 1st November – Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

About The Royal Automobile Club

The Royal Automobile Club was founded in 1897 and its distinguished history mirrors that of motoring itself. In 1907, the Club was awarded its Royal title by King Edward VII, sealing the Club’s status as Britain’s oldest and most influential motoring organisation.

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The Club’s early years were focused on promoting the motor car and its place in society, which developed into motoring events such as the 1,000 Mile Trial, first held in 1900. In 1905, the Club held the first Tourist Trophy, which remains the oldest continuously competed for motor sports event. The Club promoted the first pre-war and post-war Grands Prix at Brooklands in 1926 and Silverstone in 1948 respectively, whilst continuing to campaign for the rights of the motorist, including introducing the first driving licences.

Today, the Club continues to develop and support automobilism through representation on the Motor Sport Association (MSA), Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and RAC Foundation, while continuing to promote its own motoring events, such as the free-to-attend Regent Street Motor Show and the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.

The Royal Automobile Club also awards a series of historic trophies and medals celebrating motoring achievements. These include the Segrave Trophy, the Tourist Trophy, the Simms Medal, the Dewar Trophy and the Torrens Trophy.



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