The 2013 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run took place on Sunday November 3, the morning after the Regent Street Motor Show, at which the 385 pre-1905 vehicles were allowed to bask in the glowing adulation of the crowds before embarking upon their annual jaunt.
The Veteran Car Run is the world's oldest motoring event, having taken place almost every year since 1927. It's a commemoration of the Emancipation Run of November 14 1896, which itself was a celebration of the newly introduced Highway Act.
This important legislation marked the start of motoring as we know it, as it raised the speed limit for “light locomotives” from 4 to 14mph, thus eliminating the need for vehicles to be preceded by a man on foot waving a red flag.
Heroes of the 2013 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run
Tough every Veteran Car Run can be described as “historical” by default, the 2013 event was particularly special for being headed by a trio of legendary racing Napiers (pictured).
Of course, examples of these early competition cars have participated in the Veteran Car Run in previous years, this is the first time that three Napiers have lined up together at the event, in doing so recreating the pioneering British racing team that fought for the famous Gordon Bennett Cup at the start of the twentieth century.
The trio was spearheaded by the very olive green 6.5 litre Napier that won the 1902 race between Paris and Innsbruck. The historical significance of this car cannot be understated. It was the first British car to win an international motor race, and in its unmistakable colour we see the origin of British Racing Green.
The other two Napiers competed in the Gordon Bennett Cup races in 1903 and 1904. One is powered by a 7.7 litre engine, the other by a colossal 11.1 litre unit.
Says Ben Cussons, chairman of the Royal Automobile Club Motoring Committee: “Napier’s competition cars from this period are among the most significant cars in the history of British motor sport.
“They were not only the first to wear British Racing Green, but also the first cars built in this country to win major races overseas thus paving the way for today’s UK-based world championship winning F1 teams such as McLaren and Red Bull.
“To have three of these incredible machines on this year’s Veteran Car Run was very, very special.”
One notable participant in the 2013 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run proved that electric vehicles, far from being an exciting new development, are in fact as old as motoring itself. Making its debut in this event, the 1901 electrically powered Waverley was driven by Michael Ward, Managing Director of Harrods.
Many familiar faces also made an appearance, such as Sir. Ray Tindle. Having flagged off the early starters, he went on to make his 50th journey to Brighton in his faithful single-cylinder 1904 Speedwell Dogcart.
Star appearances included Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason and Wheeler Dealers presenters Mike Brewer and Edd China, riding together in a recently restored 1903 Darracq to celebrate their programme's 100th car milestone.
Old Cars, New Traditions
The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run is not a race, but in 2013, a competitive element was included for the very first time: A regularity test in which contestants have to average a precise speed between two controls. Phillip Oldman's 1902 Mors had the honour of winning this inaugural trophy.
The first car to cross the finish line on the Brighton seafront was Allan White's 1902 Darracq. Of the 385 starters, 341 managed to complete the symbolic 60 mile journey from Hyde Park to Madeira Drive before the 16:30 deadline. All who finish receive a medal and an unquenchable appetite for veteran car driving.
As I'm sure all of the veterans will tell you, you never forget your first time. Doubtlessly many who took place this year are already counting down the days before the 2014 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.