With the worries of the millenium approaching, one bright idea stands out. On January 7/8 2000, the MCC is to re-enact the London-Exeter Trial first held in 1910. The route will follow much the same form, with a 90-mile night run, no unsurfaced hills (except for an optional ascent of Fingle Bridge) and an entry of mainly pre-1961 vehicles, the older the better. In 1910 the thing ran from London to Exeter and back, starting on Boxing Night, but the tamer 2000 scheme is wildly attractive.
It recalls my “Boxing Night Exeters” which! ran from 1953-61, with the approval of the then-Secretary of the MCC Jackie Masters – well, at all events he lent me the old route cards… The idea was to eschew competition licences, entry fees, protests and prizes, on this ‘follow me’ event. We had a good response, but as Jenks said, on a winter’s night only the truly enthusiastic will turn up; and so it proved. I started the first run at the time a car like my 1922 8hp Talbot-Darracq had left; the route used was the 1922 one, embracing the correct hills. In 1954 National Benzoic laid on free petrol and hospitality, and by 1955 I was trailed by 16 keen “competitors”.
The Suez crisis made it no-go in 1956, and from 1958 I used my 1924 12/70 Calthorpe, the start being changed, again correctly, to Slough Trading Estate for the 1961 Run. By 1960 we had 36 starters. When my own vintage cars were unwell I went in Trojans and the NMM’s 1921 AC. When a TV crew wanted to film us they got, to their astonishment, a firm “no”.
The Runs died because when I issued a simple route-sheet so that stragglers would not miss the lorry-drivers’ cafe breakfast halt, or the ‘sections’, the RAC insisted I was running an event calling for competition licences; and the old informality had gone, so we gave up, although I believe a few enthusiasts continued the frolic for a few years. In view of the fun we had,! wish the MCC every success with its more official Exeter re-run in Millennium year.