THE VETERANS’ RUN TO BRIGHTON
ENTHUSIASM for old cars is still on the increase, as was shown by the record entry of cars for the R.A.C. London to Brighton Commemoration Run on 12th November. Such a collection of cars must be almost unique in any country, and ranged from Perrin’s 1894 Cannstatt Daimler to the 1904 Thornycroft which averaged over 25 m.p.h. over the whole journey. The cars were sent off at one minute intervals from 9.30, and had to reach the finish by 3 p.m. to qualify for the coveted R.A.C. certificate. The Start took place from Moon’s Garage, near Victoria Station, and from an early hour slow chuggings could be heard as the old cars were warmed up, and the wisps of blue smoke which appeared at the windows gave some idea of the atmosphere inside. A large crowd had already gathered when No. 1, the Cannstatt Daimler, was sent off, with its full load of four passengers. The rightangle turn at the exit from the garage presented the first difficulty, and the relieved expression on the drivers’ faces at being able to get going often changed rather rapidly, as their cars “took charge.” Warm clothing was very necessary, and a number
of fur coats, Inverness capes and other contemporary garments were seen, particularly good being the fur coats, coon-skin hats and corn-cob pipes effected by Burtenshaw and his passenger on the Cadillac, while Karslake, who was driving a 1902 Regal De Dion, had a magnificent black astrakhan hat. A light drizzle had been falling from an early hour, making the streets very slippery, and the tramlines of Brixton and the Streatham Road caused many anxious moments. Out on the Croydon
By-Pass conditionsT,were-notvinuch easier, for both sides of the road past the aerodrome were lined with cars, and motor coaches abounded, Brian Lewis was observed passing small Fords and Austin Sevens in great style on the 1904 Sunbeam, which of course was a very advanced design for its day, with four cylinders and four gears. There was also a fine duel between an 1899 Pieper and a 1901 Wolseley in which the older car overhauled its rival. The drop down to the Brighton Road was rather hair-raising for some of the Veterans, with their rudimentary brakes, but after that there was steady going to Redhill. The roads were crowded with Sunday traffic, but the drivers of more modern vehicles were on the whole very considerate in the way they left the way clear for their “poor relations,” and it was a pity that some of the competitors allowed themselves to become overwraught and shouted unnecessarily at those who were trying to give them a free passage. The only actual collision occurred when R. C. Blake, who was driving a Gordon Bennett Napier, applied his brakes rather suddenly when held up by a car in front. He skidded round and came
into contact with the other car and shot off the road, but was able to continue.
A few cars were seen at the side of the highway, but the majority were making steady progress, contrasting strangely with such vehicles as Noel Rees Le Mans Alfa and the earlier 2.3 which Sir Henry Birkin drove, both of which cars followed the progress of the run.
One of the worst obstacles on the route was a hill between Handcross and Bolney, and the fact that a row of cars were parked on one side of the narrow defile added to the difficulty. The way the ” fin-desiècle ” motor cars tackled the hill was really surprising, and the senior car, the Cannstatt Daimler, which has its mysterious engine room at the back, sailed up in great style. The Bollees were good, and a Benz of 1897 climbed steadily with a trail of steam, while a. ’98 model carried its mechanic lying on a flap at the back, where he could keep a watchful eye on the machinery. Shuttleworth, on a 1901 Wolseley, climbed well with his crew of five, but could not change gear and did some pushing at other points. Sydney Cummings came to rest with no compression on one of his
cylinder of his Peugeot, but removed a piece of metal from under the exhaust valve and went on.
The South Downs had yet to he surmounted, but the dry roads and the appearance of the sun seemed to have a tonic effect on the old cars and their drivers. All their skill was needed in entering Brighton, with its traffic stops, and an unexpected halt of this kind often entailed keeping firmly on the wrong side of the road until the brakes took effect. The run finished the Aquarium Garage, and a won derful collection of Veterans were gathered there. Cars such as the 1903 Napier, the one which Clifford harp drove in the Eliminating Trials in the Isle of Man, and Mitchell-Thomson’s Mercedes of the same, date showed that even at that time the racing car was blazing. the • way with improvements later to appear on the normal vehicle, but the fact that71 finishers out of the 77 starters made the 56 mile journey in their schedule time was even more remarkable. The organisation of the event was in most respects faultless, but it was a pity. that the hordes of small but strong boys could v not have been prevented from interfering the
with the cars, fittings of which were not designed for such treatment. The di proceengs concluded with a Tea given the Competitors mpetitors by the Mayor of Brighton, when the certificates, inscribed with the average speed, were handed to Team Prize the drivers. The was won a B
second time by the ollee team driven by Barnes, Wood and Davis. The fastest run was made by T. Thornycroft (1904 Thomycroft) at a speed of 25.10 m.p.h.