Brighton browsing

Looking around the veterans at the finish, we noticed the de Dion engine in Fotheringlaam-Parker’s 1903 Renault, the snug landaulette body on Watters-Westbrook’s 1903 Renault, the side radiators on Collinson’s 1902 Renault, authentic Daimler lamps on Smith’s 1903 Daimler and solid tyres on several cars, including Bartlett’s 1901 Napier.

Some veterans carry pet names, Timmis’ Gladiator being called “Gladys” and Fairhurst’s Peugeot “Willie Peanut.” *

Very much admired—No 1 in the Run, Prendes’ 1895 Panhard wagonette from Spain, and Ramon Prendes’ splendid hat ! This veteran ran on iron tyres. 

Veteran cars are not being manufactured, so far as we know, by modern factories, but Gwilliam’s queer Darracq brougham with 4.00 by 19 tyres seemed to come somewhere near it. 

Bolster’s Panhard, driven back to Kent the same evening, seems to have a steering wheel from a vintage Morris-Cowley. Porter’s de Dion set straight off back to London and “Genevieve” returned in the dark.

ASJ Painter drove his 1903 Humberetter “Miss Topper,” which, in his own words “went like a bomb !” 

The usual fine array of vintage cars graced the Brighton Road, including many Jowetts and Austin Heavy Twelves, bull-nose Morris and Bentleys, as well as gaily-painted Chummy Austin Sevens, 10/23 and 14/45 Talbots, several Sunbeams, a Swift Ten, Hillman Fourteen tourer, model-T Ford coupe, 11.4 Humber, 11.4 Standard and a Galloway two-seater. And, for full measure, coming against the traffic was an old Daimler Sixteen platform lorry being towed behind a modern van. 

A pity the Run was again described as “the race” in the RAC Press bulletins, And as the VCC frowns on period costume on the cars, how on earth did it allow an official in false whiskers to present the prizes on Madeira Drive ?

The Editor has gone as passenger in previous Brighton Runs as listed below, and accounts of these journeys, with details of the cars, appear in the appropriate issues of Motor Sport :—

1936: ROJ Nash (1900 Peugeot).

1937: The late Capt HJ Wylie (1896 Hurtu).

1946: JF Kentish (1902 de Dion Bouton).

1948: C Lanchester (1902 Lanchester).

1949: G Frank (1902 Panhard-Levaasor).

1951: R Barker (1902 de Dietrich).

1954: SE Sears (1901 Mors).

1955: CF South (1904 Tony Huber).


Another interesting link with the past which has come to hand is a volume of The Car Magazine for August-December 1903, kindly lent by an enthusiastic reader, Mr D White, This volume, beautifully bound in soft green leather with gilt lining, the end-papers nicely “marbled,” is really interesting beyond the average.

The first number—it appeared in August, 1903—explains that this was a monthly companion to The Car Illustrated, both edited by the Hon John Scott Montigu, MP. In that very first issue, of 128 art pages, is a report of the 1903 Gordon Bennett race from which we learn that, on the eve of this race, “There was nothing there to suggest dust and hurry and oil, unless it was the hands of the motormen, which, when outstretched to grasp another peach, showed hard and splayed, with nails short and broken, and fingers and palms black with ingrained grease from much handling of machinery.” No doubt Colin Chapman, for instance, will understand, even if he doesn’t spend the evening before a race grasping peaches ! However, the race-ladies of 1903 “had laid aside their lace and come down in tweed skirts, ankle high, showing stout boots; dust cloaks hanging from their shoulders, and a haze of gauze swathing their heads from chin to hat-crown.” However, I am glad the race-going girls of today do not discard lace . . . Perhaps racing was more carefree then, and I commend to Moss and Collins the antics of Jenatzy after winning—he “leaped out and ran to and fro upon the grass, and expressed his joy by turning a back somersault, clothed as he was in a long rubber coat.” How, I wonder, does the three-mile Athy-Ardscull Moat Straight look today ?

It is interesting to see that Gabriel’s Mors had the same “upturned boat” streamlined body used in Paris-Madrid, as did Baron de Forest’s 80-hp Mors which did a kilometre at 85.9 mph at Phoenix Park in 1903.

In this initial issue Lady Cecil Scott Montagu contributed an article, “The Lady Motorist in Ireland,” after going over to see the GB race. The cars are not named but seem to have been a 22-hp Daimler and a 24-hp Daimler; they were sent to Dublin by rail ! No less a writer than Hilaire Belloc contributed the first article on “English Villages,” dealing with Bramber and Steyning. “The Song of the Wheel,” by G Stewart Bowles, is printed in full, some of the verses particularly appropriate to motoring. Golf gets adequate coverage and there is a story of a race between air yachts in 2000 AD.

An ambitious feature gave replies to a letter to important personalities as to the future of racing. The Hon CS Rolls was horrified by the 1,000-kilo limit, blaming it for high-power racing cars unable to stand strain; he advocated far slower racing cars. SF Edge was less cautious but hoped for engine size/minimum weight rules, and Charles Jarrott paid a warm tribute to the value of racing (by 1906 he wasn’t so sure) but advocated standard-car events. JE Hutton, London Mercedes agent, thought racing of great value, as it had given France her lead in the industry; Messrs A Darracq followed suit, Peugeot thought racing cars were becoming too powerful but sagely said trials do not attract the same interest as races, while Daimler felt speed to be the essence of motoring and high-powered cars safer than cars of low horse-power. Even Bernard Shaw replied saying : “The first step towards a rational development of automobilism is the immediate guillotining of every one whose income exceeds £500 a year “; and the only real “anti” was Augustine Birrell KC, who found motor racing “a bastard sport which enables idle folk to rush along public highways at railway speed, to the annoyance, disgust and danger of rate-payers and their children.” Alfred Harmsworth, seen in the biggest-ever of teddy-bear coats, wrote on “The English Motorist Abroad” (in 1903 !). Fine pictures of the racing and normal eight-cylinder CGV and the 1896 Paris Marseilles 4-hp Bollee appear. Major B Baden-Powell is depicted wearing gliding wings to offset his screed on aeroplanes and flying machines (he was President of the R Aero S), and there is an historic picture of Sir Hiram Maxim staggering under the weight of his steam engine used in his flying machine. Perhaps Belloc didn’t get a cheque, because subsequent “English Villages” articles are by other writers. Of Beaconsfield it was said :

“The quiet country folk live the same life as their fellows in more remote places and the daily ebb and flow into busy London life has not yet set in.” But London was an hour away by train and an invasion by business-men was already imminent. Thus early, Frank Wellington wrote advice on buying secondhand, while roads of the future were forecast and George Montagu MP, wrote on railway topics. Comyns Beaumont dealt with “Cars for the Million,” showing a horse and carriage to cost £120 10s a year (allowing 25s a week wages for a man), whereas a car could be run for £94 12s (the chauffeur paid the same as the groom). Inexpensive 1903 cars shown are the Mabley, Beeston-Humberette, both at £140, Clyde, Northern, Traveller, Vulcan, Baby Peugeot, Stanley steamer (at 185 guineas), Relyante, Regal, Carnage, Thompson and Locomobile, also the Miniature Velox (£125) with underslung tubular frame, gilled-tube radiator, and the dinkiest lamps ever. AC Pemberton wrote of motor-cycles for 1904, the four-cylinder Perfect with chair for a saddle and huge outside flywheel looking shockingly precarious. The 23-hp Humber Olympia forecar is illustrated, but with handlebars instead of wheel steering like the 5-hp example JF Olorenshaw rode in the recent Brighton Run, while the Ormonde Kelecom tandem had a range of 200 miles and cost £60. How informative and what fun these old books are !—WB.