Veteran-Edwardian-vintage, December 1971

A section devoted to old-car matters

The RAC London-Brighton Veteran Car Run (November 7th)

I have tried the Brighton Run most ways—by tram and bus to Croydon to watch the veterans climb up past the Airport before the war, riding on veterans since 1936, driving some of Lord Montagu’s in more recent runs. This year I did it in comfort—staying in Brighton on the Saturday night and reporting from the finishing line.

The Sunday was sunny, but very cold. The only drama was the news of an accident involving modern cars at Bolney—not surprising with the elaborate road obstructions there—which was expected to hold up the veterans. But at 10.48 Neil Corner’s 1901 10-h.p. Mors arrived, with the Hon. Patrick Lindsay the front-seat passenger, and celebrated its 70th birthday by clocking-in ahead of everyone. Not long afterwards Pickvance’s 1900 Darracq came in. By 11.05 Sir Clive Edwards’ 1900 New Orleans quivered to a halt; it carries a GBN plaque and had given some 26 m.p.g.

These early arrivals were greeted by the Lord Mayor whose Rolls-Royce limousine, CD1, was an imposing modern occupant of the Madeira Drive. Another six minutes went by and a Royal Riley was reported to be in sight. It turned out to be a bogus yellow plastic “veteran” carrying the same number as Wiseberg’s 1899 Riley—I have always refused to recognise the existence of such cars, arguing that one day they would be confused with authentic veterans. Now this has happened, before multitudes of spectators. Tony Marsh commented “Well done! “—I would have booted the thing back down the Madeira Drive and told the onlookers to lynch it! How did this VCC “Mickey Taker” come to be admitted by the vigilant marshals, in the first place?

That unfortunate episode behind us, we were able to welcome the one and only Stephens dog cart of 1898, driven ably by Loder, his coats held on behind by bungee rubber. It was followed closely by Boorman’s 1902 Panhard-Levassor, five-up on a non-stop journey. The splutter of automatic inlet valves heralded Sir Michael Nall’s De Dion Bouton, with very odd 1/2 / 1/4 elliptic front suspension and only two owners since 1903. Watson’s well-varnished 1903 Gladiator was in next, and then, excitement, Lord Montagu’s big 1903 24-h.p. De Dietrich came in, driven from Gatwick by Jackie Stewart, who had found it a fine car to handle and the back-wheel-brakes perfectly adequate at 35 m.p.h. He paid tribute to Lord Montagu’s traffic negotiation but explained that he had lost “a Scottish sort of hat”—has anyone found it? To have a famous racing driver at the wheel of a veteran was in the best Brighton Run tradition—remember Campbell, Cobb, Moss and others in earlier runs? Pat Moss and her husband represented the rally world, on a 1901 Panhard-Levassor.

The Imperial College 1902 James & Browne produced a loud exhaust note and a top hat waving student in the tonneau. Basil Davenport finished at 11.30 a.m., Mrs. Davenport braving the tonneau of his 1902 Century Tandem, a well-sprung but precarious perch, Bill Cook hadn’t needed the spares he brought in his 1903 Argyll, Banfield had had to waste time, so rapid was his ex-Hutton Stott 1902 De Dietrich, which had a useful exhaust whistle, and after a long gap Goodman’s 1903 Clement clocked in at 12.40 p.m., delayed a little by a faulty coil putting it on only three cylinders. Wilson’s Pieper completed a no-trouble run but its fierce clutch called for a push start. Not so fortunate was Gear (Renault) reported en panne just outside Hyde Park and calling for his tender car!

When the commentator asked if Hutton-Stott’s Lanchester was over-hot, misled by a little oil smoke, the Lanchester fancier quietly defended the 1903 12-h.p. model which had brought him and Mrs. Hutton-Stott speedily to Brighton. Jangling timing gears were a feature of Moore’s fine 16-h.p. Panhard-Levassor, Baker’s Hanzer was all-quivering brass, with wicker basket on behind, Pointer’s big red Wolseley had a Cyclops headlamp, Mrs. Simons brought her tiller-steered Albion in fast, Eric Thompson was driving the 1902 Peugeot which Prince Bira took through the 1946 run, Sears’ varnished Clement-Talbot rattled in, Major Fairhurst completed his 29th Run in the little Peugeot “Willie Peanut”, Bolster’s Panhard-Levassor did it without trouble for the umpteenth time, James Tilling thirsty in the tonneau, whereas British Leyland’s well-known Wolseley was on its first Brighton.

On the run up to the finish Howes’ big yellow Wolseley overtook Williams’ smoking Progress Quad which made weird noises from its transmission. Lightfoot’s racing Mercedes had a lady in a hole in its tail.

At this point, 12.25 p.m., I called a halt and went to Lord Montagu’s cocktail party. Arriving back at 2 p.m. his 1922 14-seater Maxwell char-a-banc came in, bringing some chilly Pressmen to see the fun. Next in was Hayward’s steaming De Dion Bouton, followed by a group among which Butti’s De Dion stalled its engine and Michael Ware, helping to drive a Sunbeam Mabley, spoke, with awe, of doing 15 to 18 m.p.h. when flat out. Goodman’s 1904 25-h.p. CGV, a big doorless tourer, was a real “Mr. Toad’s” car; it was screenless, whereas Norman’s 1904 Darracq possessed a fine windscreen and canvas side pieces in lieu of doors—it had been somewhat slowed by a little spark trouble.

Tacon’s Humber Olympic Tandem was down to 20 m.p.h. instead of its customary 30 with an undiagnosed malady, the Tony Huber was driven part of the way by a 17-year-old driver who passed the Test two months earlier, Freakes’ 1904 15-h.p. Panhard-Levassor Wagonette was another car “Mr. Toad” would have enjoyed, Gilbert rode his very short wheelbase Quadrant tricar which misfired on one of its two single-cylinder engines five miles from Brighton and the English Mechanic “kit-car” had lost a hub cap and had needed a push or two.

Blackford’s Locomobile steamer arrived safely, one broken pipe repaired en route; its steam whist!e and good retardation were admired. Wilkins’ Panhard-Levassor seemed none the worse for a nut dropped into its carburetter but had had water pump trouble, Kettyle’s De Dion Bouton had to change a flat battery and Love’s Renault had a bit of ignition trouble. The Rex tricar tended to stall and did so on the finishing line but Flather’s Daimler and Dyson’s and Bennett’s De Dions were reported to be back on their trailers before reaching Brighton. After getting there safely the crew of Simon’s De Dion laid out a fine picnic. As more and more veterans filled the car park the spectators examined them critically, noting the water-filled radiator cap of the 1904 Norfolk, the impressive Autoclipse headlamps on Baggs’ 1903 MMC and the smaller Gray & Davis lamps of Mrs. Smiths’ curved-dash Oldsmobile, which had arrived in close company with her husband’s Oldsmobile, and a Union flag on Ledsell’s Wolseley.

When I left to brave the traffic back to London the 1900 Daimler from the Royal Mews, entered by HM the Queen and driven by Mr. Mawer, immediate Past President of the VCC, was reported to be at Bolney—does this entry just possibly mean that HRH the Duke of Edinburgh or HRH the Prince of Wales will drive this car next year? Several veterans were preciously close to being too late, but we saw Thomas bravely pressing on alone in his tube-ignition 1896 Léon Bollée —if he wants a passenger next year he might let me know, or would my 12-stone kill the two horse-power? Maurice Smith was still gamely struggling along in the 1895 Lawson steamer, but others would obviously not make it in time.

Although rain began to fall around 3.30 p.m. it had been another splendid Brighton Run—this year there were 58 non-starters but plenty of reserves to fill such gaps in the 250 starters allowed by the RAC. Those who failed to make it this time are listed below.—W. B.

Non-finishers: Mrs. Holland (1894 Benz.), D. G. Flather (1897 Daimler), P. S. Reynolds (1899 Bassett), Mrs Davis (1899 Whitney steamer), Mrs. Goodman (1900 Benz), A. Smith (1900 De Dion Bouton), D. J. Peters (1900 De Dion Bouton), G. Pilmore-Bedford (1901 Lanchester), C. G. Goldsmith (1901 Locomobile steamer), A. Soderstrom (1901 Georges Richard), C.O. Read (1901 International Charette), B. F. Russell (1901 Locomobile steamer), F. C. Gear (1901 Renault), W. Buis (1902 Panhard-Levassor), Mrs. E. M. Jarvis (1903 De Dion Bouton), Mrs. M. Garrett (1903 Gladiator), C. W. P. Hampton (1903 Mercedes), M. J. M. Clarke (1903 Napoleon), B. G. L. Jackman (1903 Phoenix Trimo), Mrs. J. R. A. Collings (1904 Darracq), J. W. Dyson (1904 De Dion Bouton), R. Taverner (1904 De Dion Bouton), F. E. Davis (1904 Etna), Mrs. C. M. Sharman (1904 Franklin) and G. W. Green (1904 Speedwell).