It was good that in the Diamond Jubilee Year of the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain the RAC Veteran Car Commemoration Run on November 4 went off so well. The weather was sunny but cold and the continuing interest in actually running veteran cars cannot be denied when an entry of 402 is received, with 76 reserves hoping to go off to the seaside along the historic route on the day before the fireworks! This is a unique British event which attracts enormous numbers of spectators, once quoted in millions but now more realistically estimated by Phil Drackett of the RAC as in the region of 400,000, with a crowd of 10,000 in Hyde Park for the 8am start and one of “FA Cup Final proportions” on Brighton’s Madeira Drive to see the finish. But Kenco’s PR people still publicise the figure as “exceeding two millions” — and whatever happened to this coffee sponsor’s much publicised hourly BBC2 live bulletins which Derek Jameson was to have sent out from the RAC’s 1903 Albion? BBC TV coverage was also completely lacking.
That apart, no event surely can be better policed and this year’s Run had the support of Councillor Mrs Christine Simpson, Mayor of Brighton, and John Quenby, Chief Executive of the RAC/MSA. It was the now expected mixture of publicity seekers and enthusiasts who go because they enjoy driving really old motor cars, with the challenge of getting them to Brighton. Lord Montagu had the Rt Hon Cecil Parkinson MP, the Transport Secretary on his 1903 22hp Daimler, and it was good to find other cars brought out of retirement by museums. Thus the National Motor Museum put in the aforesaid Daimler, the 1896 Arnold Motor Carriage owned by Miss Arnold and actually used in the 1896 Run, and Count Labia’s 1903 24hp De Dietrich, The Daimler-Benz Museum put in four cars, and the British Motor Heritage’s various divisions entered two 1897 Daimlers, an 1899 Wolseley, a 1900 Daimler, a 1901 Wolseley, a 1902 Albion, a 1902 Lanchester, a 1904 Lanchester, and the 1904 Thornycroft.
Racing driver Dr Jonathan Palmer was driving Lord Montagu’s little De Dion Bouton and Nick Mason was another veteran-addicted racing driver, with his 1901 Roi-des-Belges Panhard-Levassor. Vice President of the VCC went for the celebrity game, taking Liza Goddard on his 1902 Mors. Back to museums and clubs, the Science Museum nominated an 1899 Locomobile steamer and a 1903 Peugeot, the National Breakdown Recovery Club a 1900 Daimler which one hopes they did not have to recover, the VCC its own 1904 Wolseley, the RAC had two entries, the AA their well known 1904 20/30hp Renault Park Phaeton, Nottingham Industrial Museum the odd 1904 Celer, the Patrick Collection a 1904 Wolseley, and the Parkside Transport Museum their Riley Wear. Manufacturers also had entries, from Renault, Ford and Vauxhall.
To attempt to pick out all the interesting entries — although almost all are that — or report on their progress — is impossible in an event of this magnitude. But it was nice to see listed old friends like Flather’s very early Daimler, Jeal’s tiny De Dion device, Richard Nash with his late father’s 1900 Peugeot on which I had my first Run in 1936, Sir F Sowery’s Darracq, the Lightfoots’ De Dion and Beaufort Neale’s 16/20hp Aster-engined Wagonette, Banfield’s De Dietrich tonneau tourer, Lord Strathcanron in his snug Georges-Richard Broughham, HRH Prince Michael of Kent in a 1904 Mercedes accompanied by Peter Ustinov, Judy Collings, her 1904 Darracq, Jane Hutton-Scott’s Lanchester, EN Corner’s one-cylinder Peugeot, Bendall’s 10/12hp Renault, Carter’s CGV and Sunbeam from Wales, Skerman’s White limousine, Jack Sears on the racing 18/28hp Mercedes, Milligen’s Gardner-Serpollet tulip-phaeton and Dale’s 1900 car of this make on which I had my first experience of steam, last year. The oldest runner was the 1884 De Dion Bouton et Trepardoux, of Tim Moore which, although it did not receive an extra early start, leaving at 8am, nearly managed to reach the Pylons, by the official deadline of 4pm, a magnificent achievement. The foregoing, and so many others, rank among the true believers. Then there were all the overseas entries, 24 from the USA, 14 from Germany, eight from France and five each from Holland and Australia, not forgetting the 1891 Panhard-Levassor from a New Zealand Museum, etc. From Germany and Ireland came drivers who had both done the Run 19 times. The RAC is forever reminding us that the Brighton run is not a race but this does not prevent it from telling us who arrived first — this year it was Karl Smith’s 1898 De Dion. Terry Cohn’s 1903 1828 Mercedes did not leave Hyde Park until about 10am, its scroll clutch having given trouble, which Roger Collings helped to rectify. Ruth Moore, mother of the driver of the oldest vehicle in the Run, was going well on her 1892 2hp Panhard-Levassor phaeton but Ron Knight was apparently having dire transmission trouble with his beautiful 1904 15hp Darracq demi-limousine and the famous 1904 GB Napier was seen progressing in fits and starts, emitting clouds of black smoke. Reid’s 1902 Buyer got going after some ignition problems. At the Diamond Jubilee dinner, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu toasted the VCC and Hans Tauscher, MD of Mercedes-Benz UK, replied. WB