Slow road to Brighton
The 74th running of this classic event attracts an appreciative audience in Regent Street before the long, long haul to Madeira Drive
How times change! The London-Brighton Veteran Car Run is now of world-wide renown. But when it began in 1927 it was just a simple affair, the adventure of trying to drive a veteran vehicle from Hyde Park, London to Brighton, in weak winter sunshine or unwelcome rain.
Arriving on Madeira Drive was a reward in itself, though I think the entrants may have received a simple medal. As a driver in 10 runs on veterans dating from 1889 to 1904, a co-driver six times, and a passenger on
23 Runs between 1936 and 1992, I found the fun, anticipation and driver experience were sufficient reward. Lord Montagu of Beaulieu lent me most of the cars, with others from Mr Lightfoot and Jules Holland.
Now it is different. More traffic to contend with, but it has become a world-wide event which had 496 entries in 2006, with 438 starters and 395 finishers. On the day before the Run a Concours d’Elegance was held for 110 cars judged to be ‘the most interesting’ – but by whom? There was a parade in London’s Regent Street, said to have attracted a quarter of a million onlookers, who were offered rides, suggesting a very tolerant insurance company, and for those who felt they must have a veteran car an auction sale had been conveniently arranged.
The Concours prizes were:Concours d’Elegance: Mr P Oldman (1900 MMC). Concours d’Equipe: H Pritchard (1903 De Dion Bouton). Most Historic Veteran: P & J Thompson (1899 Daimler Wagonette). Best unrestored car: P Calzavara (1899 Rochet-Schneider). Judges’ Special Award: J Brydon (1896 Salveson steam car). The onlookers voted for R Fisher’s 1898 Henriod.
Thus the progress made by this great Run, sponsored by the Daily Mail, Tindle Newspapers, Bonhams, Renault, the Regent Street Association, Kuoni, the RAC TMS, Hagerty, Autocar and Classic & Sports Car.
This year’s 74th Run will take place on November 4, and will be the 111th anniversary of the original less elaborate but equally significant occasion.
Brooklands giants live on
My recent book about the Brooklands Giants, reviewed recently in Motor Sport, inadvertently omitted news of the present whereabouts of some of the big cars described therein. The 1908 GP Itala, made famous in postwar times by Cecil Clutton, is now owned by George Daniels who used it not long ago for an extensive trouble-free French tour. The lap record-holding Napier-Railton was bought with the aid of Lottery money by the Brooklands Museum, which uses it for demonstration runs. The Scarisbrick returned to Fanoe when the 1922 speed trials were re-enacted, the great Fiat ‘Mephistopheles’ remains the property of the Fiat museum in Turin but came to a Goodwood Festival, and the 200hp Benz once raced at Brooklands is in George Wingard’s collection in America but it came back to the UK recently for Ben Collings to restore its four-seater body to the form it was in before its Crystal Palace accident.
Your starter for ten…
A game played long ago was to find the name of a rare make of car and ask what the person questioned knew about it. I was assailed with Sequeville-Hoyau, but I was fortunate because I was then toiling at the RAE in Farnborough, Hampshire, and the garage in the main road had just such a car. They did not seem to know where it had come from or why it was there. Later I discovered that the S-H was built at Genneville by the Seine, intended to be the Rolls-Royce of light cars, or perhaps they thought of it as the Hispano thereof. It had a four-cylinder 80x120mm engine with a three-bearing crankshaft, aluminium pistons, tubular lightweight con-rods and, unusual for 1919, a four-speed gearbox and electric starter.
To emphasise the appeal to British buyers the radiator aped that of – a Rolls-Royce. The chassis had underslung springs and the smart bodywork may have been inspired by the company’s experience of aeroplane component production. It was rumoured to have made aero-engines for Bugatti, but that I must leave to the Bugatti Trust.
The cost of the car was high – £495 for the chassis, £550 for a complete car in 1920 – and one expert described it as the car nobody wanted. However, in 1921 C J Myson drove one in the 1921 MCC Land’s End trial; he retired but gained a bronze medal in the Edinburgh Trial. But by 1922 he had changed to a Calcott…
Plans are in hand for the proper celebration of the opening of Brooklands Track 100 years ago, with a re-enactment of the parade of July 17, 1907 and the presence of as many as possible genuine ex-Brooklands racing cars. Those owning such cars are asked to contact the Brooklands Society (Len Battyll on 01428 645 724) or the Brooklands Museum (Allan Winn on 01932 857 381) as soon as possible.
The Brooklands Society will have its annual Reunion and its Members’ Dinner at the Track during 2007. The Museum announces a long fixture list, including Bentley DC driving tests, an Austin/Morris day, many days when the Test Hill will be in use, a day of running some of the exhibits, a commemoration of S F Edge’s 24-hour Napier run in 1907, etc, as well as social happenings.
Steve Cropley of Autocar has rightly been reminding readers of Mercedes-Benz World with its museum where you can see a Blitzen Benz and pre-war sports cars, and a showroom of current M-B models which prospective customers can try on the adjacent test track. Well worth a visit, but it is inside the remains of the famous Brooklands Track, not near it, as Steve thinks. Just to avoid you getting lost…
The day before the Veteran car Brighton Run, the Daily Mail had a two-page preview of it with colour pictures, but whereas author David Thomas said it was not a race, on the travel guide it was, oh dear, quoted as – a race!
Bugs on screen
Conway films now on DVD
The Bugatti Trust, which investigates the deeper aspects of the history and technics of these irrepressible cars, with its premises at Prescott where those enjoyable speed hillclimbs take place, has issued the first of the late Hugh Conway’s films on DVD. It covers Bugatti Types 10 to 35B and includes a 19-minute silent film from 1923, and items on the Bugatti family and cars associated with Ettore Bugatti. The DVD runs for approximately 1hr 10min and costs £19.99 plus £1.50 UK P&P; apply on 01242 677201.
A great driver remembered
The great pre-war racing driver Georges Boillot (below) won the 1912 and 1913 French Grands Prix for Peugeot, but after giving his all in the 1914 race and leading for much of it was unable to defeat Mercedes in its well organised 1,2,3 victory, led by Christian Lautenschlager.
He was shot down and killed in aerial combat in 1916. He was remembered by L’Avenue Georges Boillot on the way to the Montlhéry race course.
The Club Georges Boillot was formed in 1935; the many attending its inaugural banquet included the Presidents of the AC de France and the ACIF. The club’s first President was Mme Annet Badel, and M Yves Boillot was on the committee.
Karl Ludvigsen seems able to write at least two new books in the time it takes to read one of them. His latest of these important, authoritative works is a vast volume giving the full story of the Benz racing cars, with especial attention to the enormous Blitzens. To some extent this echoes a chapter in my Giants book, recently republished, from which I am flattered to see several quotes. Some of the illustrations are familiar, but the majority are new to me. This is another impressive production which will collapse the weaker coffee table, available for the very low price of £39. The Incredible Blitzen-Benz is published by Dalton Watson; ISBN 1 85443 228 0.
It was a clever move by Henry Ford to use the terms Tudor and Fordor for his models with those numbers of doors, with the make name part of the latter. Did this influence Austin, I wonder, when it called certain of its saloons Forlite and Sixlite in respect of their number of windows?
Having recalled the days when I had fish and chip lunches at the first Lotus works at Hornsea, I was interested to learn from Historic Lotus magazine that the old buildings are intact and that there is a plan afoot to turn them into a museum and education centre to commemorate Colin Chapman’s early Lotus activities.
Many years ago I was seeking something to use for teaching my middle daughter to drive. On hearing this Jenks took me just across the road from his cottage in Crondall to a breaker’s yard wherein was a 1934 A10 saloon. I acquired this for a fiver, with anti-freeze and a little petrol. It proved ideal for the purpose and survived a long run with only mild clutch slip, with which the breed was said to be afflicted. Sadly, when I needed more room in the barn for vintage cars the Ten had to go, which I regretted.
I wonder how many of you were sad, as I was, to see the 2CV Citroën, which for so long had opened the BBC’s Antiques Road Show, replaced by a Morris 1000. And who of you sighed deeply as I did when that fake Chitty-Bang-Bang was seen in the Lord Mayor of London’s Show? Once upon a time vintage cars were welcome on these wonderful occasions, as when I rode in Anthony Heal’s twin-cam 3-litre Sunbeam.