Bill Boddy

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The Brighton Run pioneers

With the regulations for this year’s London-Brighton Veteran Run now available, it seems appropriate to recall how this now world-famous event started. In 1927, the DailySketch/ Sunday Graphic newspapers decided that the 1896 Emancipation Run which had freed autocars from speed restrictions might be remembered by having a run over much the same route, for the older cars, which they put as made before 1907. That this was acceptable and that many such cars had survived was evident from an entry of 51 of them, which the public called ‘Old Crocks’.

Unlike on later Brightons, marks were given for good mechanical condition but lost for alterations from original design, shedding passengers on hills or for other involuntary stops, observers being obligatory on each car. Marks were also awarded for each year a car was made, from 1906 back to 1893.The Judges were Jarrott, Edge, Critchley, Stocks, Instone and Bersey. On the Saturday there was an exhibition of the cars at the Auto-Auctions premises in Horseferry Road, admission free.

The Run started from the Victoria Embankment at 9am on Sunday November 13, and when sufficient runners had got to Patcham a procession would be formed to reach Brighton’s Madeira Drive. Sir Edward Iliffe, MP, chaired the subsequent banquet at the Royal York Hotel.

Out of 51 entries, 44 started and 37 finished, 21 non-stop. Some of the cars were still used normally, like a 1906 De Dion and a 1906 Panhard which had been converted into vans, the former in 1922, and a 1906 Renault taxi which was still plying for hire in Brighton, where a 1902 De Dion was also in everyday use. The most prolific makes were Benz and De Dion Bouton (seven of each), six Renaults, five Panhard-Levassors, and four Daimlers.

Some were already historic, like the 1896 Daimler on which King Edward had his first ride, and the 1898 Daimler still making carnival appearances. The oldest entries were John Bryer’s 1893 Panhard, with its centre-pivot steering, and Donald Morrison’s 1893/4 Benz which was used until 1918. An 1897 Daimler had been in regular use from 1902, and an 1897 Panhard was on the road here off and on for 23 years. Many other of the so-called ‘Old Crocks’ were still active. Others had been brought out again for the event, such as the 1898 Stephens laid up in 1908, a 1906 Rover in 1913. A 1900 Benz, in storage from 1907, started with two pulls on its flywheel in 1927.

Veterans now well-known today included F S Bennett’s famous 1903 Cadillac, the City and Guild’s 1903/5 Rover mascot `Boanerges’, the 1901 Panhard that had lain in pieces in a Henley garage until rescued in 1921, and Queen Alexandra and King George’s 1906 Renault A 1906 RollsRoyce had a four-seater sports body. Vincents of Reading contributed an 1899 Benz, 1900 Darracq and 1903 Renault, University Motors an 1898 Star and a 1903 Siddeley, run since 1903 and mentioned in Plunkett Greene’s Where the Bright Waters Meet (another Cars in Books reference for you). General Motors brought a 1903 Oldsmobile and 1905 Cadillac, Victor Leverett their 1903 Riley and Percy Kidner drove the single-cylinder Vauxhall which went to the Vauxhall Collection. Some of the claimed ages of the cars would be later changed once the VCC had formed its Dating Committee.

It must have been a great day for boys collecting registration numbers — V46 on Bryce’s Benz, A7510 on the Morrison Benz, AB731 on the 1905 Cadillac. And to think that enormous crowds have continued to enjoy what has today become known as one of the most celebrated gatherings in motoring history.

Two million miles motoring in hard covers

Phil Llewellin is a very versatile accomplished contributor to motoring columns in a variety of important newspapers and magazines, but his latest book The Road to Muckle Flugga (published by Haynes of Yeovil, ISBN 1 844250269, price £19.99) is something else. No less than Phil’s more extreme memories of driving a variety of cars for over two million miles from 1977 to 2003.

In 42 exciting chapters, Llewellin describes exceptional motoring in America, Canada, Africa, the British Isles, the Middle East, the Far East, the Caribbean, South America and so back to Europe.

Headings like Inverness to Chester in Seven Minutes, Driving to the End of the World, and Ticking Them Off in a Packard must surely awaken any reader’s appetite for motoring adventure.

One fabulous trip was to deliver some very exotic cars over immense distances in a 450bhp Caterpillar V8-powered, 13-speed, 250in-wheelbase Peterbilt truck and trailer. This massive combination was capable of touching 104mph at 1900rpm.

Descriptions of people, roads, the scenery on Phil’s journeys are a bonus, and as each chapter is separate you can have long or short spells of it, and you get 32 pictures, some in colour, and a crisp Foreword by Jeremy Clarkson. Don’t miss it.

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