As an unseasonably mild London was still shrouded in darkness on the morning of Sunday 5 November when nearly 350 pioneering veteran cars and their crews, along with a large crowd of well-wishers and spectators, gathered in Hyde Park for the annual ‘Brighton Run’. It’s now 127 years since the original Emancipation Run, which was held in 1896 to celebrate the recently passed Locomotives on Highways Act. This raised the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ from 4 to 14 mph and abolished the need for a man to walk ahead waving a red flag.
Expressing that new-found freedom, today’s much-loved homage always commences with the symbolic tearing-up of the red flag – a pre-dawn ritual performed this year by Formula One legend Ross Brawn OBE, together with Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club, which since 1930 has been the custodian of this, the world’s longest-running motoring event.
Marking the 70th anniversary of the BAFTA-winning film Genevieve, starring Kenneth More and Kay Kendall, the two star cars from that much-loved romantic comedy had the honour of being the first away from Hyde Park this year. As ever, vehicles then followed in age order, with the earliest starting first, giving them the most time to reach Brighton. Leading the way this year was an 1892 Peugeot vis-à-vis entered by the Turin Motor Museum and believed to be the first car ever to turn a powered wheel in Italy.
In total, more than 100 different marques were represented, ranging from Adler, Albion and Argyll to Waverley, Winton and Wolseley. A few, like Cadillac, Ford, Renault, Vauxhall and Mercedes, are still well-known today, but the vast majority have been lost to history.
Maximising the spectacularly sunny weather, most of the starters completed the hallowed journey to Brighton well before the 4.30pm deadline, and so claimed a coveted finishers’ medal. Of the 341 motor vehicles that left Hyde Park, 301 reached Brighton, along with 27 antique motorcycles and cyclists, to give 328 finishers in total.
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