For the last few years Charabanc has had the great honour of being part of this historic event. When the proud owners of the exquisite and extraordinary pre 1905 vehicles meet at the exclusive RAC club on the eve of the event they are greeted not only by the passionate chatter of the eager participants but also by the luxury car scent ‘Across Pennine Fells’, its fresh, leafy green notes providing a taster of the classic British journey ahead.
The journey begins at dawn in London’s Hyde Park. Worth forcing oneself out of bed on the first Sunday in November while it’s still dark to get there in good time before the first motorcars are given their starter’s orders. The atmosphere of anticipation is like nothing else. It’s like stepping back in time: participants dressed with flamboyant enthusiasm reflecting the age of their vehicles; the sounds of coughing and spluttering engines as they lurch into gear; the good old fashioned toots, peeps and honks of horns all mingling in the crisp, cold, Autumnal air.
The Veteran Car Run is the longest running motoring event in the world and was held in its first guise in 1896 to celebrate the Locomotives on Highways act of 1896 which permitted motor vehicles to travel at 14mph. Prior to that date, the Highways Act forced cars to travel at 4mph but the increase in speed represented the dawn of the motoring industry as this increase transformed the private car into a viable alternative to the horse.
The route is a 60 mile run that leaves Hyde Park, crosses Westminster Bridge and then splits to avoid congestion caused by the inevitable stop starting. One route takes the A23 through Brixton and Streatham and the other follows the A24 from Clapham to Tooting. The routes converge in Croydon where the motorcars make their merry way from Mitcham to Redhill and finally to Brighton. The route is lined with cheering onlookers all hoping for a honk and a wave.
Highlights from the vehicles taking part were the oldest motorcar at the event - an 1894 Benz - followed hot ish on its heels by a 1897 Daimler, a delightful display of De Dion Boutons, a riot of Renaults and a cacophony of Cadillacs.