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Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society caters for veteran cars, vintage cars & classic cars, as well as commercials and motorcycles.



:: [ SVVS Members on the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run -  November 2002 ] ::

The Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society has a number of Members with veteran cars eligible to enter the 'London to Brighton Veteran Car Run'. This year we had three. Click here for General Pictures from the 2002 run by Tony Oakes. This page deals with the SVVS contingent which took part.

For the benefit of our overseas visitors it may be worth giving some of the background to this world famous commemorative event which takes place every year in November. Story is that although Britain was well up with other countries in very early development of motorised road vehicles, many historians feel that Britain was subsequently held back in early pioneering developments of the automobile by its then archaic laws. These laws required each vehicle to be preceded by a man walking in front of it waving a red flag to warn any oncoming horse traffic, and prohibited any vehicle travelling faster than 4 miles per hour. This is why in some other countries developments to make automobiles quicker outstripped those being 'stifled' by British law.

Things began to change in 1878 when the 'Red Flag' Act was abolished but didn't really take off until the 'Locomotives on the Highway' Act lifted the speed limit from 4 to 14 miles per hour. This event was 'celebrated' in November 1896 by the 'Emancipation Run' from London to the South Coast town on Brighton, some 50 miles away. The 'red flag' was symbolically 'destroyed' at the beginning of this run. In 1930 the Royal Automobile Club took over the event which has been held ever since (with very few exceptions) every year on the first Sunday of November. Approximately 400 cars take part, many being shipped from all over the world just for the event.

The Run commences at 07.30h from one of the largest London parks, Hyde Park, and goes due south past Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, through south London, through the suburbs of the county of Surrey and past London Gatwick Airport. Mid way stop is in Crawley. The Run then goes through the county of Sussex and into Brighton past the Royal Pavilion to Madeira Drive where the cars start to arrive at 11.00h and eventually park adjacent to the seafront and Palace Pier. Throughout most of this route both sides of the road are packed with spectators who clap and cheer all the cars along; a quite incredible 50 mile grandstand. Something so unusual and so different that it must be experienced to be fully appreciated. 

The SVVS is fortunate in that the Run goes right through our 'patch' and therefore most of our Members are out beside the route cheering on the entrants. Many Members come out in their Veteran and Vintage cars and park beside the route, while many others follow the route to a favoured vantage point out in the country. Some people 'follow' the run all the way, which helps congestion no end ! Most favoured vantage points are long steep hills where the cars slow down to a crawl, where the passengers have to dismount and help push the cars up the gradient. No 'free lunch' with some of the earlier cars. Eligible cars are those made before 1st January 1905, with many being from the 1890s or earlier; steam, electric and petrol. Earliest cars leave first.



One of the most regular SVVS participants on the London to Brighton is Bryan Goodman with his 1900 3.5 HP Benz Vis-a-vis being propelled by mere 950 ccs. Bryan is also a long term Veteran Car Club member and official, and has been taking part in the run for 'decades' in various cars. Despite occasional problems, and being described in some motoring magazines as arriving in a grumpy mood, he always seems to get there, or gets others to get it there ! This year he was planning a relay of passengers and I think he succeeded. From what we are told, apart from a reluctant start, the run was generally trouble free. Regretfully the above photo is not one of our O'Akes-the-Photo's best but Mr. Goodman is surely unmistakable. 

Another regular Brighton runner is Michael Doughty in his 1902 Wolseley 10HP Tourer Toneau 2606cc. Michael writes: 

" Our number this year was 148, this meant that were an early starter at 7.50am. This and the changed route to Westminster Bridge, meant that compared to other years the traffic was very light and we made speedy progress passing through Purley at 8.45am. The Wolseley was performing magnificently and the hill out of Redhill was ascended in third gear with four adults aboard. 

A few miles from Crawley black storm clouds were gathering but we pressed on and arrived at the George in Crawley minutes before the downpour. Luck was with us. After hot coffee and a forty minute break, the rain stopped and the sun shone. 

From now on it was the open road, the swish of the chains and the regular hiss of the automatic (suction) inlet valves to carry us along and past many smaller and earlier cars. 

Shortly before the run I had discovered that the transverse clutch release cage was so worn that the mechanism was fouling part of the radiator. It is a major job to repair this, so an oak block was made and installed as a clutch stop. Until Ansty this had worked well, but now gear changing was becoming difficult. I therefore decide to change down to second gear at the bottom of Clayton Hill. This proved to be a good idea as we sailed up without having to change gear. 

We than had an easy run into Brighton arriving on Madeira drive at 12.15pm and were surprised to find that we were the 22nd car to arrive. I should add that we had driven up to London in the car and that we drove it  similarly back home on the following day. A super weekend involving a 125 miles round trip in a hundred year old motor car. "




The third SVVS Runner was David Locket in his 1904 Northern Silent Runabout of 1748cc (photo from last year's run).  David reports:

" Old cars are just like women - they need to be looked after, talked to, fed, watered, generally spoilt and  cost money - but even then they don't always perform! No real problem this year, just a leaky water pump and a broken drive. Took it all off to have a look. And of course it was worse than first thought so a rebuild was necessary. All done in 48 hours! SVVS member David Woodburn was volunteered to take daughter-in-law Sophie and I with trailer and Northern to London on Sunday morning leaving at 6.00am ! It is cold - the atmosphere at the Start is electric with excitement and anticipation. The sounds and smells are wonderful as is the chatter and banter. 

Is it competitive? Of course it is; but the competition is against the clock ! David Woodburn even went on to help Bryan Goodman to get his going (Oh yes! THE Bryan. These old cars are like a woman - they don't like early mornings!) But everyone wants the same thing - to reach Brighton! We are flagged off and head off round Hyde park and then down traffic free Constitution Hill and around Buckingham Palace, over Westminster Bridge - with a quick wave to the photographer who has been there for the past 30  years! 

Driving out of London is not fun at any time but even worse in an old car - Sophie leaves me to do this bit but then takes over in Croydon. We stop in the High Street and get some water (?) from McDonalds along with a few others. The commentator notices and makes a few remarks. (This is good place to watch). We pass a number of broken down veterans and we offer help to a couple of friends but are waved on.

The sky darkens as we approach Redhill. A quick stop to put on waterproofs - this is not Genevieve - no pretty hats just a trusty Barbour! It falls down and we wish we had brought flippers and snorkel! The car continues to go well and by the time we reach Crawley we are dry again and dying for a cup of coffee and a bun! Sophie is now happy driving the car again and as she relaxes a broad grin of pleasure spreads across her face and stays there until after we have finished!

Traffic terrible for a bit but it does keep moving. People are now standing by the road or sitting in their cars watching. This is the fun bit as from my slowly moving mobile bedstead one can easily chat with the public. It is exciting and fun! Clayton Hill is a bit of a pull but select low gear and go for it! There is nothing to do except let the car take the strain and say "thanks" to the marshals on the way up. You can't hurry even if you want to!

Then we are on the A23 at last and the open road - the car is going well so the foot is down, ignition fully advanced. We are bending forward to reduce wind resistance and we are probably reaching the dizzy speed of 35 mph - wonderful! Into Preston Park - collect our sticker and stamp - on to Madeira Drive. There, turning off the main road and seeing the sea of faces is an experience in itself. A quick chat with the finish commentator, find a parking place and open the traditional and well deserved bottle of champagne! Sophie did well and had a wonderful drive - I am so pleased that the next generation enjoys the old car.  (Entries 423, Starters 385, Finishers 338.) "

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