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First published November 02 1996 in the Car 96 section of The Times. Now reproduced with the kind permission of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, a founder member of The Brooklands Society.

A record number of finely preserved cars will Join the London-to-Brighton Centenary Special, reports Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.

This Year's London to Brighton veteran car run has attracted its biggest ever entry,.with over 660 pre- 1905 cars from 22 countries taking part - an amazing contrast with the first event, where only an estimated 33 cars actually. started.

Massed Veterans Hit The Magic Ton.
When The Sporting Life attempted to report on the original London-Brighton run, which took place a hundred years ago, on 14 November 1896, it lamented, "There never was an important event so lacking in authentic results."
To a paper used to dealing in first-past-the-post racing certainties, the organisation of that first "Motor Car Tour to Brighton" left much to be desired. Few published accounts even agree on such basic details as the number of cars that took part, who arrived first and, indeed, who arrived at all. Some of those who arrived in Brighton had travelled by train and some tried to disguise the fact.

There will be no such doubt about this year's veteran car run, which takes place tomorrow. It is a very special occasion, markinor the centenary of this world-famous motoring event, and has attracted its biggest ever entry, with over 660 pre-1905 cars taking part. That is an amazing contrast with the first Brighton run, which an estimated 33 cars actually started.

The 1896 run celebrated the passing of the Locomotives on Highways Act, which permitted cars to travel at 12mph and did away with the red-flag man who had to walk ahead of the car to warn of its approach.

To mark the centenary, a special ceremony is being held in Whitehall Place at 10.30am today when some 25 cars built in 1896 or earlier will re-enact the start of that first event, in the original location outside the old Hotel Metropole building. At 10.30, Lord Winchilsea, great grandson of the man-who started the 1896 run, will signal all the cars in running order to lap Whitehall Place by tearing a red flag.

Five of the cars in the re-enactment took part in the 1896 run and three of them will be driving down to Brighton tomorrow. These are Daniel and Toby Ward's racing Panhard & Levassor, which once belonged to the Hon C.S. Rolls, Tim Scott's Lutzmann, and the 1896 Arnold Dog-Cart, which is normally displayed at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, and is still owned by the Arnold family. Miss Virginia Arnold will be driving the car, known as "Adam", on the run.

In pole position tomorrow is the world's oldest roadgoing car, the 1884 De Dion, Bouton et Trepardoux steamer driven by Timothy Moore. The sporting terminology is not far-fetched, for this is also the world's oldest racing car, having come first in the first ever motor race in 1887 (not difficult - it was the only entrant).

A link with the origins of the old car movement is the famous 1897 Leon Bollee, "Beelzebub", owned for many years by journalist (and Le Mans winner) Sammy Davis, a co-founder in 1930 of the Veteran Car Club, the world's first club for antique car enthusiasts. When he had to give up driving the Leon Bollee at the age of 80, Sammy sold it to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame, which is bringing it back to Britain for the first time since it left these shores in 1967. Driving Beelzebub will be Anton Hulman George, third generation of the family which has run the Speedway - and the Indy 500 - since 1945.

He is just one of the more than 70 entrants from the USA, who also include the grandson and great-grandson of J. Frank Duryea, builder and driver of the first four-wheeled car to arrive in Brighton back in 1896. with their 1904 Stevens-Duryea.

This year there are 178 overseas entries for the Brighton run, from 22 countries on six continents, including 16 cars from Australia.

The most numerous marque in this year's run is De Dion-Bouton, of which some 90 examples have been entered - a reflection of the make's early popularity. Among them are a couple of cars which have been in the same families since new, such as the 1902 Model K1 driven by Edward Nall, originally bought by his great-grandfather Daniel Hanbury and kept at his Italian home near Alassio until 1910.

Then it resided at his Hampshire seat in company with the original Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, which was used for many years to travel between England and Italy, notching up 500,000 miles in the process.

Beaulieu's little 6hp De Dion, driven this year by my son Jonathan, first ran to Brighton in 191O and was the first exhibit in my Motor Museum in 1952.

Another car which has been in the same family from new is the 1899 Panhard-Levassor of the Prince d'Arenberg, which was originally purchased by his great-grandfather, Prince Auguste, President of the Suez Canal. And I shall be driving the 1899 four-cylinder Daimler which my father bought new in 1899 - an appropriate mount in the centenary year of this oldest British marque.

At the top end of the performance scale are the two mighty 60hp Mercedes of Berthold Ruckwarth and Tim Scott - the ultimate in veteran performance, with top speeds in excess of 80 mph. Arturo Keller's 1902 Mercedes is the oldest survivor of this marque and was for many years a familiar sight on the London-Brighton run.

One of many motor industry executives supporting the run, either as driver or passenger, is Nick Scheele, chairman of Jaguar-Daimler, who will be driving one of the very first Daimlers, an 1897 Phaeton, which in 1961 crossed the Alps via the 6834ft Col du Mont-Cenis still using its original hot-tube ignition.

It is testimony to the durability of these veterans, but if you come along to watch, please remember one thing: do not stop suddenly in front of an old car - our brakes are not as good as yours.

Last Updated on Saturday, 27 June 2009 07:22