As the new insurance sponsor to the fabled London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, it was our pleasure to be passengers in two of over 400 vehicles that took part this year.
Rachel Gilliam, Head of Lockton Private Clients was in a 1902 Napier whilst Simon Ambler, Head of Lockton Performance was in the Royal Automobile Club's own 1903 Daimler.
The Run itself is the culmination of London Motor Week, which sees a variety of events focusing on the past, present and future of the motor car and we were privileged to attend a number of them; some held at the Pall Mall headquarters of the club where one is surrounded by the rich history of the automobile.
It is fair to say that entrants “don't mention the weather” so with heavy rain falling as we left Pall Mall on Saturday evening, we were braced for damp conditions with multiple layers of warm and waterproof clothing essential.
Thankfully, Sunday dawned dry – what a relief! Simon and Rachel rendezvoused with their cars as the dark streets around Hyde Park reverberated to the sound of veteran machinery making their way to the start line.
As sponsors, we started quite close to the front where we were able to witness the tearing of the red flag that signifies the start of the run. For those not familiar, the very first run celebrated the removal of the need for a man with a red flag ahead of any motor vehicle in 1896.
2023 also marked the 70th anniversary of the film “Genevieve”, a comedy that focused on the event and its automotive star, a 1904 Darracq. This car gave the film its title and Genevieve and her co-star from the film, a recently restored 1905 Spyker, led the cars away at 7am precisely.
The route heads out of London via the suburbs; some entrants struggled early on but a combination of camaraderie and a fleet of 40 RAC recovery vehicles ensured that as many were able to continue as possible.
We were cheered on by hundreds of spectators, many of whom had brought their own classic cars out, through villages and on the verges and pathways heading out into Surrey and Sussex.
The halfway stop in Crawley gave us the chance to stretch legs whilst machines were fettled and stories exchanged, before we embarked on the home stretch towards Brighton, with the sun shining and road rapidly drying.
Even more crowds welcomed the cars into Sussex, with some villages seeing hundreds of well-wishers and their cars marvelling at the sight of cars powered by petrol, steam and even electricity. We must also give a very honourable mention to the hardy souls who used pedal power, including several Penny Farthings!
With the autumn sun blazing, a gentle breeze whispering and barely a cloud in the sky, we reached the finish line on Brighton's Madeira Drive with yet more crowds cheering us all in.
One of our team who drove down ahead in his (by his own admission “thoroughly boring by comparison”) modern car reported that the first finisher crossed the line not long after he arrived, so clearly some of the great grandparents of motoring are capable of keeping pace with today's traffic!
Steaming hot stew was extremely welcome with a glass of champagne for those of us not driving again and in celebration of having completed the run.
It is fair to say that we are thoroughly converted to the charms of veteran motoring. The cars are beautiful and their owners a genuinely delightful group of people who made our team feel so very welcome to their event.
We can't wait to do it all again next November and we'd love to see some of you along the route.
Simon Ambler had this to say:-
“I have totally fallen in love with the veteran car world, which is just as much about the people involved as the wonderful machines. A big thank you to my driver on the day, Duncan Wiltshire, who guided the Daimler expertly to Brighton. Driving through a deserted London from Pall Mall to Hyde Park in the car will last long in the memory.”
Rachel Gilliam added:-
“What a wonderful way to travel in fantastic company. Seeing the crowds of people cheering us down to Brighton was a real highlight and will stay with me for a long time. A massive thank you to Elinor and Clive Boothman for allowing me to join them in their gorgeous Napier and allowing me to be driver support for a while - and leaving me in charge of the hooter (that was used to acknowledge the efforts of the many spectators from the frail and elderly people pushed in wheelchairs to babies in buggies). There was an extraordinary camaraderie between those propelled by wheels, whether 2 or 4 and whether spectators or entrants. Learning to drive a veteran car is now a new addition to my bucket list. Looking forward to next year. “