London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

The first run, in November 1927, only for vehicles over thirty years old.
Finish line of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, 2005

The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run is the longest-running motoring event in the world. The first run was in 1896, and it has taken place most years since its initial revival in 1927. To qualify, the cars must have been built before 1905. It is also the world's largest gathering of veteran cars – 443 started in 2005, 484 in 2009,[1] compared to 37 starters in 1927, 51 starters in 1930 and 131 in 1938.[2]

It takes place, currently, on the first Sunday in November and starts at sunrise from Hyde Park, London and mostly follows the old A23 road to finish at Brighton – a distance of 54 miles (87 km). There are two official stops along the way: Crawley (for coffee) and Preston Park (in a suburb of Brighton). Preston Park is the official finishing point; the cars then proceed to Madeira Drive on the seafront, also the venue for Brighton's other big motoring event, the Brighton Speed Trials.

The event is organised on behalf of the Royal Automobile Club who emphasise that the event is not a race – they do not even publish the order in which cars finish, and participants are not permitted to exceed an average speed of 20 mph (32 km/h). Any that finish (many do not) before 4:30 pm are awarded a medal.

There are a few other events preceding the Veteran Car Run such as Motoring Forum, Veteran Car Run Sale, a motor show, and participant reception.[3]


The first run took place on 14 November 1896, a wet Saturday.[4] Organised by Harry J. Lawson,[5] and named "The Emancipation Run", it was a celebration of the recently passed Locomotives on Highways Act 1896, which had replaced the restrictive Locomotive Acts of 1861, 1865 and 1878 and increased the speed limit to 14 mph (23 km/h). Since 1878 the speed limit had been 4 mph (6 km/h) in the country and 2 mph (3 km/h) in the town and an escort had been required to walk 20 yards (18 m) ahead of the vehicle. The 1865 act had required the escort to carry a red flag at a distance of 60 yards (55 m).[6] The run was also the first meet of the Motor Car Club, of which Lawson was President.

The event started with a breakfast at the Charing Cross Hotel, which included the symbolic tearing in two by Lord Winchelsea of a red flag.[4] The competitors gathered outside the Metropole Hotel,[7] with the cars accompanied by a "flying escort" – estimated by one witness as "probably 10,000" – of pedal cyclists, recreational cycling having become popular with the English in the final decades of the 19th century.[4] A total of 33 motorists set off from London for the coast and 17 arrived in Brighton.[6] The first of the cars set off from London at 10:30 am and the first arrival in Brighton, by a Duryea Motor Wagon, beating the next closest Brighton arrivals by more than an hour.[4] Two Duryea cars participated in the run, marking the first appearance of American motor vehicles in Europe.[8]

During the next few years, Commemoration Run took place between Whitehall Place and Sheen House Club covering the distance of about eight miles.[9] The run was not staged again until 1927, and then annually run from 1927 until the onset of the Second World War. Owing to petrol rationing, the event was cancelled until 1947. With all this considered, it is the world's longest running motoring event. Since 1930, the event has been controlled by the Royal Automobile Club.

The 1953 comedy movie Genevieve is set during one of these runs.


A veteran car nearing the end of the 2005 run in inclement weather

Many racing drivers and celebrities have taken part in the event, including Richard Shuttleworth (1928–1934; 1936–1938),[10] S. C. H. "Sammy" Davis, Sir Malcolm Campbell,[11] Prince Bira,[12] George Eyston, Richard Seaman, Kaye Don,[13] George Formby, Phil Hill,[14] Stirling Moss, Jochen Mass,[15], Nigel Mansell[16] and Damon Hill[17]

The 72nd anniversary run took place in 1968 and was joined by celebrity participants Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, in a 1903 De Dion-Bouton.[18] That year Stirling Moss also participated, driving a 1903 four-cylinder Mercedes.[18]

Some participants dress up in a late Victorian or Edwardian style of clothing. In 1971 Queen Elizabeth II was a passenger in a 1900 Daimler.[19] A regular participant is Prince Michael of Kent.

RAC Brighton to London Future Car ChallengeEdit

In 2010 the RAC launched the Brighton to London Future Car Challenge, following the same route as the veteran car run, but starting in Brighton and finishing at Regent Street, London – and taking place on the day prior to the veteran run. The event is intended to showcase low energy impact vehicles of various technologies – Electric, Hybrid and Low-Emission ICE (Internal Combustion Engine). Participants compete to minimise energy consumption using "road legal" vehicles in "real world" conditions.

The results of the inaugural 2010 event showed that the electric vehicles used the least energy (0.62 MJ/km on average, or 141 miles per imperial gallon petrol equivalent), compared to the hybrid vehicles (1.14 MJ/km average, 76 mpgimp petrol equivalent) and the largely diesel powered internal combustion engine vehicles (1.68 MJ/km average, 52 mpgimp petrol equivalent).[20]

1896 resultsEdit

The event was not organised as a race, but the general classification of the fastest finishers was:[21]

Rank Driver Car Type Time
Speed Note
1 Léon Bollée Léon Bollée 3 hp tricycle, tandem 2-seater, petrol 3:44:35 13.91 mph
2 Camille Bollée Léon Bollée 3 hp tricycle, tandem 2-seater, petrol 4:00:20
3 Charles Duryea Duryea 2 seater, petrol
4 Henry Finch-Hatton Panhard & Levassor 4 hp, 1896, 4 seat, oil 5:01:10
5 Otto Mayer Panhard & Levassor 4 hp, 1895, 2 seat, petrol 6:07:30
6 Émile Mayade Panhard & Levassor 8 hp, 1896, phaeton 4 seater, petrol 6:08:15

The event in popular cultureEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Motor Sport, January 2010, Page 113.
  2. ^ The Manchester Guardian, 24 November 1930, Page 9; The Scotsman, 15 November 1938, Page 14.
  3. ^ "London to Brighton Veteran Car Run".
  4. ^ a b c d "Personal Memories of the First Brighton Run". Autocar. Vol. 125 (nbr 3690). 4 November 1966. p. 978.
  5. ^ Setright, L. J. K. (2004). Drive On!: A Social History of the Motor Car. Granta Books. ISBN 1-86207-698-7.
  6. ^ a b "The long road south". The Motor. 5 November 1966. pp. 38–39.
  7. ^ "Just the weather for a seaside trip". The Times/Beaulieu. 2 November 1996. Archived from the original on 30 August 2008. Retrieved 21 July 2009.
  8. ^ Automobile Manufacturers Association Inc., Automobiles of America, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 1968, Page 18.
  9. ^ "Event Info". The Royal Automobile Club.
  10. ^ Kevin Desmond, Richard Shuttleworth: An Illustrated Biography, Jane’s Publishing Co Ltd., 1982, Pages 187–189.
  11. ^ The Manchester Guardian, 16 November 1931, Page 5.
  12. ^ The Manchester Guardian, 16 November 1936, Page 13.
  13. ^ The Observer, 20 November 1938, Page 23.
  14. ^ "Wide World of Sports: Part 3". Cheap Seats. Season 1. Episode 15. 4 August 2004. ESPN Classic.
  15. ^ The Manchester Guardian, 2 November 1953, Page 2.
  16. ^ "Veteran cars take part in London to Brighton rally". BBC. 6 November 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  17. ^ Adams, Rob (15 November 2017). "In pictures: Driving from London to Brighton in a Victorian car". Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  18. ^ a b "Fun in the Sun". The Motor. Vol. 3464. 9 November 1968. p. 31.
  19. ^ The Guardian, 25 August 1971, Page 5.
  20. ^ D.A. Howey; R.F. Martinez-Botas; L. Lytton; B. Cussons (2011). "Comparative measurements of the energy consumption of 51 electric, hybrid and internal combustion engine vehicles" (PDF). Transportation Research D. 16 (6): 459–464. doi:10.1016/j.trd.2011.04.001. hdl:10044/1/6839.
  21. ^ "TeamDan Early results database – 1896". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2013.

External linksEdit