Sunday 1 November 2009

London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

It may be stood on a taxi rank, but this is not a new design for London taxis! Rather, it's one of a surprisingly large number of very elderly cars making the journey from London to Brighton today - yesterday, there was chance to enjoy seeing them parked along Regent Street.

All pre-1905, they were commemorating a special event in British motoring history: the Emancipation Run which celebrated the passing of the Locomotives on the Highway Act 1896. Before the Act was passed, cars were restricted by a speed limit of 4mph and - even more restrictively - the need to be preceded by a man walking with a red flag. The law had been targeted at steam traction engines, but a test case in 1895 had confirmed that cars were treated as locomotives rather than (horseless) carriages. A campaign for reform met with reasonably prompt success, and vehicles under three tons were exempted from the restrictions. Now, they could speed across the country at a racy 14mph. How better to celebrate than with a trip to the seaside?

The original London to Brighton run is recreated annually, preceded by the Saturday show. A mixture of Regent Street shoppers and vintage car enthusiasts crowded around these fascinating vehicles. Given the number of people, it made sense to photograph details rather than 'portraits' of the cars. I particularly like the diversity of designs - the steering wheel, for example, had not yet become standard - and the features clearly borrowed from the horse-drawn carriages these cars would eventually replace.

1 comment:

Minnie said...

Excellent demonstration of how a new technology builds on/borrows from the old. None of which I'd ever noticed before in this case, despite having seen bits of the Run many times (from Brighton end), so very enlightening - thank you, Caroline.