Veteran vehicles prepare for annual London to Brighton drive

The countdown has begun. In less than 24 hours, more than 400 vintage vehicles will set off from London's Hyde Park to make a dash for the south coast, in the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.

A grand total of 426 veteran cars, their drivers and passengers will line up at the capital's start line tomorrow from 6am, with the red flag set to be torn – a traditional start to the rally – at 7am.

One by one the three- and four-wheelers, all of which pre-date 1905, will set off down Constitution Hill, heading for Brighton.

They will pass iconic landmarks including Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the latter of which being where the Locomotives on Highways Act was passed in 1896. This allowed 'light locomotives' to travel at speeds of up to 14mph – previously they had been restricted to 4mph – and abolished the need for the vehicles to be preceded by a man carrying a red flag.

In celebration of the passing of the act, an 'Emancipation Run' was held on November 14 1896, with 30 cars following a similar route as the modern run to Brighton.
Veteran vehicles prepare for annual London to Brighton run
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Veteran vehicles prepare for annual London to Brighton run

From London, the parade will take the A23 through Lambeth, Norbury, Croydon and Redhill to Crawley, where the intrepid motorists will be able to enjoy refreshments at the Harrods stop and spectators can view the veterans.

One final push will see the cars conquer the Downs to arrive in Brighton's Madeira Drive. The first vehicles are expected to finish by 10am, with others continuing to arrive until 4.30pm.

Among the marvellous motors taking part are petrol, steam and even electric-powered models. The world's first automobile, the 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen, will be attending in what is its 130th year.

"Being part of this wonderful cavalcade these 400-plus veteran cars driving en masse from the capital to the coast is an incredibly special privilege," said chairman of the Royal Automobile Club's motoring committee, Peter Read.

But, he urged: "If you encounter us on these veterans on the road, though, please treat them with respect and remember that none of them has the braking efficiency of a modern car..."
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