The London to Brighton Veteran Car run on the first Sunday in November is always a special treat for motoring enthusiasts. The oldest motoring event in the world, it celebrates the passing in 1896 of the Locomotives on the Highway Act that raised the speed limit from 4 mph to 14 mph and abolished the requirement for cars to be preceded by a man on foot with a red flag! Every year since, apart from during the world wars, veteran cars ( those built before 1905) make the run from Hyde Park to the seafront at Brighton. Starting at dawn the cars follow a route through South London and rural Sussex, braving many steep hills and often atrocious weather, before reaching Brighton between 11 and 5.

The traditional half way stop for coffee and tinkering is the High Street at Crawley. This is a great place to see the cars and to chat to the crews.

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Fortified with a cup of tea from the local Scout troop I took advantage of a break in the rain to admire the wonderful cross section of cars parked in front of The George pub. By 11 there were some 60 or so cars present with others constantly coming and going with a clank of chain or a hiss of steam. Robert Solomon’s smart 1904 Swift looks comparatively modern!

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Some cars looked more comfortable than others – would you want to be at the front of this “sociable” contraption with poor brakes, no seat belts and the rain in your face?

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The coffee stop is a good opportunity to carry out running repairs. Though where the engine is on Dr Moffat’s 1903 De Dion Bouton is anyone’s guess.

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And when it’s time to return to the road, make sure you have your lights on full, or at least a new wick in your lamp.. Like this 1903 De Dion Bouton that travelled all the way from France to take part in the run.

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Whilst many of the cars on the run are from long dead marques, others with more familiar names demonstrate their brands’ long heritage: like John Briggs’ 1903 Ford, Geoff King’s 1904 Oldsmobile and the mighty Peugeot exiting the High Street at impressive speed.

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The biggest cheers are always reserved for the oldest cars. Ron Mellowship’s 1898 Bergmann looks like a carriage in want of horses.

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And whist it is always nice to see near concours cars such as Lionel Bourne’s 1904 Northern below, there is something special about those with patina such as Ian Kerr’s 1903 Oldsmobile and the splendidly ancient looking 1902 Columbia of John Hanson. It may look old fashioned but its electric – more character than a G-Wizz!

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But the car I want is a De Dion Bouton. Reliable, pretty, and relatively modern to drive.

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Or maybe a Darracq like Genevieve from the wonderful eponymous film! Here is Simon Hutton’s nice 1904 example.

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