Last year there was much public outcry (see my past posts on the subject) when the organisers of the London to Brighton Run scrapped the traditional half way rest stop on Crawley High Street in favour of a closed to the public stop at a Honda garage on the outskirts of the town. (A Honda garage mind!  A company with no connection at all with the Run and the cars taking part. Maybe it would not have been so offensive if it had been a Peugeot, Renault or even Mercedes Benz garage).

The organisers argued that the facilities available on the High Street were inadequate for the maintenance needs and comfort of the competitors. Whilst that may have been correct it would surely have been possible to use the Honda garage for maintenance (if needed) but still have the rest stop on the atmospheric High Street?  In previous years the High Street was always packed with the public who came in their thousands to get a really good close look at the cars when they stopped. In fact the whole High Street took on a carnival atmosphere. The local radio station broadcast live from the side of the road, the local Scouts did a roaring trade in tea and bacon sandwiches and the RAF cadets sold the programmes.  The Run organisers forsook all of this for a stop on a garage forecourt where the public were excluded and were unable to see much at all.  The crews did, however, have access to a plush Harrods catering facility.. The Scouts had nowhere to sell their tea and bacon rolls and pretty soon the Cadets had noone to sell their programmes to as the few dispirited members of the public who did turn up did not stay for long.

One could not help but get the feeling the organisers of the Run had decided that the public of Crawley just did not matter. Honda presumably paid for the privilege of hosting the stop, unlike Crawley High Street. And no doubt Harrods did the same to supply the catering. The Scouts, collecting for charity, would I guess have been seen as unwelcome competition. Its not unreasonable to ask whether the organisers really needed the extra income Honda and Harrods brought.  The Run is always oversubscribed. If they had additional costs they could always have put the price up. Afteral even the cheapest of the veteran cars taking part cost over £60,000. Many are worth well into six figures. Running a veteran car is not for the impoverished.

With the Run sponsored by a “Private Bank”, and Harrods supplying the catering, the unfortunate impression created was of a bunch of plutocrats enjoying their wealth with no regard for the public. Clearly that was not the case and I am sure many of those taking part were as unhappy as the public at the axing of the old High Street stop.  It would, however, have been understandable if Crawley Borough Council had decided that the disruption to their town caused by the Run was no longer acceptable if it was not going to bring any benefits to the town.

Clearly the concerted criticism last year had some impact on the organisers of the Run as this year they announced that the Run would once again pass down the High Street. The Honda garage would still host the rest stop but cars would have to stop at a check point on the High Street. It was hoped some would choose to take their rest stop on the High Street too and space was set aside for them to do so.  To show commitment to the event the Mayor of Crawley very gamely sat in her wheel chair by the check point to greet the cars as they drove down the High Street. Sadly very few stopped to allow the public to get a close look at them. This was perhaps understandable as if a car had just stopped at Honda they would lose too much time stopping again so close by. In addition the marshals seemed to signal all approaching cars to stop at the Honda garage so many presumably thought they had no choice in the matter.  Still, the Scouts, Cadets and the public were back in force on the High Street, clearly to the delight of many of the passing crews.  Maybe next year more will stop on the High Street like in the past. Or maybe the organisers will finally appreciate that without public support even long running events like the London to Brighton Run will face an uncertain future.

Almost how it used to be. Veteran Cars return to Crawley High Street. George Hudson’s US built 1903 8hp Flint leads Malcolm Ginn’s powerful 24hp 1903 Darracq to the time check point.

A big thank you to Tam Large and Mike Sewell who stopped their 1900 Clement on the High Street for a coffee and cake break. Whether they forsook the Harrods hospitality at the Honda garage I don’t know but theirs was the only car to stop for a break on the High Street in the hour I spent there. As such theirs was the only car that the public had an opportunity to get a good look at during that time.

One of the oldest cars on the run, the 1897 cart wheel clad 6hp Panhard Et Levassor of Roy Tubby. They were making very good time at this point.

Dick Shepphard’s 1901 7hp Panhard Et Levassor stops at the check point closely followed by the Pownall / Dimbelebe 1901 4.5hp De Dion Bouton vis a vis. The Mayor of Crawley Chris Cheshire looks on from the left. She gamely sat out in the cold greeting all the cars as they came through the High Street.

 

Thomas Hill driving the Caister Castle Trust’s 1902 12hp Panhard Et Levassor. The chap in the suit in the back looks somewhat underdressed!

 

Robin Morrison has a full crew for his 10hp 1904 Cadillac

 

Douglas Pope’s 1 cylinder 3.5hp 1900 New Orleans. Despite the name, this little voiturette was a Belgian design made under licence in Orleans Road, Twickenham!

 

Allan White’s very purposeful looking twin cylinder 12hp Renault Tonneau

 

The Farley’s little 1902 5hp Peugeot

 

Another Renault, Ron Walker’s 7.5hp racing two seater. The Renault F1 jackets are a nice touch for what must be one of the world’s oldest racing cars. And Renault still race 115 years on – where will Red Bull be 115 years from now?

 

Mary Crofton piloting the family De Dion Bouton 1900 4.5hp vis a vis.

 

Brian Moore driving another handsome and powerful 16hp Panhard Et Levassor, this one from 1902.

 

Geoffrey Grime’s rare 10hp Gladiator. Made in France, 80% of the cars produced were sold in the UK.

 

One of the ubiquitous Curved Dash Oldsmobiles on the run. This is Adam Barber’s 1903 model. Rugged and reliable they are a great entry level veteran car.

 

Not quite Lewis Hamilton’s car! This is the 1898 3.5hp Benz Dogcart of Nigel Safe being driven by Gordon Cobbold.

 

Flying the flag (or two) for Old Blighty is Rob Aylott in his 1903 5hp Humberette

 

Its easy to forget Scotland has a long history of making cars. Long before the benighted Linwood Imps and Avengers, Argyll also built cars near Glasgow. This is the 1901 5hp Argyll of Michael Hilditch. As with Rootes 70 years later, Argyll found out the hard way that economic success did not always follow initial enthusiasm..

 

Dirk Docx in the 1904 6hp Siddeley of Andre Convents

 

A rare German 1901 4.5hp Adler vis a , this one belonging to John Hankin

 

Philip Oldman looks the part as he navigates his 1902 15hp Mors up the High Street. 4 cylinders and a steering wheel – its almost modern!

 

Where are the horses? Ron Mellowship’s 1898 5hp Bergmann

Matthew Pellett on a 1899 De Dion Bouton Tricycle. It was these little trikes that ignited the public’s interest in motor sport. The first circuit motor races held were races for these trikes.

A non motorised interloper. This Penny Farthing bike was not going from London to Brighton!

 

Retromobile Paris is arguably the most prestigious classic car show in Europe and is a must see for classic car enthusiasts. With cheap air fares and the show’s close proximity to Orly Airport, a day trip for old car loving Brits is relatively easy.

The show is held at the vast Paris Expo exhibition centre near Porte De Versailles on the Paris inner ring road. Whilst certainly a big show, as it is all in one hall, it felt no bigger than the NEC Classic Car Show, and felt smaller than the big German shows at Stuttgart and Essen. I arrived an hour after the show opened at 11 and was done by 5pm. You would certainly struggle to see either of the two German shows in the same time.

This year Retromobile celebrated its 40th year with an excellent mix of automobilia and autojumble sellers, high-end car dealers, club exhibitors, museums and manufacturers. In common with the German shows, local manufacturers used the event to showcase their heritage collections as well as some of their new cars. PSA put on an excellent show of Peugots and Citroens, and foreign manufacturers represented included Daimler-Benz, Skoda and Porsche. Again, like the German shows the exhibiting car dealers were very high end indeed, with several displaying inventories worth in excess of £10 million. Not something you see at the NEC classic car show!

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Traders, dealers and cars as far as the eye can see

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Lovely pair of Panhard racers. The nearest is a 1954 X86 “Dolomites” which took part in the Tour De france and various rallies that year.

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Not something you see at most classic car shows! The French Tank Museum displayed this fully operational German WW2 King Tiger tank.

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Another view of the mighty leviathan. Designed in large part by Ferdinand Porsche, its a part of Porsche’s back catalogue that does not get a mention at their impressive museum in Stuttgart (see previous post on the Porsche Museum, Stuttgart)

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The Matra Club de France displayed a good selection of pristine cars, including this mint 530. Beyond is a Bagheera – novel at the time for its three abreast seating – long before McLaren copied the idea in their F1.

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Renault Heritage displayed a selection of Renault 16’s to celebrate the revolutionary model’s 50th anniversary. This is an as new TX. Journalists were able to book passenger rides in a fleet of R16’s around the local area.

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Not to be outdone by the Regie, PSA Heritage and affiliated clubs brought a large number of Citroen and Peugeot classics to the show. There was a particularly fine display of Citroen DS models to celebrate that model’s 50th anniversary. This is a rare and expensive convertible.

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Also celebrating its anniversary was the Alpine mark. Renault displayed a number of these fine sports cars including this early Brazilian racer.

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The Schlumpf Collection (or as its now known, La Cite de l’Automobile a Mulhouse) sent their “Three Kings” – three stunning Bugatti Royales. This is the Coupe Napoleon. The Schlumpf collection houses hundreds of gorgeous classics and scores of Bugattis. Its well worth a visit.

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Peugeot displayed a number of cars from their heritage collection at Sochaux, including this 401 drop head. The Musee de l’Aventure Peugeot is another great French auto museum. A visit can be combined with a tour of the factory where you can watch brand new 208’s rolling off the production line.

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This beautiful 1930s Peugeot 402 drop head shows what attractive and revolutionary cars Peugeot made before the war.

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The neat lines of this 1976 Citroen GS show the clear family resemblance to the more up market DS. I had my first driving lessons in my Dad’s GS which was precisely this shade of blue. A very comfortable but complex car!

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Typical selection of cars with one of the high end dealers. Targa Florio Ferrari, Porsche 908, Maserati 300..

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Beautiful Delahaye

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This smart gullwing Panhard sports racer was for sale. It would make a very different entry for the Le Mans Classic.

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Skoda also took the opportunity to showcase their heritage. This is a Skoda racer from the 1950s.

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This is a 1936 Skoda Popular Sport Monte Carlo coupe. No prizes for guessing how it got its name.

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Daimler Benz showed their new cars next to the old. This is the new AMG GT – like a scaled down non gullwing SLS. Its good looking but as cramped as an F Type. Porsche won’t be worrying too much about the competition.

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1955 Lancia Florida Pinin Farina Berlina. A beautiful car but no doubt with the structural rigidity of blancmange.

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If you were a well heeled French patriot there was a good supply of fabulous 50’s sports racers for sale including this Gordini.

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1942 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Bertone. You would have thought Alfa would have had other priorities in 1942..

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No French car show would be complete without at least one Facel Vega, the 1960’s car of the stars.

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Not bad for a used car lot. Bugattis as far as the eye can see.

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Well patinated Bugatti Type 35B. The vintage sports car.. If only I had a spare few million..

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This German dealer was selling no less than four Gullwing Mercs.

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Also for sale for a cool £1.5m, a Ferrari 288 GTO

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A British dealer was selling this interesting 1898 Panhard et Lavassor 8HP. Stated to be the oldest race car in existence, it took part in the 1898 Paris – Amsterdam – Paris race, one of the great city to city Gordon Bennett races that predated circuit racing.

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A strong collection of pre war coach built cars included this ungainly 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Zagato Aprile.

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What were Daimler Benz thinking? The Maybach was a truly ugly car bought by people with limited taste. This Maybach 62 Landaulet is vulgarity personified.

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The interior looks like a Dubai hotel suite. The bottle of Nevada Cava says it all..

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Nicely patinated (i.e. decrepit) 1935 Tatra 77A. Yours for a cool £375k!

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Pegaso of Spain made some wonderful cars in the 1950s and a fine selection were on show at Retromobile. This Z102 Coupe was bodied by Saoutchik.

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This Pegaso Z102 was bodied by Touring Superleggera of Milan.

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Pegaso Z102 Drop Head

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Back on the Renault stand, Alpine showed this concept car that has been digitised for use in the latest version of the Grand Tourismo computer game. The reception has been so positive it is rumoured that it is possible the car may enter production.

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Imaginative aero solution. No need for wings here!