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From London to Brighton

When the veteran cars set out on the London - Brighton run each November, they are celebrating one of the great landmarks in the history of motoring in Britain - the abolition of the rule that every "horseless carriage" had to be preceded along the road by a pedestrian. This extremely irksome restriction, imposed by the Locomotives on Highways Act, was withdrawn in 1896, and on November 14th of that year there was a rally of motor-cars on the London - Brighton highway to celebrate the first day of freedom - Emancipation Day, as it has been known by motorists ever since.


Emancipation is still celebrated on the Brighton road each November, usually on the first Sunday of the month, but nowadays there is an important condition of entry - every car taking part must be at least 60 years old. Hence the annual celebration has become known as the Veteran Car Run,* and it provides the gayest motoring spectacle of the year and a wonderful opportunity to see these fine old cars taking the road in all the glory of immaculate paint and polish. Since 1930 the event has been organized by the Royal Automobile Club.

* (Also known as the Old Crocks' Race.)

For the benefit of the uninitiated - a "Veteran" car is one built before 1905. Cars built between 1906 and 1918 are known as "Edwardian", while a "Vintage" marque dates from the period 1919-1930. It is estimated that there are more than 10,000 Vintage car-owners in Britain.

At dawn, on the first Sunday of November, some 250 beautifully preserved and rare specimens assemble by the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, London, in preparation for the start of the 53-mile journey.

At 8 o'clock comes the "Off" and the nostalgic exhaust notes of late Victorian and Edwardian days sound among the trees in the park. One by one they move off down Constitution Hill,* past Buckingham Palace,** along the misty Mall and over Westminster Bridge. Through the southern suburbs they go out into the open countryside of Surrey and Sussex. The procession of old cars takes nearly an hour to pass a given point of Brighton's Madeira Drive.

* (Constitution Hill - a place in London, between the Green Park and the Buckingham Palace gardens.)

** (Buckingham Palace - the principal residence of the sovereign, built in 1703.)

The Run is not a race. Entrants are limited to a maximum average speed of 20 miles per hour. The grfat thing is not speed but quality of performance, and the dedicated enthusiasts nave a conversation all their own.

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