"Owners and drivers should remember that motor cars are on trial in England
and that any rashness or carelessness might injure the industry in this country."
Why is the Run, run on a November Sunday rather than a Sunday in the summer or when it is warmer? This is the question that is most asked.
It all dates back to November 14th 1896, from just pass midnight that day, the "Locomotives on the Highway Act" came into force. Saturday 14th saw the first Run and it is now known as a red-letter day in the history of British motoring.
The Emancipation Run from London to Brighton celebrates the passing into law of the "Locomotives on the Highway Act", which raised the speed limit for 'Light Locomotives' from 4 miles per hour to 14 mph. This was reduced to 12 mph before the act come into force. The act abolished the requirement for the car to be preceded by a man on foot.
The need for the man on foot to carry a red flag had actually been abolished in 1878, but the Locomotive Act was still widely known as the 'Red Flag Act'. At the start of the 1896 Run, a red flag was symbolically destroyed by Lord Winchilsea. In 1996 a re-enactment of the start saw a red flag destroyed by the current Lord Winchilsea. It was repeated in 2007 by the Run's Steering Committee and is likely to be a part of all future Runs. The act of destroying a red flag had been undertaken on a few Runs before 1996 and being either before the Run or after.
The Run on Saturday 14th 1896 was a demonstration that the automobile had come to stay. The organisers' instructions stated: "Owners and drivers should remember that motor cars are on trial in England and that any rashness or carelessness might injure the industry in this country."
The Run from the Metropole Hotel in London to the Metropole Hotel in Brighton had 58 vehicles listed to start but 25 dropped out before the day. (The numbers do vary from one publication to another as no true report seems to be made.)
Only 13 or 14 reached Brighton, although it was hinted that one car or possible more had been taken down to Brighton by train and covered with mud before crossing the finishing line!
In 1897 (29 November) the Motor Car Club drove 44 cars to Sheen House, West London. In 1898 on a November day the Motor Car Club took 135 entrants for a run to Brighton. The following day, the Automobile Club organised a run with over 50 cars on a revisit to Sheen House. The Automobile Club had a Run in 1900 to Southsea. A rerun was made in 1901 with 174 cars that started in Whitehall Place, London. 1902 saw a Run to Oxford with 193 cars.
In 1903 the speed limit was raised to "the lightning velocity of 20mph" and with no further need to celebrate a 12mph limit the Runs stopped.
In 1927 the Run, keeping as close to the original 1896 day as possible, was reintroduced by the DAILY SKETCH and the SUNDAY GRAPHIC. The Run has been run annually ever since with the exception of the war years (1939~45) and two other years, 1947 petrol rationing and 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. It has been reported that one car did the Run in 1947 using his precious petrol ration.
In some publications it has been reported that not all of the Runs started in Central London or finished in Brighton, it seems that they were correct if you take in the years before 1927. All Runs from 1927 to the present day, according to the official programs, started in London and finished in Brighton and kept almost to the A23 the main London to Brighton road.
From the Runs official programs, most Runs started around the City of Westminster or just to the west and for two years a garage in the City of London. The exit from Hyde Park was via The Grand Entrance (Apsley Arch) or the eastern gate, what is now known as the Queen's Gate. The road on the east side of Hyde Park that was once used is now the north bound carriageway of Park Lane.
All Runs, except one, crossed the River Thames by Westminster Bridge and for some of the early Runs the bridge was the official timing start.
Between 1927~1964 the route used the Croydon by-pass (Purley Way). In 1965 the route was changed on the advice of the Police to go through Croydon. In 2010 the route through Croydon was again changed this time to avoid the Town Centre.
In 2020 due to Covid-19 a virtual run took place for the first time. A number of the those that entered for the run did a run of some length near their own home.
Procession or Parade: - In 1896, when the cars arrived in Brighton they assembled at Preston Park and then in procession made their way to the Metropole Hotel on the seafront. From 1927 and up to 1962 with a few missing years, a procession or parade of the cars took place. Wherever the official finish was located all the processions ended on Madeira Drive or very close by.
Where the official finish was on Madeira Drive, the parade took the cars on a tour to Regency Square (near the Metropole Hotel) and back. The routes either being back along Madeira Drive to the pier, along the seafront to and around Regency Square and then back or up Duke's Mound, along Marine Parade to the Aquarium then on to Regency Square and back to the finishing point and assembling area on Madeira Drive. This procession/parade route ended in 1954.
In 1956, with no procession/parade taking place in 1955, it changed to a shorter circular route, this being: - Carrying on Madeira Drive from the assembling area, up Duke's Mound, along Marine Parade to the start of Madeira Drive and back to the assembling area. The last procession/parade took place in 1962. See Runs' History - Then click on the year for the map and procession/parade of the year required".
For a year by year list of information that includes: - Where they started, where they finished, numbers of entries, etc., can be found on Runs' History. The information is from the official programs or as to the 1896 Run, written reports after the Run.
In 1930, The Royal Automobile Club - as Britain's senior motoring club - took over the organisation of the Run. It was King Edward VII who, in 1907, commanded that The Automobile Club of Great Britain & Ireland should be known as The Royal Automobile Club. The Royal Automobile Club is the governing body for motor sport in Britain.
More interest than usual was aroused in 1971, when Her Majesty the Queen entered (but alas did not drive) a 70-year-old Daimler originally owned by her great grandfather King Edward VII and once driven by her father, King George VI. The car has been on many a Run since 1971 and completed the 56 odd miles driven by HRH Prince Michael of Kent and staff from the Royal household.
HRH Prince Michael of Kent, President of The Royal Automobile Club, is a regular participant. He has driven a variety of vehicles, including the royal 1900 Daimler, the RAC's 1900 Simms (left) and the VCC's 1902 Wolseley (right). Other vehicles include a 1903 De Dion Bouton, an 1899 Wolseley, a 1903 De Dietrich, a 1904 Mercedes and a 1903 Napier Racing car.
For Prince Michael's other activities go to our "Links" page and follow the link to his Website.
In 1927, the first re-enactment, the Run was called "RUN TO BRIGHTON". The following two years the name changed to "OLD CROCKS' RUN TO BRIGHTON". From 1930 to 1956 the name changed to "COMMEMORATION RUN OF VETERAN CARS" with "LONDON - BRIGHTON" placed either before or after, also with either "-" or "TO".
From 1957 to 1999 it seemed to change almost every year being: - LONDON TO BRIGHTON, RAC COMMEMORATION RUN, RAC VETERAN CAR RUN, KENCO RAC VETERAN CAR RUN, BENSON & HEDGES RAC VETERAN CAR RUN, TINDLE NEWSPAPERS RAC VETERAN CAR RUN or just VETERAN CAR RUN. Over the period there have been changes to where "LONDON TO BRIGHTON" was put, before or after. From 2000 to 2014 it had been the "LONDON TO BRIGHTON VETERAN CAR RUN". 2014 and 2015 it became "BONHAMS LONDON TO BRIGHTON VETERAN CAR RUN". In the 2016 the name changed again to "Bonhams Veteran Car Run supported by Hiscox". In 2019 with Hiscox withdrawing from the partner's list the name reverted back to "BONHAMS LONDON TO BRIGHTON VETERAN CAR RUN". 2020 the name changed back to "LONDON TO BRIGHTON VETERAN CAR RUN" for a month or two, then with new title partners it is now called RM SOTHEBY'S LONDON TO BRIGHTON VETERAN CAR RUN.
The Run throughout the old car movement is just known as the "BRIGHTON" or "THE RUN".
The Royal Automobile Club's LBVCR partners: -
Over the years there have been many sponsors or as they are now known "Partners", the first in 1927 was a joint sponsorship or as written on the program "Organized and Promoted by", the DAILY SKETCH and the SUNDAY GRAPHIC.
The most major sponsor since 1930 has been The Royal Automobile Club. Major sponsors/partners/title partners over the years have included: - THE AUTOCAR, UNIPART, CASTROL, RENAULT UK, KENCO, BENSON & HEDGES, TINDLE NEWSPAPERS, THE BRITISH LEGION, KENT MESSENGER, THE MAIL ON SUNDAY, DAILY MAIL, BONHAMS. For a time during Bonhams partnership there was a supporter partner "Hiscox". From and including 2020 the title partner has been RM Sotheby.
There have been many, too many to name, smaller sponsors/partners that have added their support over the years
In 2012 the organisation of the run was by taken over by Goose Communications Ltd.
Since 1930 when the Royal Automobile Club took over the running of the event and making it their own, the event has been organised by the RAC, RAC Motor Services, RAC Motor Sports Association (RACMSA), Motor Sports Association (MSA), International Motor Sports (IMS) and Motion Works (LBVCR) Ltd.
The RAC, RAC Motor Services, RACMS, MSA and the IMS are all or have been part of the Royal Automobile Club.
In 1927 the Brighton and Hove Motor Club undertook the marshaling in Brighton and the Club is still undertaking the marshaling duties today.
2003 saw the first Saturday Concours for some of the cars that are due to run in the following day's Run. For the first two years it was held in Waterloo Place near the Royal Automobile Club's clubhouse in Pall Mall. In 2005 it moved to Regent Street.
Regent Street Motor Show's Organisers and Partners: -
In the first year about 50 cars took part that rose to about 100 when it moved to Regent Street. In the following years it opened up to more modern modes of transport and changed its name to the Regent Street Motor Show.
Please note the RAC mentioned on these pages refers to the Royal Automobile Club not the RAC breakdown service. The breakdown service split from the Royal Automobile Club in 1999.
The RAC breakdown service is the official back-up service for the Run.