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News from 75 years ago, 1946 – The 50th Anniversary London to Brighton Run

This third news item in our series ‘News from Years Ago’ was published in the December 1946 issue of Motor Commerce. It reported on the revival of the London to Brighton veteran car run after an interval of eight years. This run also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the original “Emancipation” run on 1 November 1896. A record number of entrants, 137, started from London and, despite appalling weather (just as in the first run of 1896), 75 arrived at Brighton.

At 8 am the first car of the first group was sent off – the regulations provided that cars should be set with certain average speeds for the run, those built in 1894-1896, 10 m.p.h.; in 1897-1900, 12 m.p.h.; in 1901-1902, 14 m.p.h., and in 1903-1904, 18 m.p.h. With the conditions on the day and traffic congestion, drivers had a tough time maintaining these speeds.

At 8.15 am there was some excitement at Hyde Park Corner. On exiting the park, the steering of No. 18, E. O. Corkett’s air-cooled De Dion Quad, 1899, appeared to shy at a traffic policeman and the vehicle charged straight for him. In the words of the report: “Smart evasive action saved the limb of the Law”, but the Quad headed on for St. George’s Hospital and was stalled before any damage had been done.

At 8.25 am the veterans were settling down nicely, as seen in our headline picture taken on Westminster Bridge, where a bunch of veterans were catching up with P. Fotheringham-Parker, driving his 2¼ h.p. Century.


No. 6, E. Marshall, starting off on his Beeston tricycle, while other competitors are arriving.

A compulsory stop at Crawley gave everyone a 1½-hour break for refreshments, adjustments and time to bale out after the downpour.


Smoke and bustle at the Crawley halt while competitors get under way again.


F. J. Pidgeon’s Hurtu has difficulty making the grade at Crawley, with his mechanic’s assistance.

At the end-of-run dinner at Brighton, particular tribute was paid to Otto Mayer and A. O. Bradley, drivers in the original 1896 run, who came down as passengers in one of the cars. Other notables on the run were George Lanchester in his own eponymous 1901 car, Fred Bennett in his own Cadillac, and Victor Riley.

The report concluded with a list of other people present at the dinner – and it included some famous names: Mr and Mrs Richard Dimbleby; Sir Algernon and Lady Guinness; Mr and Mrs Kenneth Horne; Commander Earl Howe and Countess Howe; Mr and Mrs Frank Lanchester, and Mr and Mrs George Lanchester.

Photos courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive.

2 responses to “News from 75 years ago, 1946 – The 50th Anniversary London to Brighton Run”

  1. Ariejan Bos says:

    The past years I’m getting more interested in the London-Brighton revival runs, especially the early years, because they are the first symptoms of the returning interest in the oldest products of the car industry. Moreover they show what had remained and already restored to usable condition. The early runs are usually a mix of tricycles, tricars, cars and even commercial vehicles. Example of the latter class was the very early Thornycroft wagon, a regular participant in the earliest editions.
    Unfortunately the photos of this 1946 run are not of a very good quality, but it is clear that the last photo with the car with readable registration number VC-777 is not a Hurtu, but the intriguing MMC 1899 Princess which is now in the Ward collection. This car was already present in one of the earliest runs in 1929, then in a very unrestored way equipped with an unfolded top without fabric!
    Looking at the participants of the 1946 run, it is my impression that the Hurtu can be seen on the first photo, at the far left. The car directly on her right, in the background, seems to be a 2 cylinder Benz Ideal. In the same photo the tricar in the foreground on the right is the 1900 Century, as mentioned in the text. Behind this vehicle possibly another MMC is visible, but again I’m not fully sure because of the quality of the picture.
    I’m really interested to hear from others if they support my views, or better even correct me, preferably supported by photographic evidence.

  2. Peter W. Card says:

    The motor car registered VC 777 is in fact a 1900 MMC Princess, being driven by a Mr Freeman.

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