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Time travel: London to Brighton rally celebrates end of 4 mph speed limit


Dawn breaks at 6:59 a.m. Sunday, November 4 in London and it signals the first vehicle to start on its way south from Hyde Park to the English Channel coastal town at Brighton. More than 400 other vehicles, all produced before 1905, will follow across the starting line, and a remarkable number likely will complete the full 60-mile distance by the 4:30 p.m. deadline.

The event was inaugurated in 1927 to commemorate the route of the Emancipation Run of 1896, which was staged to celebrate the repeal of the Red Flag Act, a British law that not only limited motor-vehicle travel to a top speed of 4 mph, but required each vehicle to be preceded by a man carrying a red flag to walk ahead to warn of its approach. 

Some emancipation; the revised speed limit was a whopping 14 mph.

From Hyde Park, the participants travel down Constitution Hill past Buckingham Palace on to The Mall. But this year, for the first time, the route splits in Parliament Square in an effort to minimize congestion in south London. 

Dress warm and dry: Early November can be both chilly and wet in England

Half of the vehicles will travel over Westminster Bridge and follow the traditional A23 route via Kennington, Brixton and Streatham Common. But the other half will travel over Lambeth Bridge and proceed through Vauxhall, Clapham Common and Tooting. The routes merge on the A236 just north of Croydon.

The merger enables all to participate in the celebration at Crawley High Street, where the Run stages its only competitive event, the Regularity Time Trial, a 13-mile drive to Burgess Hill that awards maintaining a specific average speed.

From Burgess Hill, the roads become scenic but demanding over the South Downs and on through Hassocks and Clayton before returning to the A23 for the run into Brighton and the finish seaside on Madeira Drive.

“Even though few of the cars have any form of protection against the elements, reflecting the resilience and spirit of early motorists, the Run will take place come rain or shine,” the Run organizers noted in a news release.

Spectators line a goodly portion of the 60-mile route

Not only is much of the route lined with appreciative spectators, but in honor of The Movember  Foundation and its facial hair-growing fund-raising effort for men’s health, many of the pubs along the route will open early and stage various charity events.

For those attending, here is the anticipated schedule of when the cars will be in various locations:

6:59 a.m. – 8.15 am: Constitution Hill, London
6.59 am – 8.15 am: The Mall, London
6.59 am – 8.15 am: Horse Guards Parade, London
7.05 am – 8.20 am: Westminster Bridge, London
7.10 am – 9.15 am: Clapham Common, London
7.35 am – 11.00 am: Croydon – A236, A235 and A23
7.50 am – 11.30 am: Redhill – A23
8.00 am – 12.15 pm: Gatwick – A23
8.20 am – 2.00 pm: Crawley High Street
8.45 am – 2.30 pm: Cuckfield High Street, B2114
8:55 am – 3.00 pm: Burgess Hill – B2036
9:00 am – 3.30 pm: Clayton Hill – A273
10.04 am – 4.30 pm: Brighton – Madeira Drive

“The unique Veteran Car Run is without doubt one of the highlights on the international motoring calendar,” said Ben Cussons, chairman of the Royal Automobile Club that organizes the event. 

“Even more than that, it’s a wonderful piece of living history and an annual reminder of the fearless motoring pioneers who, literally, paved the way for all of us.”

Friends and family pile in at the finish line

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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