British get their kicks on Regent Street

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Show within a show: Celebrating 80 years of VW Beetles | Howard Koby photos

One of London’s most famous thoroughfares, Regent Street, is renowned for its shops and neo-classical architecture. But it recently was closed to normal traffic from Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Circuit for the Illinois Route 66 Regent Street Motor Show. 

The show is a wonderful concours d’elegance held the day before the running — this year the 122nd — of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run that motors from Hyde Park to the shores of the British Channel at Brighton. 

The Regent Street show featured years of pioneering motoring with about 100 pre-1905 veteran cars displayed on a wide and sweeping boulevard originally instigated by The Prince Regent (known as the “playboy prince”) who became King Georg IV (1762-1830). His creation was a way to travel from Pall Mall to a new park, called Regent Park, where Queen Mary’s Garden is located.

Since the show’s inception in 2011, the event is the largest free-to-view motor show in the UK. For the second year in a row, over 500,000 visitors were exposed at the same time at least a portion of America’s Route 66 through a sponsorship arrangement with the Illinois Office of Tourism.

Vintage Dodge Charger was part of Route 66 display

The Route 66 exhibit featured a classic Ford Thunderbird, a Dodge Charger, a 1957 Chevrolet pickup truck and a couple of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. 

Also featured among the London to Brighton-eligible vehicles as a celebration of 80 years of the Volkswagen Beetle, with eight classic Beetles and Herbie, the Love Bug, on display. The Jaguar Drivers Club celebrated the 70th anniversary of the XK120 and the Mk V Saloon and the 50 anniversary of the Jaguar XJ as well.

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The Regent Street show is a Royal Automobile Club and about 100 of Victorian-era cars were there, their owners in period costume. 

Among them were a 1901 Waverly electric driven by James Healy, a one-cylinder 1893 Benz driven by Ben Collings, a very rare 1903 Vabis from Sweden, and the oldest veteran, a two-cylinder 1893 Peugeot Vis-à-vis driven by Rossi di Scebio from Italy. The best of show trophy went to a two-cylinder 1903 De Dion Bouton Detachable-top Brougham owned by Harold Pritchard.

London to Brighton participants preview their cars at the Regent Street event

From among the half-a-million people who attended the show, one was awarded a round-trip for two from London to Chicago so they could get their kicks on Route 66.

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Howard graduated with honors from the Art Center College of Design in California. He has been a photographer and automotive journalist for 35 years out of his Los Angeles studio. He has been published in Hot Rod, AutoWeek, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Jaguar Journal, Forza, Vintage Motorsport, Classic Motorsports, Robb Report, Motor Trend Classic, Hemmings Muscle Machines, and 50 Years of Road & Track (MBI Publishing). He has served on the Advisory Committee of the Transportation Design Department at Art Center College of Design. He is the author of the books Top Fuel Dragsters of the 1970s and Pro Stock Dragsters of the 1970s, both available on amazon.com.

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