As an unseasonably mild London was still shrouded by darkness, nearly 400 pioneering veteran cars, their drivers and passengers gathered in Hyde Park on Sunday November 3rd waiting for daybreak to signal the start of the Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.
As daylight arrived – and as a curtain-raiser – seven pre-1905 motorcycles and seven pre-1905 cycles left the start line also headed for Brighton, the pair of penny-farthing pedlars attracted notable admiration as they embarked on their journey to Madeira Drive.
Then, at precisely 06:56 am sunrise, the first of the pre-1905 horseless carriages were flagged away with the earliest of the Victorian vehicles leading the way as they putted and hissed their way through Wellington Arch, down Constitution Hill, past Buckingham Palace, Whitehall and Parliament Square and then over Lambeth Bridge under hazy early morning sunshine. Here the 60-mile route split into two, in an attempt to alleviate traffic congestion in South London.
Half of the participants followed the traditional A23 route via Kennington, Brixton and Streatham Common; the other half journeyed via Vauxhall, Clapham Common and Tooting. The two routes then merged on the A236 just north of Croydon with the entire cavalcade reunited as it headed to the spectator-friendly halfway point in Crawley High Street, the South Downs and eventually the Madeira Drive seafront in Brighton.
However, tragedy marred this year’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, when Canadians Ron and Billi Carey, accidentally drove their 1903 Knox Runabout off the course and onto the M23 motorway where they were struck by a fast moving truck. Mr. Carey was killed in the collision, while his wife suffered severe injuries and was airlifted to St George’s Hospital in Tooting, South London.
Event organizers released a statement saying, “The organisers can confirm that a car involved in a tragic incident on Sunday morning had been entered in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. The car had left the route, which does not include the M23 where the collision took place. The organisers are doing all they can to support the family concerned and are working with the police, but cannot comment any further on the incident at this stage.”