YET again, Covid has spannered another great British tradition.
The historic London to Brighton Veteran Car Run — which dates back 124 years — should have been today.
So I took the executive decision not to let the virus stop me doing it. Mainly because this car is as outdoors as you can get. I didn’t need a face mask, I needed long johns and an umbrella.
But first, a little bit of history. The original 1896 run — that’s not a typo, 1896 — celebrated the Locomotives on Highways Act which raised the speed limit from 4mph to 14mph. It also meant a lackey no longer had to walk ahead waving a red flag.
Shorter celebration runs followed but the full 60-mile route was revived in 1927 and has taken place every year since, apart from during World War Two.
Only cars built before 1905 can enter and last year more than 400 crawled and hissed their way down the A23 to the seaside.
Which is why we wanted to keep the spirit of the run alive by doing a dummy run in this 1904 Vauxhall 6HP Light Car.
Yes, it looks like a big pram, it’s bouncier than Tigger on a trampoline and it has zero crash protection but it is every bit as amusing as you’d hope.
It is truly wonderful to drive, one of my top two tests this year — and the other one was Bond’s DB5 gadget car.
Everyone we passed — or should I say, everyone who passed us — gave us a smile or a thumbs-up.
There’s no steering wheel on this old gem — it has a tiller, like on a boat. It rolls on wooden artillery wheels and a big chain drives the rear axle.
You go faster by turning the brass hand-wheel. Top speed is about 25mph — and trust me, you wouldn’t want to do any more than that.
You need total concentration or you’ll soon be checking your injuries in a hedge bottom or worse. Not only do you have to anticipate other traffic, you have to be ready for even the slightest of gradients, advancing the ignition spark to get more power.
This very car has contested London to Brighton 56 times — more than any other — with only one retirement. The driver cooked the engine, apparently.
No such problem for yours truly. I celebrated reaching the finish line with an ice cream at Brighton Pier.
Modifications include battery-powered lights, a fire extinguisher . . . and not much else. You use hand signals to indicate turning left or right. Reverse?
Stick it in neutral and push it.
It cost £136 in 1904 and is valued north of £100,000. It was a privilege to borrow it from the Vauxhall museum at Luton. Over the decades, Vauxhall has been as British as the red telephone box. As has the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.
Let’s hope we can all enjoy the 125th anniversary run next year.
VAUXHALL 6HP LIGHT CAR
Price new: £136
Value now: £100,000+ Engine: Single-cylinder
Top speed: 25mph
Body: Open two-seater
Urban GS is golden for oldies
BMW GS has been one of the world’s most recognisable motorcycles for more than a decade thanks to a perfect storm.
In the mid-Nineties the average biker here was in his late thirties, rode a sports bike really fast on a Sunday morning and drank beer like it was water.
Ten years on, that same biker had bones that could no longer cope with a sports bike.
Speeding was as socially acceptable as naked shopping and his bladder couldn’t cope with all that lager, so he had to make some major decisions.
Enter the long-legged GS.
Sports bikers were quick to switch and the GS soon topped the sales charts, where it has stayed pretty much ever since.
GS (Gelande Strasse) means “any road”. You are supposed to look at a GS and imagine heading off around the world at a moment’s notice.
When I look at this Urban GS from the RNineT range, it makes me think – in a good way – about riding somewhere local for an expensive coffee.
The black-and-yellow paint is in homage to the original 1980 R80 GS. The brush guards over the handlebars and knobbly tyres also tick the off-road box, but things have come a long way in four decades.
This new bike is fast. The RNineT platform is brilliant. I love how they make their power.
Raspy revs rock the bike from side to side at the lights thanks to that Boxer engine layout. They feel sure-footed anywhere.
This new model is also EU5 emissions-friendly yet with more torque than ever before.
The classic clock set-up tells you which riding mode you are in (as well as other important things) and there is also a USB for charging your phone.
It is practical, plenty fast enough, packed with safety features and looks cool. What’s not to like?
The BMW Urban GS costs from £11,515.
HERE’S a bit of pub ammo for you . . . Kia also makes tanks.
The Koreans have supplied armoured military vehicles in Asia, the Middle East and Africa for years and are now developing pure-electric and hydrogen ATVs.
That’s why a Sportage won’t let you down.
POLESTAR has opened a car showroom at Westfield London – where you CAN’T buy a car.
UK boss Jonathan Goodman said: “With no salespeople and no requirement to shift stock, we’re changing the face of automotive retail.”
Customers can only order online.
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