Two of Professor Clive Palmer’s vintage cars were put through their paces on Sunday (4 November) in the Royal Automobile Club’s (RAC) Annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, the oldest and most romantic rally of its kind anywhere in the world.
In total 449 rare pre-1905 cars entered the run with 372 completing the 63-mile journey that began at London’s Hyde Park and ended at the seafront in Brighton. Torrential rain from start to finish claimed 77 breakdown victims along the way as the cold, wet weather took its toll on the cars but still failed to dampen the spirits of the competitors.
Flying the flag for Australia both of Professor Palmer’s cars completed the run, although one, a stunning four-seater 1901 De Dion Bouton driven by the resilient Derek Payne, trundled over the line in last place after several breakdowns along the way. However, it was a sterling ten-hour effort considering the vintage vehicle has only one cylinder that generates just 3.5 horsepower.
The other, a pristine two-seater 1900 Decauville driven by chief mechanic Dylan Higgins and Professor Palmer’s wife Anna, fared rather better and powered home with the leading pack, perhaps thanks to its zippy 8 horsepower engine and average speed of around 30kph.
Now in its 116th year, the RAC London to Brighton Veteran Car Run commemorates the Emancipation Run in 1896, celebrating the ‘Locomotives on the Highway Act’ which raised the speed limit from 4mph to 14mph and abolished the requirement for vehicles to be preceded by a man on foot.
The event takes place on the first Sunday in November and attracts both royalty and car enthusiasts from every quarter. Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, television adventurer Charlie Boorman and Formula One legend Stirling Moss OBE were just some of the celebrities among this year’s drivers.
Not a race but an endurance of man and machine, the annual event attracts around 500 automobiles with an eligibility criteria that requires the cars to be of three or four wheel design and certified that their build took place prior to the 1 January 1905. Over 160 vehicle makes take part and individual values range from around $35,000 to several million.
The RAC London to Brighton Veteran Car Run was just the start of what will be a near 17,000-kilometre journey for Professor Palmer’s two prized cars, which will soon make their way to Australia to join the growing collection of vintage vehicles at Palmer Coolum Resort on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Both built by French manufacturers, the De Dion Bouton and the Decauville will be among the finest working examples of vintage car engineering in Australia and will form part of planned vintage car museum at the luxury holiday landmark.