Last October, in Hershey, Pa., someone paid $4.6 million for an 1884 steam-powered De Dion-Bouton. This, in case you didn’t know, is a car. A very old car. And you probably won’t see it parked at Walmart anytime soon. But head to London next month for the London-Brighton Veteran Car Run (LBVCR), where 500 veteran cars participate in the world’s oldest motoring event, and you might.
Technically, the LBVCR isn’t a race. Rather, it’s a celebration of the Locomotives on Highways Act from 1896, which not only raised the speed limit from 2 to 14 mph but also removed the necessity of a man walking ahead of vehicles with a red warning flag. The LBVCR, which takes place Nov. 2–4, features cars manufactured before 1905 and kicks off with an auction of rare car memorabilia at Bonham’s, followed by a Saturday concours on Regent Street, where visitors can get up close and personal with the cars and meet their owners — who range from students at the Imperial College to the owner of Paris’ Moulin Rouge and from Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason to ex-F1 driver Sir Stirling Moss.
The Run itself begins at 7 a.m. Sunday at Hyde Park, where, every two minutes, fleets of fantastical vehicles — from two-person tricycles to love seats on buckboards to elegant early limousines — depart for the 60-mile drive to Brighton’s seawall. Entries represent everything from the well-known brands of Mercedes, Oldsmobile and Cadillac to the more obscure Bayard, Autocar and Panhard et Levassor. Famous vehicles from past events include a 1904 Darracq that was the star of a 1953 movie about the event; the one-cylinder, 1.5-horsepower 1894 Benz Velo; and the 1900 De Dion-Bouton Vis-à-Vis, which is also one of the oddest-looking cars — passengers and driver sit facing one another over a steering wheel in the middle of the floor. www.veterancarrun.com