Britain’s longest-running motoring event, the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, is less than a month away. Hundreds of veteran cars will set off at dawn from Hyde Park on 6 November 2022, each one with a remarkable story to tell.
Some are more remarkable than others, like a 1903 Panhard-Levassor that’s been in the same family from new. That’s 119 years of continuous family ownership. Incredible.
‘Tramway King’ Sir George White, a Bristol-based businessman and future founder of the Bristol Aeroplane Company paid £750 for the car as a 21st birthday present for his son Stanley White. It’s now owned by Stanley’s grandson, also called Sir George White, who will be participating in this year’s Veteran Run.
Originally painted white with red detailing, the colour was later changed to the family’s dark green and black livery. It was registered AE 10 with the introduction of number plates.
“That was the last time it was painted – 1904,” said Sir George, who inherited the car when his grandfather passed away in 1964. Other modifications carried out by Stanley included a plate glass windscreen, hood and an interchangeable lightweight racing body.
This isn’t the first time the Panhard has taken part in the Veteran Car Run. Sir George believes it’s the car’s 20th London to Brighton, half of which were in the hands of Sir Alec Croydon of the Bristol Aeroplane Company. There haven’t been many issues, which worries Sir George.
“Somebody said to me once, that the fun of the Run is that you know you’re going to break down, but you don’t know where or when! I think that’s true. The extraordinary thing about the Panhard is that if we prepare it properly, and if everything goes as you hope it going to go, you just drive to Brighton. It’s actually really rather disappointing if you haven’t had a real battle to get there!”
Sir George is relishing the opportunity to get up at the crack of dawn to take part. “There really is something quite wonderful about meeting in Hyde Park at dawn. I remember one year, there was a low mist over the whole of the park and over the water. Standing in the semi-darkness with the mist everywhere, I remember a car that appeared with candles in its headlights. It was quite, quite extraordinary.”
We’ll be in Hyde Park to witness this extraordinary event. Paul Cowland said he would ‘drop everything’ to take part, which is something he did last year. He called it “the slowest drive” of his life, but also “the most rewarding”.