Photos and articles about Brighton and Hove in the time of coronavirus. See our collection and add your own!

115th London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

A Salvesen Steam Open Cart 1896: 10 horsepower. Click on the photo to open a large version in a new page
Photo by Tony Mould

‘The Old Crocks’

The Royal Automobile Club’s annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run takes place on the first Sunday of every November. This year over five hundred cars entered the 115th run and the entrants were from all over the world. The event, known affectionately in the city as ‘The Old Crocks’ was as popular as ever and the cars which made it to the finish line were given a great welcome.

First run in 1896

This popular and classic run commemorates the ‘Emancipation Run’ of 14 November 1896. This celebrated the passing into law of the ‘Locomotives on the Highway Act’, in which the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ was raised from 4mph to 14mph. The act also abolished the requirement for a man on foot to walk in front of the vehicles.

Originally only 33 entrants

In 1896, thirty three motorists set off from the London Metropole Hotel to drive to The Metropole Hotel Brighton; only fourteen of them completed the journey. The first formal re-enactment of the 1896 Emancipation Run was in 1927; with the exception of the war years and 1947 when petrol rationing was in force, it has taken place every November since.

Comments about this page

  • Used to go round the corner from my house in Campbell Road and watch them every year. They always used to wave at us kids and we thought they were great. I suppose they go a different way now as it’s one way traffic now. I saw them from 1953-1964, and yes we called them old crocks. Don’t live in Brighton anymore so can’t see them.

    By Anne Newman (07/11/2011)
  • I used to live near Larry Adler in Maida Vale, so always think of his signature tune in the film ‘Genevieve’ when the Brighton Old Crocks Run is mentioned.

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (08/11/2011)
  • My father used to operate the Pyecombe Garage which was on the route to Brighton. As a boy my brother and I used to help out refueling the “old crocks”. We never ran out of petrol but one year (in the early 1950s) we first ran out of water! and as the entrant numbers increased so did the demand for water.

    By Martin White (09/11/2011)
  • The London to Brighton Veteran Car Rally is now the politically correct term for this event. However being as I have known it all my 65 years as ‘The Old Crocks Race’, as far as I’m concerned that’s the way it will always be to us local people, particularly as my Grand Children now also refer to them as the “old crocks”. (the cars not me and the wife). Long may it survive as well. My greatest fear now is them green people don’t ban it because of the exhaust that is emitted.

    By Geoff Wells (14/11/2011)
  • Sorry to be a bit late in coming to this page! (It’s almost ten years since the last posting)
    Yes, it was usually referred to as the ‘Old Crocks’ run although I don’t know where that phrase came from. Next Sunday should see them here again.
    The film ‘Genevieve’ was released in 1953 and is largely responsible for making the veteran car movement what it is today. I am sure it was Larry Adler’s theme music which helped put this film on the map. I was fortunate in seeing him live at a concert in Canterbury but unfortunately he DIDN’T play the Genevieve Waltz and I wasn’t brave enough to go up to the stage and request it.
    Neither of the cars featured in the film were old enough for the genuine Veteran Car Run as the cut-off date is December 1904 and both the Darracq which was Genevieve driven by John Gregson, and the Spyker driven by Kenny More both date from 1905. However the Darracq, in view of the above, has been allowed to run a couple of times in recent years as a ‘representative example of the make’. Both these cars are now in the Louwman Museum in Holland.
    A little known fact is that the script writer Bill Rose, who was from the USA, lived in a penthouse flat at No 26 Lewes Crescent Brighton in the 1950s. He had an Austin Healey 100/6 in metallic blue with ivory side panels. He was a customer of ours at the Bristol Garage and could say fill her up (with petrol) all in one word, ‘fillerup’. He was quite good with his tipping too!
    I well remember the old Pyecombe Garage as well, we used to pass it on the way to Guildford.

    By Tim Sargeant (31/10/2021)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *