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The annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run (LBVCR) is set to take place on the first Sunday in November – as it has done since 1927. The rules state that participating vehicles must have been built no later than 1904. The resulting line-up gives participants and spectators an unforgettable glimpse of the early days of the automobile. This year's event will mark the 130th anniversary of the invention of the automobile and will pay tribute to Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz, who both independently completed their first vehicles in 1886. Mercedes-Benz Classic will be taking part, entering a 1902 Benz Spider and a 1903 Mercedes-Simplex 40 hp in the anniversary Run on 6 November 2016. One of the drivers will be Eddie Jordan, former racing driver, motorsport manager and Formula 1 team owner.
Britain's 1865 "Highway Act" was an idiosyncratic and highly restrictive piece of legislation, stipulating that the top speed for self-propelling vehicles was not to exceed a walking pace of 6.4 km/h (4 miles an hour) – or a paltry 3.2 km/h (2 miles an hour) in built-up areas. It also specified that someone had to walk in front of the vehicle with a red flag to warn other road users, a restriction that remained in place until 1878. This allowed little room for technological progress. In 1896, exactly 120 years ago, the most serious restrictions were lifted: the speed limit was raised to 19.2 km/h (12 miles an hour), and the red flag was no longer insisted upon. On 14 November of the same year, this relaxation of the law was celebrated with a spontaneous "Emancipation Run", the participants driving from the capital, London, to the coastal town of Brighton, around 96 kilometres (60 miles) away. At the start of the run a red flag was symbolically torn in two. The first official commemoration of the "Emancipation Run" took place in 1927. Since then it has been staged every year, with the exception of the period between 1940 and 1947. This makes the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run the world's longest-running automobile event and at the same time the biggest gathering of veteran vehicles from the early days of motoring history. In addition to four-wheel automobiles with a combustion engine, the race also features three-wheelers, steam-powered vehicles and electric cars. Since 1930 it has been controlled by the Royal Automobile Club (RAC).
In 2016, almost 620 vehicles from around 20 countries are set to take part in the Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run supported by Hiscox – as it is now officially known. It will start at 7.04 a.m. (sunrise) on Sunday, 6 November 2016, and is just one element of the Royal Automobile Club's London Motor Week, a seven-day celebration of motor-powered vehicles, which includes an art exhibition, lectures and a motoring books awards evening. One of the highlights will be the Regent Street Motor Show on Saturday, 5 November 2016, a free event which will feature many of the veteran vehicles set to take part in the run to Brighton the following day – as well as a selection of contemporary vehicles.
The invention of the automobile 130 years ago
Mercedes-Benz Classic's participation in the 2016 Run commemorates the invention of the automobile 130 years ago. In 1886 Carl Benz was granted Patent DRP 37435 for his Patent-Motorwagen in Mannheim, and at almost the same time Gottlieb Daimler was completing his motorised carriage in Cannstatt near Stuttgart. This initial spark shaped the future of mobility and gave rise to the success story that continues to this day.
Mercedes-Benz Classic is bringing two vehicles from the company's collection to the starting line in London. The first is a Benz Spider dating from 1902. This sporty model with front-mounted engine marks the transition at Benz from classic motor car to modern automobile. The vehicle that will feature in this year's run was delivered to Ireland in 1902 and was in use there for over 30 years. It was acquired by what was then Daimler-Benz AG in 1969.
Given its history, it is a fitting vehicle for Irishman Eddie Jordan. The former racing driver, motorsport manager and Formula 1 team owner will drive the Benz Spider from London to Brighton. The Jordan Grand Prix team took part in 250 Formula 1 races between 1991 and 2005. Its line-up included well-known drivers such as Michael Schumacher, Ralf Schumacher and Hans-Harald Frentzen, all of whom also have links to Mercedes-Benz.
The second Mercedes-Benz Classic vehicle is a Mercedes-Simplex 40 hp. At the end of March 1902 it superseded the legendary Mercedes 35 hp, which had marked the end of the carriage style that had dominated the industry and is thus considered to be the first modern car.