It was touch and go if the world’s second-oldest Vauxhall would make it to the start of this year’s Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, but with the help of good old-fashioned British engineering expertise, the car’s now on track to tackle the famous event.
Known simply as the ‘5hp’, the veteran Vauxhall succumbed to a broken crankshaft earlier this year, and the challenge for Vauxhall’s Senior Vehicle Restorer, Andy Boddy, was to find someone who could manufacture a new crank before November 1, when 5hp will join 425 veteran (pre-1905) motor cars to travel from London to Brighton.
"Timing was crucial,’ said Andy. "We’d already entered our 1904 car in the run, but having 5hp there too was important. Phoenix Engineering in Slough pulled out all the stops to manufacture a new crank, and fingers crossed, we’ll have everything back together in time."
Vauxhall’s 5hp is the 45th vehicle built by the company in its first year of car manufacturing in 1903. It’s a rare four-seat model, with passengers sitting over the engine, in front of the driver. Vauxhall Heritage purchased and restored the car, registered BS8213, 20 years ago and it has completed the Run on many occasions since. Originally bought for £154 3s 3d by a Scottish shipbuilder, 5hp has a water-cooled 983cc engine powering its rear wheels through an epicyclic gearbox and chain drive. Top speed is 20mph and fuel consumption around 38mpg.
Joining 5hp is Vauxhall’s 6hp car. Registered JNM 400, it was one of 70 cars produced in 1904 at Vauxhall’s original factory in South London. Another London to Brighton regular, the 6hp also features a one-litre, water-cooled single-cylinder engine, along with tiller steering and similar performance and economy to the 5hp. Vauxhall Heritage has owned the car for more than 40 years.
Vauxhall is the only surviving UK car manufacturer eligible to enter Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, which is only open to cars built before 1905. Celebrating over a century of continuous vehicle production in London and Luton (its base since 1905), Vauxhall has produced over 14 million vehicles in its 112-year history. Its innovative designs and clever engineering rapidly turned Vauxhall into one of the most prestigious car companies in the early part of the 20th century.
The 2015 Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run marks the 119th anniversary of the first run in 1896, which celebrated the passing of the Locomotives on Highways Act the same year, giving road-going vehicles the right to travel at up to 14mph, instead of the previous 2mph in towns and 4mph in the country, led by an escort carrying a red flag. The next event didn’t happen until 1927, and has been owned and organised by the Royal Automobile Club since 1930, with only the onset of the Second World War and fuel rationing stopping it being an annual fixture right up to date. Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run is now the world’s longest running motoring event.
For more information about this year’s Bonhams London to Brighton Run, including the Regent Street Motor Show which precedes it on Saturday, October 31, please go to www.veterancarrun.com.