Veteran motors or old crocks? It’s all the same to a petrol head

For as long as anyone can remember, the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run has been making a pit-stop in Crawley.

Many a cold November morning has seen the town’s children running to catch a glimpse of the grand old machines as they chug along the High Street for a much-needed rest.

Crawley History - cars

Crawley History - cars

Known fondly as the Old Crocks – although some competitors can’t stand the nickname – the car run was launched on Saturday November 14 1896.

According to the Veteran Car Club, the Emancipation run, as it was originally known, celebrated the passing into law of the Locomotives on the Highway Act.

The Act raised the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ to a giddy 14mph from 4mph – putting paid to the need for a man to walk in front of each car carrying a red flag.

Although that requirement had actually been abolished in 1878, the Locomotive Act was still known as the ‘Red Flag Act’.

To symbolise the Act, a red flag is still destroyed at the start of every race.

Some 33 motorists took part in the first run, leaving the Metropole Hotel, in Central London, and finishing at the Metropole Hotel, Brighton.

Only 14 of the intrepid drivers made it to the finishing line and legend has it that one car was secretly taken by rail and covered with mud before crossing the finishing line!

The Emancipation run was re-enacted in 1927 and has been held every November since – except in 1947 when petrol rationing was in force.

Some of this week’s pictures show cars which are nowhere near old enough to take part in the Veteran Car Run – but they still stir a feeling of nostalgia when looking back at the 1960s and beyond.

The Veteran Car Run will pass through Crawley again on Sunday (November 3).