As Sharon went off drawing at the British Museum, I decided to take another route and follow the London to Brighton Veteran Car Rally to Brighton. The challenge with something like cars, old or new is to find an interesting way to photograph them.
One solution is to find some interesting detail that says something about the car as a whole.
Veteran car lamp
Or to find a particularly beautifully shaped or presented car.
I had arranged to hire a (modern) car – which I picked up at Victoria Station on the Saturday and promptly parked while I checked out the concours display in Regent Street.
After a month driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road it was a relief to be back on the left – although London traffic and street layout still offered its challenges for a ‘Colonial’ driver. I took some photos of the superbly presented cars – and picked up a copy of the program – with the all important route.
The weather forecast looked promising – as did the pre-dawn sky at 05.00AM when I drove to Hyde Park. I grabbed the camera and braced against the cold as I walked up toward the start. Sure enough one of the cars from 1900 was just getting up steam, so I stopped for a chat and took some photos.
I took a few shots of the 1901 Toledo steam car – it looked show-room new. I liked how the support pit crew all wore Toledo overalls – nice touch!
The 1904 Gardner-Serpollet deservedly won accolades as the most historically significant car – it was one of only two surviving cars of that make from that year. These are rare cars indeed!
1904 Gardner-Serpollet steam car
Some cars glided smoothly and silently by. Other steamers had a healthy howl from the burner – at least with those you know their burners were still alight – although those driving petrol cars nearby looked a little nervous! In the early days there were about equal numbers of steam, petrol (gasolene) and electric cars on the road – petrol (gasolene) cars didn’t really start to dominate until after 1906, boosted in 1913 when the first electric-start vehicles were produced.
Another way to add interest to a photo is to present an antique car with an antique look, such as a black and white image.
So then it was time to put the sat-nav and my driving skills to the test. I put in the steam car stop as the destination, and set off in what I thought was good time to get ahead of most of the cars so I could see them at the way-point. The satnav had other ideas, and after about 45 minutes’ driving I found myself pulling back into Hyde Park! The GPS must have lost signal at some point and re-directed me back to the start. After that I referred to it as the ‘doubtful Thomas’…
The second go was more successful and I arrived at the steam car stop after a quick belt down the motorway to try to get ahead of the cars.
It wasn’t long before the the first one arrived for water and soon after came several more.
Two more CX stanley steamers arrived – being 1905 they weren’t in the Rally but did the run anyhow in fine style.
With two steam cars to go – one apparently seen not too far away but stopped with a problem, the other not sighted, I decided to head off to see the finish line.
This time the satnav behaved and I headed off to Brighton. Miraculously I found a park on the sea front a few hundred metres from the finish line so I grabbed the camera and headed for a bite of lunch and watched the cars coming in.
The Toledo arrived looking as though it had just driven down the road, and about 15 minutes after arriving it was off under its own steam to do a quick sprint up and down the sea front – the driver remarked to me that he needed to let off a bit of steam as the pressure was still very high.
Toledo at Brighton
I never did see if the Salvesen had completed the run, and I feared it may have had some problems near Brighton. Someone had seen it by the side of the road.
As the afternoon came on and the clouds began rolling in, I headed back to my hire car. I arrived back in London as the sun went down and prepared to fly out the following day.
Mobile steam car