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The Legendary Gordon Bennett Napier Racing Cars at the 2013 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

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  •     The 1904 Napier of the Louwman Museum in the very wet 2012 Run.   

The Royal Automobile Club has managed the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run with the support of the Veteran Car Club of Britain since 1930. Next Sunday, November 3, 2013, will be this year’s edition of the event. Three iconic British Napier racing cars, all linked to the famous Gordon Bennett Cup ­races held early in the last century, will be lining up to take part in the Run.

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  • 1903 Napier Gordon Bennett Racing Cars – The Royal Automobile Club.

In the early 1900’s, James Gordon Bennett, owner of the New York Herald, promoted a series of international road races for teams of cars representing individual nations. In 1902, the race was held between Paris, France and Innsbruck, Austria and was won by a Napier driven by S.F. Edge. That car which was painted green, the national color of Ireland, was the first British car to win an international motor race.

In honor of the 1902 win, the 1903 Gordon Bennett Cup was due to move to Britain, but since racing on public roads was against the law in England proper, the event took place in County Kildare in Ireland. Three Napier cars were entered to represent Great Britain and each was painted what is now referred to as British Racing Green. In the race the best the team could manage was a fifth place finish.

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  • 1903 Napier Gordon Bennett Racing Cars – The Royal Automobile Club.

Following this relatively poor showing, a series of qualification events was held for would be competitors in the 1904 Cup race. This attracted no fewer than five Napier cars, as well as three Wolseleys and three British-built Darracq’s for the Elimination Trials. After that, the British team consisted of one Napier and two Wolseleys. The race itself, held in Hamburg, Germany that year  and won by Leon Thery in his Richard-Brasier, did not favor the English entrants. The best placed British car was ninth while the sole Napier, driven as usual by S.F. Edge, retired just 20 miles from the finish with a seized engine.

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  • Full details of Mr. J. Hargreaves’ 80-HP 1905 Gordon Bennett Racer entered in the Elimination Trials – “The Automotor Journal”, March 18, 1905.

After a racing career in Europe and America, the 1902 30 h.p., 6.5 liter Napier D 50 was dismantled in the twenties and brought back to the UK in the 1990’s and restored. Argentinian collector Daniel Sielecki now owns it. The 1903 race is represented by the 7.7-litre Napier now owned the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu. Driven by Charles Jarrott, the car crashed in the race, though both Jarrott and his riding mechanic Cecil Bianchi survived. The 100 HP 11.1-litre car, in the collection of the Louwman Museum, represents the 1904 race.

Don’t miss viewing the quirky and fast-moving German video seen above by Familen-Film-Prasentation, showing many of the 500-plus entrants in last years running of the event, who unfortunately suffered through heavy rain showers. It gives you a very good feel for the size of the event and type of cars entered, all of which predate 1905.

The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run commemorates the Emancipation Run of November 14, 1896, which celebrated the Locomotives on the Highway Act. The Act raised the speed limit for light locomotives from 4 to 14 m.p.h., and abolished the need for these vehicles to be preceded by a man on foot waving a red flag.

The Run was first re-enacted in 1927 and has taken place every November since, with the exception of the war years and in 1947 when gasoline was still being rationed. The Royal Automobile Club has managed the Run with the support of the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain since 1930. For more information visit with www.veterancarrun.com. You can also view our previous coverage of the event and the Gordon Bennett Napier here on The Old Motor.   

7 responses to “The Legendary Gordon Bennett Napier Racing Cars at the 2013 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

  1. Is the Louwman Museum car the one that belonged to the late George Waterman? If so, I saw it years ago when Mrs. Waterman gave me and a friend of mine a guided tour of the collection. To say it was memorable would be a gross understatement.

  2. Thank you for posting this wonderful video, long on charm, something in short supply at too many “I got mine, Jack” Concours of credit lines. This video’s most welcomed, and as we know, or remember, old carbureted cars run better in the rain.

    • Good to hear that you enjoyed the video. It is a bit “over caffeinated” which seems to be in vogue these days, but I think their objective was to show as many cars as possible. We like it.

  3. I never got to see the car when it was in the Waterman or Harrah collection, but always wondered how and when it got on this side of the pond along with another Napier stablemate. Bob

    • That was all covered in an older issue of the VCCA Bulb Horn, along with an interesting article by Frank Johnson covering the rebuilding of one of the two cars. We have it but not indexed, perhaps a reader has access to it and can relay the details.

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