In these days of motorway mayhem and congestion charges it’s difficult to imagine a time when owning a car was considered daring, a little eccentric and beyond the wildest dreams of most British people.

When Jean-Joseph Etienne Lenoir patented the internal combustion engine in 1860 he paved the way for the development of the modern motor car.

Initially progress was slow…literally.

The Government passed The Red Flag Act in 1865, which required that one person had to walk 60 yards ahead of the vehicle, waving a small red flag to warn others that a car was approaching.

This meant that the speed of the new motor cars was reduced to 4mph in the countryside and just 2mph in town. Unsurprisingly this legislation stifled the progress of the motor industry for many years.

In 1896, after much discussion, The Locomotives on Highways Act was passed which did away with the need for the flag waver. In order to celebrate, the first London to Brighton Run was organised by Harry Lawson’s Motor Car Club.

It is estimated that at the time of the first Rally there were only around a hundred cars in Britain. Today we have around 500 million!

Thirty three cars took part in the original run but only fourteen made it to Brighton and it’s rumoured that one of those was taken by train and had mud splashed all over it before crossing the finish line! Part of the problem was the weather which was dreadful. Rain poured down and the roads became sodden and muddy.

The rally has run every year since with the exception of the war years when petrol was rationed. It is one of Britain’s biggest motoring spectacles and attracts entrants from all over the world.

Only cars built before January 1st 1905 are eligible to enter and this year 490 have been registered for the run, 85 of them from countries as far away as China, the USA and Australia.

The 60 mile rally starts at sunrise on the 5th November, so why not have a day out and see British motoring history in action?! Visit for more information

By Sarah Davey