As daylight arrived – and as a curtain-raiser – seven pre-1905 motorcycles and seven pre-1905 cycles left the start line also headed for Brighton, the pair of penny-farthing pedlars attracted notable admiration as they embarked on their journey to Madeira Drive.
Then, at precisely 06:56am sunrise, the first of the pre-1905 horseless carriages were flagged away with the earliest of the Victorian vehicles leading the way as they phutted and hissed their way through Wellington Arch, down Constitution Hill, past Buckingham Palace, Whitehall and Parliament Square and then over Lambeth Bridge blessed with hazy early morning sunshine. Here the 60-mile route split into two, thus alleviating traffic congestion in South London.
Half of the participants followed the traditional A23 route via Kennington, Brixton and Streatham Common; the other half journeyed via Vauxhall, Clapham Common and Tooting. The two routes then merged on the A236 just north of Croydon with the entire cavalcade reunited as it headed to the spectator-friendly halfway point in Crawley High Street, the South Downs and eventually the Madeira Drive seafront in Brighton.
First away from Hyde Park was a single-cylinder, 1.5bhp velo bodied Benz dating back to the dawn of motoring in 1894. Other early starters included the crowd-pleasing 1896 Salvesen Steam Cart – basically a steam locomotive running on the road complete with stoker shoveling coal into the boiler’s fiery furnace plus an evocative choo choo steam whistle – and a number of primitive motorised tricycles complete with riders and passengers regaled in period costumes.
Thereafter followed a staggering variety of antique machinery dating back to the era of innovative and experimental vehicles – some petrol powered, others propelled by steam and electricity such as the 1901 Pope Waverley owned by world famous Knightsbridge store Harrods; some fitted with steering-wheels, others with naval inspired tillers and helms.