Mixture of the old and the young

Robert aboard the 1984 Benz Velo.

As the sun rises over London on Sunday, November 6, at precisely 7.02 the oldest vehicle participating in the Royal Automobile Club’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run will be the first to depart from Hyde Park. At the wheel of the 1.5hp 1894 Benz Velo will be one of the youngest drivers to take on the historic 60-mile route as the event celebrates its 115th anniversary year.
Adopting the famed number one starting plaque for the world’s longest running motoring event, the 1894 Benz Velo will be driven by 17 year-old Oliver Wright from Skyreholme near Skipton, North Yorkshire.
Yet to take his driving test, Oliver will head the 500 strong entry of pre-1905 vehicles joining to celebrate the anniversary event which this year honours Germany as the celebrated country, with event sponsors Mercedes-Benz and Bosch both marking 125 years in 2011.
Believed to be the oldest Benz Velo in existence, the car is part of The Ward Collection, jointly owned by brothers Daniel and Toby Ward. Thought to be the first four-wheel model to be built by Benz, this particular 1.5 horsepower single cylinder Velo has an intriguing history.
It was one of three cars shipped to Italy in 1894 rumoured to have been sold to the Marconi family. It was then imported to the UK in a packing crate in 1900 when the family moved to Berkshire. The car stayed in the same crate until 1980 when it was disinterred and sold by Sotheby’s at an auction in Bristol in 1981.
Robert Holmes à Court fully restored the car for the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run while the Benz Velo travelled across the globe, from Australia to America, before it was acquired by The Ward Collection a decade ago. It is one of seven stunning Veteran vehicles entered by The Ward Collection for the 115th anniversary Run.
Oliver, a talented automotive student who has shown a flare for motor mechanics from a very early age, has been given the wonderful opportunity to command the magnificent Benz Velo on its first Veteran Car Run under its current ownership as a Ward family friend. Just two years after the Benz Velo was built, on 14 November 1896 33 pioneering motorists set off from London for a drive to the Brighton coast in celebration of the recently passed Locomotives on Highways Act, signifying the birth of motoring innovation and laying the foundations for the world’s longest running motoring event.
In 2011, Oliver will follow in the tyre tracks of those Emancipation Run participants along the 60 mile journey which will take in much of the original 1896 route before the nostalgic finish on Brighton’s Madeira Drive.
Before setting out for what will undoubtedly be a memorable drive, both car and driver will join the Concours d’Elegance at the heart of the inaugural Regent Street Motor Show during Saturday.