Re-enacting the 1896 Horseless Carriage Exhibition Review - 120 years on


'Bo' with pilots from the college.....

London, England in 1896 hosted the Horseless Carriage Exhibition - it's very first Motor Show. The aim, to persuade the politicians of the day to change the antiquated laws that prevented these 'new fangled contraptions ', more commonly referred to as automobiles, the freedom of the roads. The show was a success and lead to the Emancipation Run and the passing of the Light Locomotive Act the same year. On the morning of 14th November in front of the Royal Automobile Club in London's Pall Mall, a red flag was torn in half. No longer would a motorist be required to have a man walk in front of his vehicle waving said red flag. Following this ceremony the automobilists and their new fangled machines made the inaugural drive to Brighton on England's South coast. A tradition maintained to this day and better known as the London-Brighton Veteran Car Run. It is the world's oldest running motoring event. Each year from all over the planet, 4-500 pre-1905 veteran cars take on the sixty-mile challenge through London traffic and November weather!


1896 Arnold



1895 Peugeot


Such is the importance of that first motor show in kick starting the British motor industry that 120 years on we recreated it. The original exhibition took place at the Imperial Institute now the Imperial College, and on 7/8th May 2016, 20 pre-1903 veteran cars congregated there. On display in the front atrium stood an 1895/6 Benz Patent-Motorwagen, an accurate replica commissioned by Mercedes Benz of the first patented internal combustion engined automobile. An 1896 Ford, also an accurate replica, an 1895 Peugeot, an 1896 Arnold, an 1896 Leon Bollee, an 1898 De Dion and a 1900 Simms. The Arnold and Leon Bollee are two of the actual cars that took part in the first Emancipation Run and widely believed to have exhibited in the 1896 show. Outside on Exhibition road, standing patiently, stood a further 12 cars awaiting the two demonstration runs each day. Included in this magnificent line up, an 1896 Salvensen coal fired steam engine, an 1898 Henriod, four De Dions, a 1900 Diamler, Harrods' delivery van a 1901 electric powered Waverley, 'Bo' the Imperial College's 1902 James and Browne and piloted by students from the college, a 1902 Renault Freres, a 1903 Achilles and a must for any veteran occasion, a 1903 Stanley Steamer.


1896 Leon Bollee


Blessed with glorious weather and all participants wearing splendid period costumes, it was a fine sight on the streets of London. On Saturday afternoon we were honoured with a visit from His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent, an enthusiast and patron of many historic motoring clubs.


Martin Males and His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent


1900 Simms, owned by the Royal Automobile Club and wearing the prestigious 1 RAC registration number (license plate)


As well as the cars on display we included two De Dion trikes.  Many English cities and towns have laid claim to have held the first motor race, but we now know this not to be. On Monday 29th November 1897, competitors drove from London to Sheen Park in Richmond and competed on an oval cycle track thus fulfilling the criteria that defined motor racing. Racing against one another and the clock. Great Britain was at last on the motoring map!


1885/6 Benz Patent-Motorwagen. An accurate replica of the first patented internal combustion engined automobile

For information on coming events check the

 London-Brighton Veteran Car Run website

Photos: Martin Males



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