Illinois Route 66

Two of the world’s most famous thoroughfares were reunited in central London on Saturday 3rd November when the Illinois Office of Tourism returned as title partner to the Regent Street Motor Show 2018, retitled as the Illinois Route 66 Regent Street Motor Show.

While Regent Street is renowned as the capital’s premier shopping destination, Illinois is the start of America’s iconic Route 66. Immortalised in both rock and roll history and global car culture, America’s epic ‘Mother Road’ in its original form stretched for almost 2,500 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica in California.

In comparison Regent Street’s length of less than a mile may seem somewhat insignificant but with its curving John Nash design, it boasts incredible history and royal patronage being named after George, the Prince Regent, later King George IV. It was completed in 1825 almost exactly 100 years before Route 66 was established in 1926.

Over time, both highways have witnessed incredible changes in motoring history, so it was fitting that the two, once again, were wedded together on Saturday, 3rd November when Regent Street was closed to through traffic and the road was filled with hundreds of cars of all ages for the free-to-view Illinois Route 66 Regent Street Motor Show, a Royal Automobile Club event.

Cory Jobe, Director of the Illinois Office of Tourism, said before the event took place: “We are really excited to bring Illinois and Route 66 back to the Regent Street Motor Show in 2018, as title sponsor. Our partnership with this premier motoring event is a fantastic opportunity for our team to showcase both historic and new attractions along the Illinois section of Route 66 – a top destination for international visitors. From the iconic Route 66 ‘Begin’ sign in Chicago to the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac and the Original Historic Brick Road in Springfield through to The Mill on 66, a cherished restaurant which has recently reopened in Lincoln after more than a decade of renovation – Route 66 provides a chance to travel back in time.”

Illinois was on Regent Street as the title partner, promoting holidays to the State and raising the profile of Route 66 by showcasing iconic and recently added attractions of the Route and giving away maps and destination guides. Visitors exploring the famous road in autumn 2018 were able to discover the Old Joliet Prison in Joliet. Dating back to 1858, the former prison, featured in movies including The Blues Brothers, has recently reopened as a museum and now offers history tours.

And one lucky visitor got to go one better and really get their kicks on Route 66 as Illinois held an on-stand competition to win a holiday to the state, including return flights for two with Norwegian.

Much of the Illinois leg of the Mother Road is frozen in time, a 300-mile neon-lit drive through a past filled with motor inns, quirky restaurants and diners such as the new Motorheads restaurant and museum complex which features incredible Route 66 memorabilia. For starters, check out the 30-foot tall smiling spaceman called the Gemini Giant next to the newly renovated and soon to re-open iconic Launching Pad diner in Wilmington, the large Route 66 Shield Mural on the back wall of the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac, and the curious attraction of Henry’s Rabbit Ranch for equal parts entertainment, visitor centre and rabbit ranch.

Nick Wigley, CEO of organisers, Goose Live Events, said before the event took place: “We are delighted to welcome Illinois back to Regent Street. Route 66 is mythical among all those with even the slightest interest in motoring, but few know that the legend is not only still alive but offers visitors a must-see historical road trip. That’s a great message we’ll be promoting to all those lucky enough to be on Regent Street on 3 November.”

More than half a million spectators enjoyed the spectacle in 2017 and among 2018’s displays were more than 100 horseless carriages from the turn of the 20th century taking part in the annual Veteran Car Concours, the day before they set off on their annual trip from London to Brighton. Adding to the pageant, many of the drivers and passengers appeared in period dress

Adding further to the attractions, displays of vintage, classic, racing and even futuristic cars as well as live street entertainment ensured there was much to savour for all ages and interests.

The Illinois Route 66 Regent Street Motor Show was a key event in the week-long London Motor Week run by the Royal Automobile Club.