Hundreds of thousands gather in London’s prestigious shopping street to enjoy the best on four (and occasionally three and two) wheels
Motoring enthusiasts, shoppers and Londoners savoured a sunny but chilly Regent Street on Saturday (5th November) to discover the capital’s ‘Mile of Style’ had been turned into a time machine for the day.
Central London’s celebrated shopping destination was closed to traffic from Oxford Circus to Piccadilly Circus, but it was still filled with cars…. cars from the past, present and future all taking part in the annual free-to-view Regent Street Motor Show, a Royal Automobile Club event.
Rubbing shoulders with more than 100 veteran cars from the dawn of motoring were dozens of cars of tomorrow – low and zero emission battery-powered electric vehicles and hybrids.
The veterans, all built before 1905, were taking part in their annual International Concours d’Elegance prior to setting off at dawn on Sunday morning for the trip from London to Brighton in the famous Bonhams Veteran Car run, supported by Hiscox.
The overall winner was the sole surviving Krastin, one of just four cars believed to have been built by the innovative Latvian immigrant August Krastin in Cleveland, Ohio before fire destroyed his factory and the company was forced into bankruptcy.
Turn the clock forward more than a 100 years and, hearing stories that one car might still be in existence, Latvian enthusiast Austra Priede (below large) tracked it down to an address in Nebraska and with the help of the Riga Motor Museum, has just completed a full restoration in time for this surviving and significant Krastin to make its debut in this year’s Veteran Car Run.
There was an international to connection to the winner of the special ‘Spectator’s Choice Award’, sponsored by Renault and voted for by members of the public. The 1900 De Dion Bouton selected will be exported for display in Columbia immediately after the Run as it is very similar model to the very first car ever to be imported into the country back in 1899.
While the veterans turned the clock back as far as the late 19th century, another part of the show remembered 1976, the year when Britain’s James Hunt won the F1 World Championship. Not only was Hunt’s McLaren’s M23 on display so too was Hunt himself… in the shape of James’ son Freddie, who bears an uncanny resemblance to his father.
Freddie, who shares the same shock of blond hair as his Dad, was on hand to pose for photographs and sign autographs. The McLaren was not the only F1 car on display as visitors could ogle at the scarlet 1961 Ferrari Dino 246 F1 racer – the last front-engined car to win a Grand Prix – centre piece of a display promoting the Silverstone Classic, the world’s biggest classic motor racing event. And bringing the F1 story up to date was a modern-day Red Bull Racing car courtesy of Total and the popular Top Gear Experience which gave show-goers simulated rides in Lewis Hamilton’s F1 Mercedes.
Motoring’s classic years were represented by displays from the Jaguar Drivers’ Club, with sports cars including the XK140, E-type, XJ220 and current F-type.
Fans of more obscure classics enjoyed a display of ultra-rare British-built Piper sports cars, while the BBC Children in Need charity showed off the vintage buses ready to follow the veterans to Brighton with DJs Chris Evans, Alex Jones and Ken Bruce at the wheel.
Bringing the motoring story up to date were displays of modern cars and bikes from companies including Mini, Renault and Triumph, while The Mobility Roadshow was on hand to demonstrate how it can help disabled and older people with mobility needs.
Go Ultra Low and Transport for London joined forces to look to the future by offering drives in a wide range of contemporary battery-powered electric vehicles and plug-in petrol-electric hybrids from manufacturers including Renault, Audi, BMW, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen. Experts were also on hand to offer advice to anyone considering a zero or low emission car as their next purchase.
The Regent Street Motor Show, which was first staged in 2005, regularly attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors and this year was no different. Last year the event drew a record 450,000 attendance and this year’s show was just as popular.
It wasn’t just cars, either. Entertainment was provided by the amazing Steve Colley’s stunt motorcycle team while musical interludes came from the talented West End Kids who performed throughout the day. And, of course, there was ample opportunity to drop into the flagship stores on Regent Street to do some pre-Christmas shopping.
“The Regent Street Motor Show really does have something for everyone: the cars on display represent motoring history in its entirety, from the earliest days of the horseless carriage to the electric vehicles we will all be driving tomorrow,” said Peter Read, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club’s Motoring Committee.
“We were also delighted to honour James Hunt’s fantastic achievement 40 years ago, which the Club has been celebrating throughout the year.
“The Regent Street Motor show goes from strength to strength and marks one of the highlights of the Club’s London Motor Week – a seven-day celebration full of motoring events staged by the Royal Automobile Club, which ends with the famous London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.”