Huge crowds savour motoring past and present on Regent Street
Motoring enthusiasts, shoppers and Londoners savoured a sunny Saturday to remember on Regent Street (3 November) as the capital’s premier shopping destination was transformed into the country’s biggest free-to-view motor show attracting an estimated crowd of more than half a million enthralled visitors.
As tradition now dictates, the famed street was traffic-free between Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus for the first Saturday in November and the road filled with a glittering collection of dazzling cars. Victorian vehicles from the very earliest cars right up to the latest electric city cars and exotic supercars were all lining up for the annual Illinois Route 66 Regent Street Motor Show, a Royal Automobile Club event providing all-comers of all ages with a stunning and timeless showcase.
Illinois was promoting America’s legendary ‘Mother Road’ which starts in Chicago, with an eye-catching display of US muscle cars and bikes from previous epochs including two- and four-wheeled icons such as the sixties Ford Thunderbird convertible, Dodge Charger and a pair of Harley Davidson Sportsters. The show was officially opened on the busy Route 66 display stand with Cory Jobe, Director of the Office of Tourism for the State of Illinois, and Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club, teaming up to cut the ceremonial ribbon.
Also sharing the spotlight were more than 100 pioneering vehicles all built before 1905 and dating back to the dawn of motoring. They and their passengers – many in period costume – were taking part in the annual Veteran Car Concours d’Elegance prior to setting off at dawn on Sunday morning for the time honoured pilgrimage from London to Brighton in the famous Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, supported by Hiscox.
Among those judging the evocative veteran machines this year was renowned television gardener and classic car enthusiast Alan Titchmarsh who also hosted the awards ceremony. After much deliberation, the panel of experts awarded the Overall Winner’s trophy to the remarkable 1903 De Dion Bouton W Type of Harold Pritchard.
This rare two-cylinder car is a well-known Veteran Car Run regular and a second time concours winner having won the same accolade in 2013 – once again catching the judges’ eye for its exceptional all-round condition.
Further up Regent Street, and bringing the motoring story right up-to-date, were displays of modern cars and bikes from companies including Triumph and Renault – the former showcasing its latest Tiger range, the latter its latest all-electric ZOE supermini alongside its futuristic Twizy urban quadricycle. In keeping with the low emission theme, Harrods was displaying its electric vehicle fleet from the battery-powered 1901 Pope Waverley to the newest Nissan e-NV200 delivery van.
For those with a need for speed, other much-admired features on the super-busy Regent Street included a preview of the biggest classic motor sport event on the calendar – the Silverstone Classic. Its adrenalin-fuelled stand not only included a huge screen broadcasting highlights from last summer’s record-breaking event, but also a number of the stand-out F1 and sportscar racers that will be in action next July. Adding to the motor sport spectacle were victorious competition cars from MSA British Rally and MSA British Touring Car Championships, both premier series’ turning 60 in 2018.
Motoring’s classic years, meanwhile, were also well represented by glittering displays of Jaguars and VW Beetles. The Jaguar Drivers’ Club was marking several key milestones including 70 years of the company’s seminal XK120 sportster while the Beetle’s 80th birthday was marked by a collection that included the real ‘Herbie’ from Disney’s 1968 comedy film The Love Bug.
Another film star car on the packed Regent Street was the time-travelling DeLorean from Back to the Future, one of the many highlights in the newly introduced Kids’ Zone. Other popular draws here included a chance for juniors to drive electric karts and, outside the world famous Hamleys toy store, to race Scalextric cars. Visitors could also discover what it’s like to race around Silverstone with five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes F1 racer courtesy of the Top Gear Experience simulator.
It wasn’t just cars, either. Musical interludes came from the talented West End Kids who performed throughout the day while the Movember Foundation, the Veteran Car Run’s official charity partner, presented a pop-up station giving visitors a close shave as ‘moustache month’ kicks off. 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, which was first staged in 2005, regularly attracts more than 500,000 visitors and, with the sun shining and so much to see, this year’s event is likely to be the most popular to date.
“Once again, Regent Street featured something for everyone and acted as the perfect prelude to tomorrow’s remarkable Veteran Car Run from London to Brighton – even the sun graced us with its welcome presence this time, putting smiles on faces,” enthused Cussons.
“This annual event continues to go from strength-to-strength, attracting ever bigger attendances year-on-year and marking 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 culminates as hundreds of these wonderful veteran cars reach the Sussex coast on Sunday afternoon.”
Speaking on behalf of event title partner – Illinois Route 66 – Jobe added: “We are excited to have had the chance to meet with so many enthusiastic show attendees and talk with them about the incredible travel experiences available to visitors along the Illinois section of iconic Route 66. From the famous 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, we look forward to welcoming new visitors to our state.”