Motoring’s Past, Present and Future Celebrated on Regent Street
Motoring enthusiasts, shoppers and Londoners all savoured a Saturday to remember on Regent Street today (6 November) as the capital’s premier shopping destination was once more transformed into the country’s biggest free-to-view motor show.
First staged in 2005 , the annual Regent Street Motor Show (a Royal Automobile Club event) regularly attracted close to half a million enthralled visitors before last year’s enforced postponement.
Now, making a very welcome return after a two-year absence, the famed central London shopping destination was again traffic-free between Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus, and the roadway filled with glittering collections of incredible cars plus some great car-themed family entertainment.
Providing admiring visitors – which included HRH Prince Michael of Kent, the President of the Royal Automobile Club – with an astounding timeline of automotive evolution, the reborn Regent Street Motor Show featured the full spectrum of motoring history. This stretched from extraordinary Victorian pioneers dating back to the dawn of motoring right up to the very latest generation of electric and hydrogen cars that are paving the way for a more sustainable driving future.
Travelling back in time, it is exactly 125 years ago that, in November 1896, a group of enthusiastic early motorists set out to Brighton from London to celebrate the passing into law of the era-defining Locomotives on Highways Act. By raising the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ from 4 to 14 mph and abolishing the need for a man to walk ahead waving a red flag, this seminal new legislation effectively ended centuries of horse-drawn transport and gave motorised vehicles the freedom of the road.
Marking this pivotal milestone on Regent Street, close to 100 ground-breaking horseless carriages – all dating back to bygone times – were displayed on the eve of this year’s special 125th anniversary RM Sotheby’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. They and their excited drivers and passengers – many in dressed in evocative period costumes – were taking part in the prized Concours d’Elegance prior to setting off on the hallowed 60-mile route to the Sussex coast from neighbouring Hyde Park at sunrise on Sunday morning.
After much deliberation, the panel of experts – including car specialist and TV personality, Edd China – awarded the Concours d’Elegance Overall Winner’s accolade to the 1903 Peerless Model F of Andrew Hayden. This beautifully maintained and superbly presented twin-cylinder American tourer spent its early life in a mining town high up in Colorado’s Rockies. More recently it has been a regular head-turner on the road to Brighton and its concours condition really caught the judges’ eyes.
Further down Regent Street’s impressive John Nash designed facades – and bringing the automotive story right up to date – the buzzing Switch Live Zone put the spotlight on many of today’s fast-changing automotive technologies, providing show-goers with an intriguing insight into the cars of future times – particularly poignant given the ban on internal combustion engine vehicles from 2030.
BMW, Fiat, Kia and Polestar were all displaying their latest cutting-edge electric trail-blazers alongside a retro-styled Morris JE – a striking all-new electric van of carbon-fibre construction that draws its inspiration from the Morris J-Type of the 1950s. These were joined by a pair of hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirais, which have kindly been loaned by Enterprise Rent-a-Car as official course cars for this year’s commemorative Veteran Car Run.
Those keen to find out even more about the latest car tech – and, perhaps, to try out a selection of the latest cars first-hand – will have the chance to do so at the new Switch Live event that’s planned at Silverstone in May next year.
Spanning the decades between the Veteran Car and Switch Live Zones, Regent Street was bejewelled with an eye-catching collection of classics from yesteryear. Presented under the Motoring Icons banner, these ranged from a Jaguar SS100 from the 1930s right up to a bright red 1991 Honda NSX sportscar as developed by the legendary racer Ayrton Senna. An original Land Rover Series 1, stunning Mercedes 300 SL, patriotically painted Mini, rare Citroen SM and Lotus Esprit were notable among the other icons.
Further highlights included dedicated collections of stand-out Aston Martins and Ferraris as well as an impressive line-up of nine Jaguar E-types. Famously hailed as ‘the most beautiful car ever made’ by Enzo Ferrari on its launch in 1961, the E-type was celebrating its 60th birthday just a stone’s throw from Carnaby Street; its spiritual home back in the swinging sixties.
James Bond fans were also treated to a display of one of the Land Rover Defenders from the recently released No Time To Die movie. Ten special Defenders were built for the film but just two survived the action scenes – the survivor, helping to raise funds for the automotive industry charity Ben on Regent Street, being chassis number 007!
Providing some family fun, younger visitors could earn their spurs racing TrackStars electric karts while kids of all ages could discover what it’s like to race around the Barcelona Grand Prix circuit with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes F1 racer courtesy of two Top Gear Experience simulators.
It wasn’t just cars, either. 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.
With so much to experience and enjoy, this year’s returning Regent Street Motor Show revived spirits and reestablished the single day extravaganza as the country’s best attended free-to-view car-themed show. What’s more, visitor pleasure was further enhanced by dry weather and the pavements that have been significantly widened since the previous show in 2019.
“Once again, Regent Street featured something for everyone and was the perfect prelude to the remarkable RM Sotheby’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run,” enthused Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club. “It was in London that the motor car first came of age when, 125 years ago, an assortment of primitive vehicles set off for the Sussex coast… so where better to be celebrating the wonders of motoring past, present and future than right here in the heart of our capital city.”