Letter From The UK: Automotive Ancestry

Letter from the UK

As many already know, Great Britain is also called the United Kingdom which is arguably more correct. Great Britain is a bit of a misnomer because the entire population does not descend from the ancient Britons. United Kingdom demonstrates that the four countries that make up our Union has a monarch as Head of State.

Being a monarchy we have many Royal personages and literally hundreds of Barons, Earls, Dukes, Knights, and sundry Lords and Ladies to contend with. Hollywood has nothing on us. Many of these grand people sit in our second governmental chamber, the House of Lords.

Many of them are asleep.

This ancient chamber is like an old attic: dry, dusty, and full of lingering memories, not all of them good.


House of Wheels

Because we are good at supporting old relics, the UK is also good at museums. Some of our palaces of history are among the finest in the world. Some are rather interesting. This is especially true when it comes to the motor car.

One of our wonderful Stately Homes is called Beaulieu. About fifty years ago, the entrepreneurial Lord Montagu put his property to good use by starting a motor museum. Sadly, the excellent and far-sighted Lord is no longer with us but his legacy is one of the best homages to the automobile in Europe.

From steam to the very first internal combustion engine, and to jet propulsion, this place has the lot. You will be interested to learn the collection includes automobiles from around the world. American modes of transport are displayed from Cadillac, Cord, E.J Pennington, and the list goes on.

No, sorry America, you can’t have them back, we are still playing with them.


Humble Beginnings

Today’s automotive world is packed with new technology and innovation. Over the decades, the car has evolved into a sophisticated marvel capable of practically driving itself. However, if we think about it, the dawn of the motoring age only began a little more than a scant one hundred years ago – when an inspired group of oily pioneers emerged from the barns and sheds of the world, rejoicing in the discovery of the horseless carriage.

The rest is history.

Every year, here in leafy England, that history repeats itself. Car enthusiasts everywhere should be thankful that a hardy band of motoring heroes continue to run those extraordinary, pre-1905 automobiles on the famous 60-mile run from Hyde Park in central London to the seafront in the Sussex resort of Brighton.

Even our very own Wayne Carini has taken part.

Run Of Fame

Like our motor museums, this grand day is a remarkable homage to the dawn of driving that boasts huge appeal. It attracts entrants from around the globe, all eager to participate in what is the world’s longest running and greatest motoring celebration.

We rejoice in our automotive royalty with the true ancestors of the cars we run today.

The run commemorates the original Emancipation Run of 14 November 1896, which celebrated the Locomotives on the Highway Act here in the UK. The Act raised the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ from 4 to 14mph, and abolished the need for these vehicles to be preceded by a man on foot, waving a red flag. The Emancipation Run was first re-enacted in 1927 and has taken place every November since, with the exception of the war years and 1947 when petrol was rationed.

These days we take our cars for granted. We know that, year after year, they will continue in many ways to get better and better, even as ecological concerns – and the various vagaries of whatever political party is in charge – make them increasingly boring. Thank goodness the exciting history of the automobile is preserved and celebrated in these various ways.

We are never going to see any cars like them again.


Timeless Treasures

Whether an automobile comes to light from a grand auction or grandpa’s old barn, long forgotten at the back of the property, it must still be cherished. We have to remember the history and memories that come with them. The might of Motor City, the forward thinking of those early inventors around the world; they all played their part so that we can drive safely on the roads today.

If, here on our small islands adrift in the Atlantic Ocean, we can look after and financially support the relics of our aristocratic ancestry, and all the murderous historical baggage that comes with the Kings and Queens of the United Kingdom, the least we can do is nurture our automotive ancestry too.

*Geoff Maxted is a motoring writer, photographer, and author of our Letter From The UK series. Follow his work on Twitter: @DriveWrite