Cars turn 130 as ‘ Witness’ turns 170
THE Witness will be celebrating its 170th year with a shindig at the Royal showgrounds tomorrow night, and no other wheeled event puts this achievement of Africa’s oldest paper into perspective better than the annual Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in the UK.
The Bonhams Run is the world’s longest- running motoring event and this year it marks the car’s 130th birthday, which dates back to when inventor Karl Benz was granted a patent on January 29, 1886.
The Witness, of course, had been publishing for 40 years by then, and eight years later, Wit
ness editor Horace Rose was a passenger in the first car — an Orient Buckboard — that traversed the wild yonder between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.
That 90- km adventure took five hours. The members of the Vintage Sports Car Club in Pietermaritzburg know all about going forwards this slowly ( but fast into the past). This club is open from just after 5 pm every Friday night, with free braai fires provided — a very congenial gathering point for car and bike enthusiasts alike.
The club’s big event is also South Africa’s longest- running motor show, the Cars in the Park.
After decades of hosting the show at Alexandra Park in the city centre, the event last year moved to the Ashburton Training Centre. This venue is normally a 10- minute drive out of town, but such was the turnout last year that people queued for kilometres on the N3 highway to access the turn- off.
Clubs members and any owners of an interesting car, bike, truck or van, are welcome to enter their vehicle for the show by registering on the website regis ter. carsinthepark.net
After entering your details, the club will sent you a form to place on your vehicle to gain access to the event.
Back to the UK — this year’s Bonhams Run is open to all vehicles built before 1905, so even the youngest on the run will therefore be more than 110 years old, and while most will be petrol- powered, there will be some powered by steam and, proving there’s nothing new under the sun, a handful will be batterypowered electric vehicles.
The run itself will also be celebrating an anniversary this year. The very first Emancipation Run from London to Brighton was held in November 1896 — 120 years ago — and marked the passing into law of the Locomotives on the Highway Act which raised the speed limit for “light locomotives” from 4 mph to 14 mph and abolished the need for the vehicles to be preceded by a man carrying a red flag.
The Benz Patent Motorwagen ( patent number 37435) was a two- seater, three- wheeler, powered by a single cylinder fourstroke engine mounted at the rear.
Ironically, its first public demonstration run was not hugely successful; difficult to control, it collided with a wall.
Two years and further improvements later, the Mk III version was offered for sale, becoming the world’s first commercially available automobile.
The first car, a Benz Patent Motorwagen, was a twoseater, threewheeler, powered by a single cylinder fourstroke engine mounted over the rear axle.