Cars turn 130 as ‘ Wit­ness’ turns 170

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - AL­WYN VILJOEN

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. carsinthep­

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.

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