London to Brighton ‘18: CCW’s Expert Guide
Ever wondered what it’s like to take part in the run? Alasdair Worseley has driven it seven times in Renault UK’s 1900 Type C, and is taking on the journey again this year. CCW caught up with him as the car was undergoing its final preparations.
CCW Why do you keep coming back to do the run every year?
AW Because no-one else will take the car out to do it. I’m not an employee of Renault or anything, they just ask me to do it because I’m one of the few people who know how to drive it. Of course, it’s great fun to drive the car and the London to Brighton represents a real challenge for it, as it wasn’t really designed for longdistance journeys like this.
CCW What’s the most difficult part of the route?
AW There are different challenges throughout, really. I start very early, so typically I get half way to the M25 before I see much traffic, where it can get difficult. These cars don’t like stopping and starting. The old A23 beyond Pease Pottage services is a challenge, too, as it gets quite hilly, sometimes I get out and just walk next to the car to get it up a hill.
CCW The news this year is that the route is splitting for the first time, which way are you going?
AW Last time I checked I’m going the old route over Westminster Bridge, but I’m not really fussed to be honest. The only thing I care about in a route is if it is any shorter and what sort of hills I come across. Even if one way is just quarter of a mile shorter than the other, I’d rather go that way!
CCW What’s your advice for someone taking part in the run for the first time?
AW Well, anyone looking to drive the run should really try and do it as a passenger first. Seats are hard to come by, but if you’re buying a car to do the run, you should get an idea of what it’s like before making that commitment. The other thing is looking at who can support you. I’ve got a mechanic from Renault on call when I do the run and
you should have someone in the car who has some mechanical knowledge, too. I’ll probably have to stop along the route and adjust the clutch as the engine gets warmer for example – you need to know how to do things like that.
CCW Have there been any particularly challenging years for you?
AW One year we had one of the leaf springs break when I had to abruptly dodge a bus that dived in front of me – that ended our run, so it wasn’t a great year. The first couple of years we never made it very far either, as the car had been in a museum for decades and we were just blowing the cobwebs off it. One time we didn’t even make it out of Hyde Park as a gearbox shaft broke, just because of age. It’s got better every year since, though. We rebuilt it entirely two years ago too and it goes through an MoT every year, even though it doesn’t have to.
CCW What are the challenges in running a veteran car, as opposed to keeping a newer classics on the road?
AW It’s the parts availability, or rather the total lack of it. I own a 1927 Renault, which is still close to one hundred years old, but I can go to France and buy an entire chassis for about £400. For this though, if something needs to be replaced, you will almost certainly have to make it. Two years ago we found hairline cracks in the diff’ housing and had to cast an entire new housing. This meant making new wooden patterns and going to a guy who worked on steam-powered traction engines to sand-cast the part.