Hyde Park
We entered Hyde Park from the North, checked in at the registration booth as the sky turned from black to deep blue, and wound our way down the Serpentine to the area where the veterans line up for the start. Each car is backed into its assigned place… which, in some cases, is easier said than done, since the lack of a reverse gear means this becomes a manual operation.

Above: Don, Darracq, Dawn 

Some of the motors in front of us sounded like lawn mowers that were targets for firecrackers thrown by neighborhood kids. Others behind sounded like tambourines irregularly slammed by lead pipes. Bill and Mary’s Darracq, by comparison, purred confidently.
Or so I thought, as Bill backed into his assigned spot. Bill, you see, is hardly ever satisfied by his car’s performance. His ear for “something sounding not quite right” puts one in mind of that princess who could feel the lump created by one pea under fifty mattresses.

Above: Mary Ellam stands on rain-slicked 
Hyde Park pavement .

Bill’s perfectionism aside, the Ellam’s Darracq seemed extremely well-suited for the run. It's beautiful, powerful (relatively speaking, of course)… and even has a reverse gear. A single door in the center of the rear of the car gives access to the passenger compartment, where there are two side-facing rear seats. The seats are cozy - not in the traditional sense of warmth, mind you - but for comfort and security, they can't be beat.
From this honored vantage point, I surveyed the scene. Rumbling past us was the oldest car in the run, an 1875 Grenville. This vehicle looked like a cross between a steamroller and an early railroad engine. The Grenville (which successfully completed the run at an average speed of 12 m.p.h.)  would be the first to leave the start line at 7:30 a.m., since the oldest cars leave first.

Above: A quick pre-Run Check 

This “oldest first” rule creates a benefit enjoyed by those who have an ’03 (like Bill and Mary’s Darracq) -- the opportunity to begin ahead of the ‘04’s. This year, there were nearly 150 ’04 cars.  By the time we had settled comfortably into our spot, we had perhaps forty minutes until our start time.
Somewhere behind us… about 134 cars or so to the West… another Darracq – Genevieve herself – must surely be backing into her place in the midst of the other '04's. Bill Ellam, ever gracious, handed me a cup of coffee, pointed me in the proper direction, and cautioned me to be back with a little time to spare.
I walked westward for a few minutes… and there she was.

Above: Genevieve at the start of the2000 Run - Driver Quirina Louwman and her sister Anisa.
Photo: David Burgess-Wise

Number 396 in this year’s Run… her license plate still HXR 322, just as seen in the film.
She looked every inch a movie star, as did the two beautiful young women who would take her from London to Brighton that day, Quirina and Anisa Louwman. Their dad Evert would be driving another veteran from the Dutch National Motor Museum in the 2000 Run, a four cylinder 1904 Mors.
Genevieve was surrounded by a seemingly endless line of her 1904 contemporaries. Nearly all of these have been restored to closely approximate their look when new. Had this approach been taken with the restorations performed on Genevieve post-1953, the car as seen in the film would no longer exist. Happily, there is nearly universal agreement that this “mascot of the old car movement” should look as she did in the film, not as she did when sold to her first owner. And she does.
Genevieve is still a celebrity, causing heads to turn and photo flashes to fire. The Louwmans seem to genuinely enjoy the attention that’s paid to their car, and they have a keen appreciation for the sentiment many onlookers have for Genevieve. As one of a handful of “cross-collectible” cars that have a following and provenance from both the world of film and the world of automobiles, Genevieve is a treasure… and she looks it.

“The car is in excellent condition. It was in Australia for many years, and it’s only been back in Europe for…” Evert Louwman turns searchingly to his daughter Quirina, sitting in the driver’s seat of Genevieve. “… what, five years?”
Quirina nods assent.
“Every year… we’ve done the London-Brighton, as it is such a popular car,” Mr. Louwman says. He gazes lovingly toward Genevieve, and his smile encompasses pride in his daughters as well.

Above: The Louwmans: Anisa, Quirina, Evert

But – with the threatening weather – isn’t he just the least bit worried about Genevieve?
“No… my daughter is doing very well with the car. I have no worries at all. And in England, they’re so polite, they’ll give way to my two girls… and to Genevieve.”
Quirina has driven this route before. “This is my third London-to-Brighton Run,” she reports. The most important differences in driving a veteran car? “Brakes. You have to think ahead. And you can’t keep your foot on the clutch, or you’ll burn it. The gears and the clutch are the biggest differences.”
I’m introduced to the Museum’s curator and ask if anything special is done to prepare Genevieve for the run. “Basically, we put petrol and oil in her and she’s ready to go,” he replies. “We’re very happy with the condition of this car.”
Judging by the gathering crowd, England is equally happy to have Genevieve back in the event she made famous.
Mr. Louwman headed back to his Mors, Entry Number 404, which would depart around the same time as Genevieve, Number 396. I realized that I should be rejoining Bill and Mary, because if the driver of Number 404 is gearing up for the approaching start, the passenger of Number 262 should definitely not be a hundred and thirty-four cars away from his “ride.” I walked East, from 1904 back into 1903.
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