The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run each year adds more and more to the history books of early motoring, this year for Sir Ray Tindle it will be his 50th event
On Sunday 3 November Sir Ray Tindle will be embarking on his 50th Brighton Run, each time driving his faithful single-cylinder Speedwell Dogcart, a 1904 car that he purchased more than half a century ago to fulfil a childhood dream.
Like so many others, Sir Ray’s fascination with the historic 60-mile journey from London’s Hyde Park to Brighton’s Madeira Drive was originally fuelled as one of the half a million spectators that lined the route.
“I can recall the exact spot on Streatham Common where my parents took me to watch these wonderful old machines pass,” he said. “Of course, then the oldest car taking part was probably only about 30 years old but still totally different from their modern counterparts. I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to ride on one of those cars.”
Little did he know that later in life he’d not only own one of those ‘wonderful old machines’ but be gearing up for his 50th start in the world famous event.
Over the years Sir Ray, who was knighted in 1994 for his services to the newspaper industry, has offered seats on the Speedwell to some high-profile and interesting passengers. In 1980 the American Ambassador, Kingman Brewster, enjoyed the memorable trip to Brighton. Cabinet Ministers Virginia and Peter Bottomley have also been his passengers as well as Lord Rothermere and Vyvyan Harmsworth of the Daily Mail.
In 2007, Sir Ray purchased a 1903 Georges Richard, which unlike the Speedwell has a closed driving cabin, allegedly to drive if the weather became too wet. But, despite some pretty poor conditions in recent years, it has never yet been bad enough to force Sir Ray to abandon the trusty Speedwell.
Indeed in 2008 the ‘new’ Georges Richard was driven by HRH The Duke of Kent who, following a short driving lesson around the Kensington Palace grounds, successfully reached the Seafront in Brighton.
As well as being Sir Ray’s 50th start, the 2013 Veteran Car Run is also the 20th successive Run supported by his Tindle Newspaper Group – the business he set up after wartime service with the Devonshire Regiment after buying his first title – the Tooting & Balham Gazette – with his £250 demob payment.
Once again it was Sir Ray’s long-standing passion for the event that persuaded him to provide special support in the early Nineties. “The organisers wrote to all the participants just a few weeks before the Run reporting that there was no sponsor. Some of us were concerned that without one the event might not take place. Like a good Devonshire Regiment soldier, I offered to help,” he explained.
Sponsoring the Brighton Run has its benefits, of course, like having the company’s logo on the front cover of the event programme. But to Sir Ray the real advantages are different: “I do like being able to make an early start. After waving the Union flag to set off the very earliest cars, I can usually be seen sprinting for the Speedwell in its favoured parking position, and making haste to Brighton.
“Even better, is the chance I have been able to give to some close friends, but mainly to readers of my newspapers [over the years, some 200 of them] the opportunity to enjoy the very special experience of a ride on an open veteran car, taking part in the most famous old motoring event in the world.”
Ben Cussons, Chairman of the VCR Steering Group, is one of many to honour Sir Ray’s ongoing support and enthusiasm for the event. He said: “We wish Sir Ray, the event’s longest-standing sponsor, a safe and dry drive to Brighton to celebrate his half century as a participant of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. I’m sure his lifelong passion for the run will inspire new generations of roadside spectators to get involved in what is one of the world’s most iconic and unique motoring experiences.”