Grand Prix legend takes a more gentle pace in 1904 car

(October 21, 2014) LONDON — Grand Prix legend takes life at a more gentle pace as he attempts the Bonhams London to Brighton Run in his 1904 veteran car. Motor racing star Ross Brawn OBE, has swapped the high-octane world of Formula 1 for a rather more leisurely form of transport.

Brawn, architect of countless F1 and sportscar world titles for Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button, Ferrari, Benetton, Jaguar and his own Brawn GB team, is taking part in his first London to Brighton Run Veteran Car Run. He will be driving his own veteran car and it will, he says, be “a real challenge.”

Brawn, who is taking a sabbatical from Formula 1 after leaving the Mercedes Grand Prix team earlier this year, owns the only known surviving British-built Wilson Pilcher.

Manufactured in 1904, it was created by engineer Walter Gordon Wilson who went on to invent the army tank. For years the Wilson Pitcher car was displayed at the British Tank Museum.

Until Brawn entered the story, the car is believed to have spent its entire life owned by the Wilson family. “I know the family and knew about the car. But quite by chance I saw it in an auction catalogue last year and made some enquiries… and I was told that it might leave the country as an American collector was interested. So I went into battle,” said Brawn.

After the sale the car was entrusted to veteran car expert Nigel Parrott to be recommissioned for its forthcoming trip to Brighton.

“It was a very advanced car for its day,” said Brawn. “It has a 2.7-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine which is suspended in a cradle in the chassis. It also has a sophisticated semi-automatic gearbox which, I believe, was a forerunner of the famous Wilson Pre-Selector ‘box.

"But compared to a modern car the suspension is crude and the braking takes anticipation, shall we say.

“With absolutely no previous experience of a veteran, I have been taking driving lessons from Nigel so there’s no denying the London to Brighton will be a challenge. But challenging yourself is what life’s all about.”

Brawn won’t be phased by the weather, however, even if it’s pouring down. “I love fishing and there’s a saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather just bad clothes. My wife and I will be well wrapped up against the elements.”

The Wilson Pilcher joins a number of other cars in Brawn’s private collection and after the Run will rub shoulders with a few Jaguars, including a very early E-type, and some significant Ferraris including the 250 SWB used by Stirling Moss to win the 1962 Tourist Trophy. Brawn also owns the Brawn GP that took Button to his title in 2009.

But while the Wilson Pilcher won’t be the fastest car in the collection it will be one of the rarest and, arguably, one of the most important, too.

The Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run celebrates the original Emancipation Run, held on Nov. 14, 1896, and which marked the Locomotives on the Highway Act. This landmark Act raised the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ from 4 to 14 mph and abolished the need for a man walking ahead of the cars waving a red flag.

The Run is the highlight of a long weekend of motoring nostalgia in the capital, much it of it free to view. Other events include the popular free Regent Street Motor Show (Saturday, Nov. 1) and the annual Bonhams Veteran Car auction (Friday, Oct. 31).

For more details of the Veteran Car Run, the entries and the route visit

The Royal Automobile Club was founded in 1897 and its distinguished history mirrors that of motoring itself. In 1907, the Club was awarded its Royal title by King Edward VII, sealing the Club’s status as Britain’s oldest and most influential motoring organization.

The Club’s early years were focused on promoting the motor car and its place in society, which developed into motoring events such as the 1000 Mile Trial, first held in 1900. In 1905, the Club held the first Tourist Trophy, which remains the oldest continuously competed for motor sports event. The Club promoted the first pre-war and post-war Grands Prix at Brooklands in 1926 and Silverstone in 1948 respectively, whilst continuing to campaign for the rights of the motorist, including introducing the first driving licenses.

Today, the Club continues to develop and support automobilism through representation on the Motor Sport Association (MSA), Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and RAC Foundation, while continuing to promote its own motoring events, such as the free-to-attend Regent Street Motor Show and the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.

The Royal Automobile Club also awards a series of historic trophies and medals celebrating motoring achievements. These include the Segrave Trophy, the Tourist Trophy, the Simms Medal, the Dewar Trophy and the Torrens Trophy.