Highlights from the Motoring Forum

Back for its second year, the Motoring Forum once again proved a highlight of London Motor Week. Club members, industry professionals and even students from a London design college were all in attendance on Thursday 3 November.

The first speaker, Philippe Casse, explained the worldwide influences that eventually lead to the birth of the automobile in Europe. From Aristotle in 400 BC, who was the first one to dream of a self-propelled vehicle, to Karl and Bertha Benz in the late 1800s, who not only invented the first petrol car but the idea of motoring as well. Casse talked through a timeline of incredible and pioneering individuals, from France to Sweden and Scotland to Belgium. A fascinating insight into the ideas that sparked it all.

Henry Lawson was next to the stage, giving explanation to the decisions his great great uncle Harry Lawson made back in 1896, when he chose Brighton as the finish line for the Emancipation Run. Looking back on it, Brighton didn’t make much sense to many people, but Lawson explained to the forum that it was in fact a few particularly quirky factors which led to the decision (like the idea that sea air was beneficial for people’s health). He also handed around the 120-year-old invitation to the very first Run, originally known as the Motor Car Tour to Brighton.

Henry Hope-Frost then joined Veteran Car Club Steering Group member James Gresham to discuss Formula 1 tyres, which, as Hope-Frost described, are ‘much more than black and round’. The audience were fascinated to hear Gresham explain the true complexity of racing tyres, and were also treated to stories from his time at Silverstone, in particular the incident in 2013 when six Pirelli tyres exploded. Highlighting that a race essentially relies on 30% driver, 30% chassis and 30% tyres, Gresham gave the audience and insight into how the engineering of a tyre is so crucial to racing success.

Following a break for lunch, Johannes Huebner took to the lectern to raise the question: will modern automobiles be the classic cars of the future? Huebner identified the differences between vehicles from the 60s and modern cars of today, in particular the structural design and materials used. Huebner commented that it is essentially a question of replace or repair, explaining the amount of complex work that goes into repairing new cars versus classic cars (which were much cheaper and easier to repair). ‘Repairs get a little difficult,’ Huebner highlighted, ‘when your new car has 26 devices just to control how the roof is folding’. Finally, Huebner gave his guesses on what cars are going to be the classics of the future – often to the approving applause of the audience.

For the final presentation, Heritage Manager Jane Holmes gave the audience an insight into the ‘train, tourers and tantrums’ of the 1905 Tourist Trophy. With the Trophy itself on display at the front of the room, the audience got a sense that this particular race was one that had to be seen to be believed. Not only did the track take racers on a rocky and often steep 52 miles on the Isle of Mann, but as Holmes explained, ‘many became very familiar with the geology of the island – particularly stone!’ referring to the sheer number of accidents that took place. The room couldn’t help but laugh incredulously as Holmes highlighted that every participant needed to have a train timetable mounted to their dashboard to avoid the trains crossing right across their path. Even Charles Rolls was mentioned, following his relentless insistence that his car was tampered with after he stripped the gearbox part way through. Overall, an entertaining and fascinating insider into one of the Club’s favourite events.

To end the Motoring Forum was the famous quiz. As the panels battled it out (tooting loudly with their veteran car horns when they had the answer) the audience joined in too – demonstrating a passion and knowledge of motoring throughout history. Do you know when Benz met Daimler? The panel did. An entertaining and light-hearted way to end a day of insightful presentations. (Hint: they never actually did meet!).

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