Dating back to November 1896, the Run celebrates the abolishment of a law requiring all cars be preceded by a man on foot waving a red flag to warn pedestrians and riders on horseback that a dangerous machine was on the trail. To commemorate this, a red flag was ceremoniously ripped in half at the start of the Run, which began in a densely foggy Hyde Park.
Many of the roughly 450 veteran cars each year attempting the Run experience problems along the way and attrition is high, particularly in the early stages. The veteran cars cruise along surprisingly well, but they are not good at stopping or taking off, so they often overheat when they have to sit in stop-and-go traffic.
Grewal's attention to the job at hand showed us that operating a 1904 Cadillac is more challenging than operating a 2016 model. He drives his car at the limit, always going the fastest he can for the given situation. Braking performance being what it is, this requires constant attention. Keeping the Cadillac engine running at its optimum demands the driver carefully adjust ignition timing, advancing and retarding it with a lever as conditions allow, and choosing the best gear from a choice of two.
Anytime things were going swimmingly, Grewal had the power down, all eight horses of it. It turns out that 27 mph can feel quite thrilling, scary even, from your perch high atop one of these horseless carriages. Our death-defying 27 mph top speed was usually attained in a downhill run in the rain, whereupon our thoughts turned to hard tires with contact patches the size of your pinkie nail. Biting the ditch at any speed in one of these cars is not a good idea, particularly with the ladies riding along, dressed to the nines in the finest of hats and tweeds.
That did not happen to us, however. We made it to Brighton in about four hours, well within the six-hour window required for an official finish. There were some regularity runs and other challenges along the rally route, but we paid them no mind. We have no idea who won, and no one seemed to care. At the finish were drinks and chili and much back-slapping and laughing as everyone celebrated triumph in the face of adversity.