Since then, every year, as many pre-1905 cars as are able muster in the pre-dawn darkness in Hyde Park for the start of the Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, supported by Hiscox.
I joined their number last Sunday, in a 1900 Daimler: 6 horsepower, two cylinders, four forward gears, one driver and three passengers.
Cold doesn’t begin to describe the temperature that seeped through every possible crack in my nine thermal layers of clothing as I watched John Worth, the car’s owner, light the platinum rods that would heat the cylinders, with a match. He then pumped the fuel pressure, primed the carburettor and cranked the engine several times before it chugged willingly into life.
At 7.14am, candles in the beautiful glass lanterns fore and aft flickering, we drove across the start line and out onto London’s thankfully deserted roads, past Buckingham Palace, rose-pink against the rising sun, over Westminster Bridge past lines of chilly spectators, and south through London’s sleepy boroughs.
With a top speed of about 24mph downhill, but less than half that uphill, we settled in for the journey. By Streatham my bottom lip had frozen stiff and I’d lost the feeling in my fingers and toes. But the Daimler – the Land Rover Defender of its day – chugged on, unperturbed, while cars just one or two years younger zipped past us (the Daimler was three years old by 1900 and just 12 months later, rival models were posting speeds of 40mph).