Regent Street: closed to traffic but filled with cars for annual motor show

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Closed to traffic but filled with cars – this was the scene that greeted anyone who took a wander along Regent Street on Saturday morning.

The Regent Street Motor Show takes place in the heart of London’s shopping district and sees cars from the past rubbing shoulders with vehicles of the future. This year, the crowds braved the cold weather to see more than 100 veteran cars on the eve of the famous London to Brighton run.

Regent Street was built to provide a thoroughfare between two palaces owned by Prince Regent, who later became King George IV. It was also one of the world’s first purpose-built shopping streets.

And while the shops remained open on Saturday, the majority of shoppers were more interested in the sight of the capital’s free-to-view motor show. Last year, some 450,000 people witnessed the spectacle.

All of the cars taking part in the Concours d’Elegance were built before 1905, meaning they predate Regent Street, which was completed between the years of 1904 and 1925. The shops may have changed, but the veteran cars remain true to their original specification.

Concours d’Elegance victory for Latvia

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The overall winner of the Concours d’Elegance was the sole surviving Krastin, one of just four cars believed to have been built by Latvian August Krastin in the United States. The book Migrants, Immigrants and Slaves: Racial and Ethnic Groups in America, says: “August Krastin built one of the first automobiles in America in 1896. His plant in Cleveland, Ohio, made gasoline and electric automobiles, farm machines, refrigerators and electrical appliances.”

In another book, Automobile Manufacturers of Cleveland and Ohio, 1864-1942, the authors Frank E. Wrenick and Elaine V. Wrenick describe Krastin as a perfectionist and an experimenter. As a result, he received numerous patents during the development of the Krastin.

“These included such innovations as a screw-type noiseless muffler, a smokeless carburettor, and a device that appeared to be a column-mounted steering, but actually controlled the clutch and shifted the transmission, while the column upon which it was mounted acted as a tiller which steered the vehicle.”

The Krastin two-cylinder runabout commanded a price tag of $2,500 and August Krastin had plans to build up to seven vehicles per week. Sadly, a fire destroyed the factory and all its contents, and with no insurance in place, the company was declared bankrupt and closed its doors in 1904.

Fast forward a century and Latvian enthusiast Austra Priede – seen photographed in the passenger seat of his Krastin – tracked the sole remaining car down to an address in Nebraska.

With the help of Riga Motor Museum, he completed a full restoration in time for the Krastin to make its debut in this year’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.

Honouring James Hunt

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From veteran cars to a vintage year: 1976, the year in which James Hunt won the F1 World Championship following his epic battle with Niki Lauda. To celebrate the 40th anniversary, the Regent Street Motor Show called in James’ son Freddie, along with Hunt’s McLaren M23.

Freddie Hunt was on hand to sign autograph and pose for selfies, with the McLaren M23 joined by other F1 cars, such as the Ferrari Dino 246: the last front-engined car to win a Grand Prix race.

Other celebrities included Chris Evans, Alex Jones and Ken Bruce, with the Popmaster swapping his Routemaster for an AEC Regal single-decker for the London to Brighton run. There, he was joined by Carol Kirkwood, who appeared be taking on ‘clippie’ duties.

Bringing things right up-to-date were displays from Go Ultra Low and Transport for London, while the Steve Colley stunt motorcycle team delivered two-wheeled thrills.

Speaking about the event, Peter Read, chairman of the Royal Automobile Club’s Motoring Committee, said: “The Regent Street Motor Show really does have something for everyone: the cars on display represent motoring history in its entirety, from the earliest days of the horseless carriage to the electric vehicles we will all be driving tomorrow.

“The Regent Street Motor Show goes from strength to strength and marks one of the highlights of the Club’s London Motor Week – a seven-day celebration full of motoring events staged by the Royal Automobile Club, which ends with the famous London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.”

Has an unhealthy obsession with cars of the 80s and 90s. Doesn’t really do supercars. Not a huge fan of sports cars. But loves the undervalued and the underwhelming.

Is probably a bit strange.

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