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Riveting film of London to Brighton car run 1961

The embedded film in this post is a riveting 4 minute vintage home movie which captured the events of the London to Brighton car run in October 1961.

The film itself is an Agfa 8 film, and is annotated with some markings which show that it also has some footage of a journey to Stevenage along the A1, and a brief shot of a building referred to as the ‘Bird House’.

Just a note about the conversion of the film to digital; because there are several sequences where the photographer was filming within a moving car there were quite a few scenes where the film was shaky. Because of this I ran the film through a stabilization routine which compensates for this, so you may see the edge of the film move about during playback.

London to Brighton car run film

Unfortunately the quality of the scan is not very good on this film because the film itself suffers from a bit of mould growth. I tried cleaning the film with a alcohol based cleaning solution1, but the cleaning wasn’t successful in removing the mould which has degraded the film somewhat.

I find it interesting that I’ve only just published a film which featured vintage cars, and almost straight away there is another film. It tends to cement my though that because cine film was so expensive people only used it for special occasions rather than just to record family life.

Stills from the film

The film starts with some footage of the journey from London to Stevenage on the A1, which I found particularly interesting because I live in Stevenage and that is a road I’ve driven many times. I can say that the level of traffic on that road is now considerably higher than it was on the day in 1961 when the photographer pointed his camera out of the car window!

After the A1 footage there is a short sequence which shows what the photographer has called the ‘Bird House’. I can’t find any reference to this on google; If I search for ‘bird house’ not unsurprisingly I come up with many hits for, you guessed it, small wooden houses for birds.

After the Bird House is the footage of the London to Brighton veteran car run which takes up the whole of the rest of the film. There are shots of many of the cars leaving London, with the driver and passengers wrapped up against the cold in their almost exclusively open topped cars.

The only comment I would make about the photography in this section, and really the rest of the film, is that the photographer concentrated perhaps to much on short sequences. There are too many short sections showing the individual cars and possibly the film would have been better if some longer sequences had been included. Mind you, that is easy to say when it’s possible these days to film endless material for nothing – I may have felt differently if I had to pay £35 for each film!

I believe the car run still takes place, but I wonder if it is so heavily followed as it seemed to be in 1961? There are large crowds of people standing on the roadside under the trees cheering the cars away, and in the following scenes, as the photographer followed the cars down the road to Brighton, there seemed to be many people joining in with their modern (for the time) cars and even I noticed at one point on a penny farthing bicycle.

After some short sequences showing the cars travelling from London to Brighton, the last parts of the film show the scenes at Brighton in the fading evening sunshine.

About Vintage Home Movies

If you would like more information about Vintage Home Movies please take a look at the Welcome and About page here and a description of how films are digitised here.

If you see anything in the film which you recognise or you think gives clues to the location or date, please let me know in the comments below. Also, please share this post with your friends if you think they may be able to help locate scene in this film.

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A software developer by profession and an amateur photographer by hobby I've been interested in all things photographic since I was a teenager some 40 years ago. Many of my interests centre around vintage film photography and cinematography.


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