How it all began with Frederic Bennett in 1903 (as reported during the 1953 Golden Jubilee re-run of the 1903 1000 mile Trial.

Excitement Reigned
(nationally & internationally)

Newspapers, radio and television, both here and
abroad, had one question of man & machine: 
"Would they or would they not make it to the end?"
(Click here for short clip of 1953 BBC interview)

A memorable challenge.

Speedier Than In 1903
(as quoted at the time)

"Mr F. S. Bennett completed the 1,000-mile Reliability Trial yesterday in spite of heavy rain and a gale. He covered 1,094 miles in eight days at an average speed of 21.25mph. This is much faster than when he did the trial fifty years ago as then there was a 12mph speed limit in the towns and 20mph elsewhere."

* Fred Bennett also organised the double winning of the Dewar Trophy for Cadillac in 1908 & 1912

How it continued with Julian Bennett in 2003
- as a special fund-raiser for BEN, 'the motor trades charity' - 

At eight o'clock in the morning on the 18th September 2003, 100 years to the hour of the start of the original Royal Automobile Club Reliability Trial, and fifty and ninety years respectively since his grandfather's previous re-runs, Julian Bennett attempted the near impossible. Overseen by the Veteran Car Club, he set out in his 100-year-old car to complete the same 8-day 1000-mile journey on the same daily runs to and from Crystal Palace to the towns shown on the map below.

With fond memories of his ride with Fred Bennett fifty years earlier, an older Sir Stirling Moss kindly tries the Cadillac again, this time with the youthful Julian.

The motoring maestro subsequently declared that all bode well for a successful 'centenary' RAC 1000-mile Reliability Trial in late september 2003.

Julian 'Frederic' Bennett raring to have a go at the 1,000 miles in his recently MoT'd 100-year-old Cadillac.

While excited children crowd round and try out the newly taxed & insured car on its first official test drive

The Original Map for the 1903 RAC 1000-mile Reliability Trial
(As kindly supplied by the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu)


The daily routes from the 18th to 26th September are shown with the main towns passed through and the number of times the same route has to be travelled - this is particularly repetitive close to London and Crystal Palace. 
(On Saturday 20th September, the rest day, the first Cadillac 'Grand International' was held in Crystal Palace Park)

This hand inscribed certificate, which Julian Bennett has hanging in his house, was presented by the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain to Frederic Bennett after his successful run in 1953.

 Having succeed in his attempt at the centennial run, Julian received a similar certificate from the VCC in 2003.

Held on the Bennett Run 'Rest Day' 
Saturday 20th September

Amazing cars, Live Bands, Personalities, Tours, Grand Parade
"Open to all Cadillacs, Cadillac devotees and general enthusiasts"

The Venue - Crystal Palace Park, south London
(Home of the first motor manufacturer's Motor Show in 1903)

‘Grand International 2003’ and the 'Cadillac Spectacular' were held to commemorate Cadillac's arrival in England in 1903 - powered by this single-cylinder engine below. 

It is also a tribute to Frederic Bennett for his class win in the 1903 RAC 1000-mile Reliability Trial, his records in both the Irish and Scottish Reliability Trials and the gaining of two Dewar Trophy awards for Cadillac, one in 1908 and another in 1913.
 

The lawns among the trees in the picture above and  those alongside the remains of
Crystal Palace race circuit below formed an idyllic setting for Cadillacs of all ages

Cadillac devotees from many countries were at the ‘Spectacular’ in Crystal Palace Park, the starting and finishing point of the 1903 RAC 1000-mile Reliability Trial.

Among those Cadillacs of all ages was Ron Hickman's magnificent 1931 Dual Cowl Phaeton V16 (below with Julian Bennett and the '03 (the side-valve version of V16 engine is depicted above).

The Queen Alexandra/Prince Olaf Baby Cadillac

The 1/3-scale Cadillac Roadster, powered by and used to demonstrate the first-ever electric self-starter, was last seen driving the streets of central London and at Sandringham in Norfolk over ninety years ago. Made in London under Frederic Bennett’s direction in 1912, it was bought by Queen Alexandra as a present for her grandson Prince Olaf of Norway. The Norsk Teknisk Museum, the custodians of the car for the Norwegian Royal Family, along with the Cadillac Motor Company arranged for the one-off appearance at the Queens Hotel, Crystal Palace (being inspected by Sir Stirling Moss).
Three of these one-third scale Baby Cadillacs were made, of which two, both originally sold to Royalty, are known still to exist. The third was given to Wilfred Leland Jnr, grandson of the co-founder of Cadillac, and is now understood to be in the hands of a private collector in America.

Everyone was Welcome

Alan Murphy, the organiser of this one-off special event, made all who attended feel truly welcome - be they club members, enthusiasts or members of the public. Sir Stirling Moss, the international motoring ace, was there to welcome them too, here trying out Jerry Thurston's Caddy-engined Allard.

Senior members of the Royal Automobile Club were present, as were those from the Cadillac-LaSalle Club of America. Julian Bennett, with the family's 1903 Model A Cadillac, was there on the 'rest day' from the centennial re-enactment of the RAC 1000-mile Reliability Trial. Julian's attempt at this fourth re-run, carried out as a fund-raiser for BEN, the Motor & Allied Trades Benevolent Fund, ended up as a great success.

Destination end towns for each day: Margate, Eastbourne, Worthing,Folkestone, Southsea, Bexhill, Winchester, Brighton

Day 1, 18/09/2003, MARGATE

- success -

Met in the centre of the town in Cecil Square - as on all previous runs 

    The Mayor of Bromley, Councillor Catherine Rideout, started off the first day's run with some suitable words of encouragement outside the Queens Hotel, Crystal Palace. The drive to Margate was slow but steady and, as planned, the civic reception with the Mayor, Cllr Brian Sullivan, was followed by general celebrations in Cecil Square.
    However, the car's late arrival, due partly to London traffic and partly to the time taken fine tuning the fuel mixture, meant that Julian and the back-up team had to consume lunch - kindly supplied by the Mayor's Parlour - mostly on the move. On the return journey, Navigator Phil Lydford observed that "coming down Detling Hill in #530 at 40mph felt more like 140mph". 
     Apart from 'dry' wooden wheels that had to be soaked overnight, especially the odd replacement from the altercation with the steam omnibus in 1903, the only other problem was the replacement of some unsatisfactory 'decorative' bolts securing the mudguards. A number of these broke off, due to the constant vibration of #530's large single-cylinder engine of the era.

161 miles in 12-hours 5-mins, average 13.3mph.     Total recorded miles: 161

Cadillac Owners Club 'back-up', Nick Strata  -  Veteran Car Club 'observer', Martin Ashby, Daily Support Teams, Rob& Linda Maidment & Gordon Creese

Scenes from 1953 & 1903

Day 2, 19/09/2003, EASTBOURNE

- success (just) -

Met at the Lifeboat Museum and on the edge of town.

    Cadillac #530 having rammed its front spring shackle into the glamorous tail-end of the main support vehicle, the Courier-Cadillac Roadster, the show got under way with a wave of a flag from Ron Hickman of Black & Decker Workmate fame.  After a clear early run, problems with major overheating struck less than three miles from the Eastbourne meeting point. 
    By the time the welcome party had waited for over an hour on the seafront to hear of some chance discovery of a simple solution to the trouble or a miracle cure, word came back that the problem - a 'dislocated' water pump - was rather more serious than first thought. In fact, suspicions that the challenge, sadly, could have come to an early and inauspicious end were on everyone's mind.
    Yet the day was far from over, and Ron Hickman's magnificent ex-Maharajah's 1931 V16 Cadillac was summoned to help pacify the press and give the Mayor, Cllr Miss Olive Woodall, a time-delaying ride around the town. When the this proved inadequate, the Mayor kindly agreed to drive to the edge of Eastbourne to meet Julian and #530 for a photo-shoot, while the necessary repairs were being carried out. 
    With the tireless dedication of two experts from nearby Perrot Engineering - summoned by the Veteran Car Club - and with the help of some local householders, Julian was back on the road in less than five hours, and drove into the Queens Hotel at around 10pm, well before that magic disqualifying hour of midnight. So, just as on the same day in 1903, when the steam omnibus in Sevenoaks drove into Cadillac #530 and smashed the left rear wheel, a near disaster became another impressive triumph of 'man and machine'.

120 miles in 9-hours 10-mins, average 13.8mph.     Total recorded miles: 281

Cadillac Owners Club 'back-up', Iain Dunkley  -  Veteran Car Club 'observer', Mike Timms

Scenes from 1953 & 1903

Day 3, 21/09/2003, WORTHING

- success -

Arrived in South Street Square at exactly 12.13pm (2 minutes early!)

    If only the roads were as clear during the week as they are on Sunday mornings, there would at least have been a reasonable chance of attaining an average speed approaching the 21.25mph of 1953. After an early start, a faultless run on the outbound journey meant that Cadillac #530 arrived early.  Being Sunday, Julian's two young sons, Olly and Tom, took turns at navigating - practice no doubt for the 2053 run!
    The civic reception with the Mayor, Cllr James & Mrs Melanie Doyle, combined with a representative gathering of Cadillacs & Veteran Cars, went off without a hitch. The return journey fared just as well but, on the last lap heading up the hill into Crystal Palace, sporadic backfires interspersed with an occasional misfire did not bode well for the remainder of the Run.
    Fortunately, having arrived back well within daylight, there was time to locate the problem and effect a cure. Over-oiling by the automatic drip-feeders had fouled the trembler coil electrodes as well as producing an excessive carbon build-up in the cylinder head. Many hands set to with 'de-carboning' implements followed by a re-adjustment of the oilers as instructed in Julian's cherished original handbook.

131 miles in 7-hours 35-mins, average 17.28mph.     Total recorded miles: 422

Cadillac Owners Club 'back-up', Bob Thomas  -  Veteran Car Club 'observer', Roy Fuller

Scenes from 1953 & 1903

Day 4, 22/09/2003, FOLKESTONE

- success (wet) -

Met outside the Grand Hotel at noon

    Day four started in sunshine but finished in pouring rain and high winds. Despite this, and despite having to remove the right-hand headlamp due to a bolt having gone missing, the day could not have gone better and the newly-tuned engine performed as never before. The Civic Reception at the Grand Hotel in Folkestone, arranged by the owner, Michael Stainer, was attended by the Mayor, Cllr Peter Gane, along with members of the Folkestone Automobile Club.
    The Mayor congratulated Julian on having almost made it to the halfway, 500-mile mark and thanked Michael Stainer for his generosity in supplying such an excellent buffet lunch. Julian added his own thanks for the enthusiastic turnout and hoped that the remaining miles would be negotiated without further mishap.
    Julian and Navigator Bill Hiscocks headed home shortly before 1.30, not realising what lay in store up ahead. They arrived back at the Queens Hotel bedraggled, wind-beaten and drenched. After a thorough check of #530, they both headed straight for a hot bath, followed later by a relaxing time at the bar for some much-needed 'internal warmth'!

145 miles in 9-hours 16-mins, average 15.67mph.     Total recorded miles: 567

Cadillac Owners Club 'back-up', Damon Lenszner  -  Veteran Car Club 'observer', Derek Thorpe

Scenes from 1953 & 1903

Day 5, 23/09/2003, SOUTHSEA

- success -

Met at the Blue Reef Aquarium on Clarence Esplanade

    A very satisfactory run down to Southsea proved that adjusting the oil feeds had been well worthwhile. On reflection, considering how little had been done to such an old car prior to the run, its performance was quite remarkable. Apart from tightening up a number of obvious 'loosnesses', overhauling the water-pump shaft, replacing the carburettor needle & diaphragm, fitting a new trembler coil and making sure all the steering and braking components were fully reliable and safe, nothing else had been touched. Still, with three more days to go would the hundred-year-old car hold out? In fact, with the earlier-than-anticipated starts and the time-consuming daily preparations to Cadillac #530, would Julian hold out?
    Despite the chill in the air and being well outside the holiday season, the Civic Reception with the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Cllr Tom Blair, attracted quite a crowd. As on each day's run, Ben, the Motor Trades charity, were there and The Lord Mayor made a special point of wishing them well and hoping that the fund-raising was going according to plan. Gordon Creese of Ben explained that it was too early to evaluate but that donations through the website for 'guess the mileage' and 'guess the speed' were coming in steadily from both sides of the Atlantic, as well as from other countries too.
    There also to meet up with Julian was Colin Barnes, the grandson of Mr Henocq, Fred Bennett's navigator on the 1953 run. After helping repair a water leak on the cooling system and after a reasonable break for lunch, Colin lead a motorcycle escort back to the old A3 heading north-east to London. A long day's drive meant arriving back at Crystal Palace in the dusk.   

148 miles in 12-hours 5-mins, average 13.99mph.     Total recorded miles: 715

  

Cadillac Owners Club 'back-up', Amanda Barnes  -  Veteran Car Club 'observer', Jeremy Oates

Scenes from 1953 & 1903

Day 6, 24/09/2003, BEXHILL

- success -

As in 1903 & 1953, met on Delawarr Parade

    After another good run down from Crystal Palace, Julian & #530 were met outside Bexhill by the Mayor, Cllr Deirdre Williams, being driven in General Patton's magnificent wartime Rolls-Royce Sedanca de Ville. A quick roadside photo-shoot and the convoy set off for the town centre.
    The cavalcade through Bexhill was followed by the grandest of civic receptions together with major festivities and entertainments, all organised by Brian Storkey of 'Bexhill 100' fame. 'Bennett Run' banners abounded, a band played throughout, food was in abundance and the whole town seemed to be joining in.
    Speeches by the Mayor and Brian Storkey covered the history not only of the Bennett Run but also of Bexhill's early motor racing history, and Julian was presented with a large silver cup for his achievement so far. Also on hand to welcome Julian was the grandson of S.F. Edge, the famous early racing driver and life-long friend of Fred Bennett. This was most appreciated as S.F. Edge's widow had welcomed Julian's grandfather to Bexhill during the 1953 run.
    The return journey was not quite so smooth: the loss of the left rear mudguard, due to a broken support bracket, and several bad traffic hold-ups on some of the south's somewhat inadequate roads marred what was otherwise an almost perfect day. There were also signs that the trembler coil ignition was beginning to play up - yet another of a multitude of items that could bring the 1000-mile challenge to an abrupt end.

135 miles in 9-hours 40-mins, average 13.98mph.     Total recorded miles: 850

Cadillac Owners Club 'back-up', Bob Thomas  -  Veteran Car Club 'observer', Derek Thorpe

Scenes from 1953 & 1903

Day 7, 25/09/2003, WINCHESTER

- success (weary) -

Met at The Broadway in the town centre as on previous runs

    The Winchester day started by checking the wiring on the trembler coil ignition and quickly locating and curing the previous evening's problem: loose connections.  The journey thereafter proved trouble free and Julian and Navigator Bill Hiscocks, had a clear run on a cloudless, windless, seemingly late summer's day.
    The reception with the Mayor, Cllr Mrs Jean Hammerton, was followed by lunch and general celebrations and a re-enactment photo-shoot under the steadfast gaze of King Alfred. A large crowd turned out, including a number of elderly cars and several of Julian's friends and relations, which at times almost blocked the town's main thoroughfare.
    Cadillac #530 headed back to Crystal Palace, this time with a slipping clutch, apparently caused by the now-cured excessive oil supply during the first three days. In fact, the whole of the underside of the chassis and most of the engine compartment was covered with oil. Despite this, and despite running out of fuel on the long 'garage free' stretch of the A31, Julian, his navigator and #530 returned to the Queens Hotel, Crystal Palace, in good time - but by now, after nearly 70 hours driving and nearly the full 1,000 miles, the whole team were exhausted.

133 miles in 10-hours 2-mins, average 13.3mph.     Total recorded miles: 983

Cadillac Owners Club 'back-up', Ray Giles  -  Veteran Car Club 'observers', Debbie& Alan Coleman

Scenes from 1953 & 1903

Final day 8, 26/09/2003, BRIGHTON

- success (relief) -

Met on Madiera Drive at 11.45am, exactly as arranged

    With the steadily worsening slipping clutch, the last day turned out to be the most nerve-wracking.  Fortunately, though, the run to Brighton is by far the shortest and, in many ways, the easiest, as the motorway to Gatwick Airport substantially reduces the traffic on the old roads.  Despite this, Cadillac #530's average speed was steadily reducing and cause for real concern.  
    Having started an hour early, at just after 7.00am, the trio of Julian, Bill and #530 appeared to the minute on Brighton seafront to be greeted once more by the BBC.  Having at this stage completed 1,038 miles, an air of celebration prevailed, as though the run was complete.  However, the rules of 1903 were quite explicit, stating that an entrant had to be back at Crystal Palace by midnight on each day of the run, and that included the final day. 
    So, after a civic reception with the Mayor, Cllr Jeane Lepper, and celebrations with numerous of Julian's relatives, friends and VCC well-wishers, the trio nervously headed north on the rerturn journey.  Despite all our fears, at 5.30pm, right on schedule and with no further problems, they arrived back, triumphant, at the Queens Hotel to a tumultuous welcome and smiles all round.  The Champagne appeared as if from nowhere and celebrations and photography continued for well over an hour outside and then on into the evening in the hotel.

(The full story of the 2003 Bennett Run and how it came about through some extraordinary and unlikely co-incidences is recounted in the final
chapter's of the book 'Sidetracked - a True-life Motoring Saga')

106 miles in 8-hours 44-mins, average 12.11mph.   Total recorded miles: 1089

Overall total miles: 1089 (in 77-hours 7-mins) - giving overall average speed: 14.12mph

We must say a huge "well done" to Julian and his support team for their determination to succeed in their centennial quest.  Considering the three hours per day extra on the road as compared to 1953, the odds of Julian having made it were indeed remote, and to have managed to meet up with all eight mayors of the destination towns was an added bonus.  We must also marvel at that first ever Cadillac to cross the Atlantic: apart from the water pump, which also gave trouble in 1953, the only other mechanical problems were entirely due to human ignorance of the finer workings of such a venerable machine.  In effect, under conditions far worse than in 1953 and in a car now doubled in age, Julian had driven the equivalent of more than twenty London-Brighton runs.  If anyone therefore suggests that, on occasions, the English are a just little mad, we would have to agree.  In the end, this had to be a very satisfactory conclusion to the centenary episode of 'a special relationship between man & machine'. The next 'Run', presumably, will be held in 2053!?

Cadillac Owners Club 'back-up', Bob Thomas  -  Veteran Car Club 'observer', Roy Fuller

Daily Support Teams, Rob& Linda Maidment & Gordon Creese

Scenes from 1953 & 1903