Coat and jacket off. One corner of the cover up. Another one released. Pull back. And repeat. Fold one way, then the next. Lid up. Contents out. Lid down. One screw, second screw, bonnet forward. Another lid open. Gas tank revealed. Gas tap on, match lit, wooden splint burning and… it burns out. Repeat until gas flame is lit.
After a cold night slumbering in an underground car park, EX10, a Daimler Type A Tonneau, is coming to life. Or perhaps I should describe John Worth’s immaculate, beautifully cared-for car as the Daimler Type A Tonneau, for while there are others, this one could perhaps lay claim to being the most beautiful, and in many regards most original.
Restored under Worth’s ownership by Wood Brothers and the team at Fairbourne Carriages, it is the car’s lustre (five coats of varnish) and detail (eight coachlines per wheel spoke, 16 spokes per wheel, each requiring three layers of paint) that stand out. Some of those coachlines are out of shape, but only because during the restoration they found the originals and elected to keep them.
Similarly, just like archaeologists uncovering forgotten treasures, a monogram was uncovered beneath layers of paintwork. Worth’s detective work tracked the initials - EE - to Ernest Estcourt, a wealthy builder, who was one of Britain’s first car owners. You might expect a 117-year-old car to ooze history but, as the 6hp, two-cylinder engine cranks into life, the moment becomes all the more special: EX10 isn’t just a preserved moment in time, it is a living, moving testament to former times and the hard work and dedication of an owner and team who evidently cherish it.
We’re here in the cold and dark at 5.30am to prepare for the London to Brighton Veteran Car run, of course, celebrating the 121st anniversary of the first running of the event in celebration of the repeal of the Red Flag Act, which had required motor vehicles (“mechanically-driven carriages”) to be preceded by someone waving a red flag or ringing a bell, to warn of the impending danger of a moving vehicle.
John is kindly carrying three passengers as guests of event sponsor Hiscox, and if the theatre of the start-up procedure (spark plugs were yet to be invented, although the gas tank is a modern-day adaptation on practical and safety grounds) is anything to go by we are all in for a day to remember. The last job before we get going is to light the candles that sit inside the headlights. They may not cast much light onto the road ahead, but they are surprisingly bright. “They’d had a fair few years to perfect lanterns by then,” smiles John, reminding me that while the idea of the motor car (autocar) was new, they were ultimately the sum of many other well-known technologies.