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Little Classics News: 15 October 2013

History Repeating Itself on London to Brighton

Vintage cars - London to BrightonOne entrant in this year’s London to Brighton Run will be driving in an ancestor’s tyre tracks.

Lawson Family on Londo to Brighton Veteran Car RunCall it fate, serendipity or just chance, but when Henry Lawson was bitten by the veteran car bug little did he know where it would lead.

In 2000, after building up a collection of classic cars, Henry was persuaded by a friend to take part in the annual Veteran Car Run from London to Brighton. He borrowed the friend’s car, a rare 1900 MMC, and was so taken with the challenge and camaraderie of the event that he decided to buy himself a veteran to add to his collection.

Lawson Family on Londo to Brighton Veteran Car RunAs his only veteran experience was of the MMC (Motor Manufacturing Company) he decided to look for another, without realising how rare they are.

But even though there are thought to be only 13 left in the world, Henry eventually bought two, a 1902 twin-cylinder 10hp model and a 1903 20hp four-cylinder model.

It was then that the coincidences started to appear. Researching the history of the cars Henry, a digital media entrepreneur, found out that MMC was founded by company promoter Harry Lawson, who had also floated the English Daimler company in 1886.

As they shared the same surname, Henry delved a little deeper and discovered they were in fact related...

Lawson Family on Londo to Brighton Veteran Car Run“Harry, it turns out, was a brother of my great-great-great grandfather making him a second cousin thrice removed, or something like that,” said Henry.

Harry was something of the family’s black sheep. He started by making and selling bicycles and then decided to manufacture cars under the banner of the Great Horseless Carriage Co., before founding MMC. It was at this time he bought the rights to manufacture German Daimlers under licence… and which is why MMC cars, built alongside early Daimlers in Coventry, were remarkably similar under the skin.

“He was a shrewd businessman but a ‘patent troll’. He would buy up patents at this time of great engineering discoveries with a view to selling them on. He would also set up companies and sell shares, using the money raised to start other new companies while allowing the original firms to go bust. It was what we would now call a Ponzi scheme and he eventually went to prison,” said Henry.

Intrigued, Henry then looked further into the history of the two cars he owned… and discovered another coincidence. Although he bought them from different ends of the country at different times they had, at one point, both been under the same ownership at the same time. Henry was reuniting the pair.

Henry’s first Veteran Car Run in his own MMC was in 2001 and since then Henry, his wife Lindsay, and all three of their sons have driven the MMCs from London to Brighton. One of their sons even did the event shortly after his 17th birthday, the twin cylinder MMC proudly wearing ‘L’ plates.

“One interesting thing about the four-cylinder car is that ‘those in the know’ said it was undriveable, but Lindsay has never had a problem with it. Perhaps all it needed was a lady’s touch…” said Henry, adding: “The thought often occurs to me that had I borrowed a Panhard, a De Dion Bouton or something else for the 2000 Run none of these remarkable connections would have been made. That really is fate.”


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