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Vintage Auto Makes a Run at Motor Lore

January 29, 1987|MARY BARBER | Times Staff Writer

It was a glorious day for England and for Warwick Eastwood when his 1903 Stevens Duryea purred into Brighton to celebrate a high point in British automotive history and Eastwood's dream come true.

Being the kind of fussbudget who will even make a light bulb for his car's headlamp in the name of authenticity and who will spend 10 hours tightening a single wooden wheel, Eastwood got the reward on that chilly day last November that only a perfectionist would cherish.

His car ran for 57 miles without a glitch.

With the cheers of 2 million spectators ringing in their ears, Eastwood and his wife, Mildred, and the 83-year-old car he restored in Pasadena rolled across the finish of the Royal Automobile Club's London to Brighton Veteran Car Run within the required eight hours.

'Just Hummed Along'

"Oh, it just hummed along," said Eastwood, beaming at the automobile that looks as peculiar today as it must have when it was one of America's first horseless carriages. It looks as new, too, with every inch of brass, upholstery and paint gleaming.

After years of watching the run, the event in November was the first Eastwood could enter. Although he and his twin, Douglas, own several antique cars, the 1903 Stevens Duryea is the only one old enough to qualify for the pre-1905 age limit, and he completed its restoration last year.

Eastwood's was the only one of four antique cars shipped by Southern California members of the Horseless Carriage Club of America for the London-to-Brighton course that ran trouble-free.

A 1902 Boyer belonging to Phil Reed of Whittier limped into Brighton on only one of its two cylinders. Jack Wadsworth of Arcadia never even got to the starting point with his 1904 Cadillac because its water pump broke en route to the Hyde Park section of London. A drive chain on another 1903 Stevens Duryea, owned by Bill Anderson of Incline Village, broke and destroyed its brake band during the run.

Celebratory Parade

The run--which is not a race, but a parade of automobiles built before 1905--celebrates the day in 1896 when a new English law allowed automobile owners to drive their vehicles without a man walking in front carrying a red flag.

In the first run in 1930, 14 of 39 starters reached Brighton, where the Earl of Winchelsea symbolically destroyed the hated red flag.

When the Royal Automobile Club took over the event in 1930, there were 58 entries.

Susan A. Winwood, secretary of the event for the Royal Automobile Club, said in a telephone interview from London that more cars enter every year and the 417 that participated in November set a record. They came from around the world, with about 30 from the United States. Among them were Albions made in Scotland, Beauforts from Germany, Berliets and Bardons manufactured in France and a Turner-Miesse Steamer made in Belgium.

"Some have successfully completed (more than) 35 runs," Winwood said, even though the first Sunday in November, when the run traditionally takes place, is usually cold and often rainy. The November event offered biting cold, brilliant sunshine and record crowds, Winwood said.

Cheers for California

Eastwood said roars greeted their every turn when their "California 1903" plate came into view. "I guess there's nothing like a California license plate to get people excited," he said.

Now Eastwood and his twin, who are 70 and retired, are talking hopefully about entering this year's Veteran Car Run.

It cost Warwick and Mildred Eastwood about $5,000 to ship their car and take a three-week vacation in England.

When the twins were 13 years old, they paid $15 for a Model T Ford, took it apart and put it back together. It was the first of 29 Model T's they owned as they continually puttered, restored and traded up.

They figure they've owned 40 antique cars, beginning with a 1910 Hupmobile Torpedo Roadster they bought 40 years ago, followed by a 1913 Ford roadster. They buy, repair and restore, trade and sell, and they figure that somehow it all works out financially.

Both men and their wives, and sometimes their children and numerous grandchildren, have centered their social lives around the Horseless Carriage Club and enter its frequent events all over the Western states.

Besides his 1903 two-cylinder Stevens Duryea, Warwick owns three others, all built in 1910, two with four cylinders and one with six cylinders; a 1905 two-cylinder Buick

that he said is one of only 750 made and a 1910 four-cylinder Buick. He has two motorcycles, a 1914 Excelsior Autocycle and a 1915 Pope.

Douglas owns a 1908 two-cylinder Buick, a 1910 Stevens Duryea, a 1915 Oldsmobile and two Indian motorcycles, made in 1913 and 1932.

When they began collecting, old autos sometimes were found in sheds or dumping places, often badly deteriorated. The men figure that most turn-of-the-century cars have been discovered and are in various stages of repair in private collections.

"The point is to make them exactly as they were," Warwick said. "If you change them, they lose their value."

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