London-Brighton Veteran Car Run offers insight into early automotive patenting

Veteran Car Run Logo

An historic car event taking place this weekend offers a fascinating insight into developments in technology in the burgeoning UK car industry at the turn of the 20th century.

Veteran Car Run

The annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run will be held on Sunday 6 November and among the participants attempting the 60-mile route is Forresters managing partner, Matt Shaw. Matt will be piloting a 1904 Wolseley courtesy of the British Motor Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of historic British cars, with Heart West Midlands radio presenter Ed James.

To be eligible for the run, vehicles must have been manufactured before 1905 – a time when car manufacturers were competing to patent their technologies to establish a foothold in the growing car market.

The Wolseley Tool & Motor Company, manufacturer of the 6hp open-top two-seater driven by Matt and Ed, was not alone in seeking protection for various innovations in car design and engineering, including steering and brake mechanisms, improvements to spark plug designs and gear differentials. As well as protecting these inventions in its home UK market, Wolesley sought protection in the United States which was a pioneer of mass-market car production.

At least two US patents appear to relate to the vehicle Matt will be driving. The inventor named in both patents is Herbert Austin, who later founded the Austin Motor Company, but at the time was managing director of Wolseley Tool & Motor Company.

One patent, US 721,413, filed in 1902 was for a “transversely mounted horizontal engine design”. However, according to the Wolesley Register this particular engine layout was short lived, as from 1906 the company switched to using vertical engine cars. The second patent, US 769,582, also filed in 1902, was for a “water cooling system for explosion motors”, although the distinctive ‘bee-hive’ style of radiator was apparently present in earlier Wolesley models.

London to Brighton 2022 programme cover

Matt Shaw said: “As a patent attorney it was hard to resist looking at patents related to this historical vehicle. They serve as a window to such an exciting period in the history of the motor car.  To find a link between the various patented technologies, this Wolesley and the man who went on to make such a major contribution to the West Midlands and wider UK car industry was totally unexpected.”

For more information on the London to Brighton Veteran Run and the vehicles taking part, please see the event website.


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