We pick up our car just around the corner (another of the real advantages of staying near a major rail hub) - it's a 6-speed VW 1.6 Golf with only 400 miles on the clock. Well, that's gonna change. But first, to get out of London. Vauxhall Bridge and then the A23 all the way, the Europcar staffer had said. So we do. But lo and behold, the Brighton Vintage rally is also on, the same route, lots of supporters..... So we kick back and cruise: no choice, really. Once we hit Brixton (for the second time actually, couldn't believe we were on the right road the first...) it's second gear mostly, but the occasional sprint in third. That, for the observant, is only half the gears available....
Once out of London (which took about 1.5 hours) we hit the M23 and can let the higher gears sing. By now the weather has closed right in and it's raining hard. Still, the fast-lane cohort which now includes us, zings along at 75-90 mph. The Golf is a joy to drive, handles well, 3500rpm at 80 mph in sixth. Noticeable that mainly the Euro cars are doing this speed: Audi, lots of VW, Peugeot, Citroen, Renault, occasional Merc and Beemers.
The Brit cars are of course the 1903 vintage rally jobs, trundling along in the slow lane. A marvellous selection of very early contraptions: some quite literally carriages derived from horse-drawn technology, with a motor tacked on. And given the conditions (much moisture), a lot of drop-outs along the way.
All too soon, the M23 gives way to an A-road, sixth gear is a fond memory, and we proceed into Brighton at a sedate pace. The jalopies are using the bus lane, so we see quite a lot of the ones which have survived the rather Darwinian trip. The drivers and passengers have rugged-up for the conditions, but there are some quite bedraggled looking souls aboard.