This year’s RM Sotheby’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run (5 November) is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the classic British comedy film Genevieve which was originally released to huge critical acclaim in 1953.
The much-loved, BAFTA-winning movie follows the adventures of two couples participating in the annual London to Brighton event when driving a pair of early veteran cars.
Now, to mark the magical milestone both film star cars – the eponymous 1904 Darracq after which the film is named and 1905 Spyker – are being reunited to once again to take the traditional daybreak Hyde Park start… and, hopefully, the Brighton seafront finish.
Genevieve has been a crowd-pleasing regular on recent Veteran Car Runs, but the co-star Spyker hasn’t been seen for more than a decade. Moreover, it has not been seen in its film star yellow livery since the movie was made back in the fifties – until now.
To honour the 70th anniversary in style, over the past few months the Louwman Museum in The Hague – where both Genevieve cars are lovingly curated and displayed – has had the Spyker 12/16 HP Double Phaeton undergo a metamorphosis.
For the box office smash movie, the Spyker underwent various modifications. To make it stand out more on celluloid the car was repainted yellow instead of its original green, and the windscreen was removed in order to avoid reflections during filming.
Once the cameras stopped rolling, the Dutch-built veteran was swiftly returned to its original colours and the windscreen replaced. Now back in its previous livery, the matinee idol led quite an anonymous life with just a few aficionados knowing about the its former life as an idolised pin-up.
However, in recognition of the Spyker’s role on the silver screen and this year’s 70th anniversary, the Louwman Museum has decided to permanently return the icon to its Genevieve identity.
During the restoration required in readiness for November’s anniversary London to Brighton, traces of the original yellow film paint were discovered, both on the body and on the chassis. Images from the film were also used to restore several trim pieces – for example on the rear of the coachwork – and to reunite the correct badges with the Spyker.
The windscreen is now detachable so, when the Spyker is on display in the museum, it can be without its windscreen but, for use on the road, such as during the famous Veteran Car Run, the screen can be easily fitted thus protecting the driver and passengers from the elements.
Having meticulously facelifted the Spyker, the Louwman Museum is kindly loaning both it and Genevieve to The National Motor Museum in Beaulieu where the pair will be displayed during the school summer holidays and early autumn.
Both cars will also be on show in London at the St James’s International Concours to be staged on Malborough Road, Westminster on Saturday 4 November as the perfect curtain-raiser to this year’s very special RM Sotheby’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.
Spyker 12/16 HP Double Phaeton
The Spyker dates from 1905. The chassis was built in the Netherlands but the coachwork is by the then London dealer. The body was originally painted green in combination with a black chassis and yellow wheels. For the Genevieve film, however, the producers changed the body colour, but had it reinstated to green paintwork after completion of the film. The Spyker returned to the Netherlands in the early 1960s when it was restored. Since then the car remained untouched, even after it was acquired by the Louwman Museum in 2004… until now!
Darracq 12 HP ‘Genevieve’
The Darracq named Genevieve is fitted with a twin-cylinder engine that produces 12hp. It was built in 1904. It had been well-used before being abandoned only to be subsequently rediscovered in East London among piles of junk shortly after World War II. The new owner later found a two-seater body but had neither time nor money for a full restoration. The Darracq was then sold and the new owner completed the restoration. Following the success of the film, the car attracted so much attention that the owner got tired of all the publicity and sold the car. Genevieve then resided in a museum in Australia for 40 years before being acquired by the Louwman Museum in the 1990s and returned to Europe.
Genevieve – the movie
The comedy film is about two couples aboard a 1904 Darracq named ‘Genevieve’ and a rival 1905 Spyker taking part in the annual London to Brighton Run. The men challenge one another to a race on the way back from Brighton to London. The stake was initially £100 but then became the Darracq. The finish is on Westminster Bridge. During the return trip, the rivals do their utmost to be the first to arrive in London, including sabotaging one another’s car. The film was first shown in cinemas in England in 1953.
Full details of the 2023 RM Sotheby’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run on Sunday, 5 November are available at the event website at www.veterancarrun.com.
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