De Dion Bouton Club UK


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The Horseless Carriage Exhibition 1896


"The First London Motor Show"


120th Anniversary
re-enactment at
Imperial College Kensington
7/8th May 2016



International Historic Motoring Awards 2016

The De Dion Bouton Club UK re-enacted "The Horseless Carriage Exhibition" on 7/8th May 2016.  This ground breaking Exhibition was the very first London Motor Show and the precursor of all subsequent London Motor Shows.


Originally held exactly 120 years ago and opening on 9th May 1896, it was brought back to Imperial College, Kensington, on the same site as it was held in 1896, then known as The Imperial Institute.


Harry Lawson's nascent Motor Car Club, famously known as the instigator of the Emancipation Run - the first legal run for motors in Great Britain which took place the day the new law came into effect on 14th November 1896 - held the original Exhibition to help the Light Locomotive Bill's passage through Parliament, thus making legal motors and motoring in Great Britain. Hamstrung by outdated laws and particularly lagging behind the continent, the law helped kick start the new British motor industry.


Event Director Nick Pellett said "Imperial College have been very exciting partners to work with on this seminal exhibition. I am delighted that this world famous institution, the home of ground breaking research, and with their long history of engineering innovation, has taken on board the significance of the original "Horseless Carriage Exhibition" and worked hard with us to showcase what is clearly one of the great landmarks in British motoring history, for so long forgotten.


Inside the main Exhibition Road entrance to College the Club exhibited stunning rare and original images of motoring in 1896.  Beneath the images were some of the earliest, primitive motor vehicles from the dawn of motoring in a static exhibition.


Outside in Exhibition Road itself a second exhibition - of working examples from 1896 - 1903, showcased the three types of motive power that Victorian engineers used - Steam, Electricity, and the "new fangled" petrol. In a dramatic re-creation, The Red Flag man led these vehicles on a short parade route several times each day around the immediate area of Kensington. The public were able to take a close look at these early vehicles and have the Victorian engineering concepts behind them explained by their owners many of whom were in period costume to add to the period feel of the weekend.


A unique and unprecedented retrospective, DDBUK and Imperial College welcomed some 15,000 visitors from across the world - including His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent and Formula 1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone and his wife Fabiana. They enjoyed riding in the parade on what must be the slowest vehicles ever to grace Britain's Highways.  


A detailed programme is available to purchase and in addition the original 1896 programme has also been reproduced.
Click here for purchase details


Additional notice


To co-coincide with the Exhibition, the name and company of the original "Motor-Car Club" has been revived after laying dormant for over 110 years. Supporters of the revival are welcome to register their interest. It is not intended to be a members club, but rather to lend its name to appropriate historical and charitable motoring events. This re-enactment by DDBUK of the earliest ever motor event in London admirably fulfils that criteria, thus starting again right where The Motor Car Club began.


Significantly, De Dion Bouton is extremely relevant here - Harry Lawson acquired the British Empire patents to the marque. In numerous countries around the world the first vehicle was a De Dion Bouton; the Count de Dion himself attended the Horseless Carriage Exhibition, personally demonstrating his motorised tricycle. Indeed just twelve months later, in November 1897 the first motor race in Britain took place at Richmond Park on these motor Tricycles. More information on these appears on the website.


The Motor-Car Club's Imperial Insitute Motor Show 1896.jpg Motor-Car Club Horseless Carriage Exhib London Motor Show 1896.jpg

To contact the organisers please complete the form below :-

Please also follow this link to the Imperial College event website

Programmes for the event and reproductions of the original 1896 are available for purchase here.

HCE-GeneralView.jpg HCE_RedFlag.jpg NP and Bernie with ddb Trike.jpg