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Culture: Madeira Drive, the living motor museum

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Motoring along Madeira

Madeira Drive is the road which runs east of Brighton Pier along the seafront to Black Rock. On its seaward side runs the Volks Electric Railway, which - small though it is - can legitimately claim to be Britain's first electric railway. On the landward side of the Drive is a cliff wall above which runs the main east-west road, Marine Parade. In the early part of the nineteenth century the sea came right in to the foot of the cliff, and Madeira Drive is built on an area of reclaimed land whose primary function is to protect the cliff face from erosion from the sea and thus protect the coast road above.

Today the Drive is an important venue for many motoring events. It is the finish line for 'runs' by Minis, Morris Minors, Lamborghinis, veteran cars, coaches, and motorcycles of all descriptions - and also for the London to Brighton annual cycle ride.

If you're interested in the motor vehicle, both in the present and in the past, then Madeira Drive is the place to visit at regular intervals throughout the year.

Sea Life Centre at the western end of the Drive
Sea Life Centre
Note the
protest banners
Click the photo
for a larger version

As well as an annual cycle of motoring events, the Drive has lots of traditional seaside entertainment from crazy golf, children's play ground, games arcade, fish and chip restaurants and cafes, fishing tackle shop, and, of course, the Volks Electric Railway which will take you from one end of the Drive to the other, but in a very unique, not-to-be-missed sort of a way!

Maderia Drive is essentially a Victorian development and boasts today a peculiar piece of Victoriana in the shape of a cast iron mezzanine floor (!!) which runs for around 2,800 feet along the side of the cliff at about half way up its height. The 'floor' which is 25 feet wide is known as Madeira Terrace, and under it is a colonade lined with cast iron columns.

Unfortunately it all has an air of faded elegance, surrendering year on year to the elements and rust. The Drive is an important seafront parking area, and if it were not for the dramatic vista provided by the sea, and the seaside entertainments, the area would look like a run down car park. But at weekends when a motoring event comes to the Drive, it buzzes with excitement.

2,000 plus Minis descend on Madeira Drive

 

Calendar of Main Motoring Events
January  
February  
March, 3rd Sunday Pioneer Motorcycle Run
April, 1st Sunday Morris Minor Run
April, 3rd weekend UK Coach Rally
April, last Sunday Jaguar Run
May, 1st Sunday Historic Commercial Vehicle Run
May, 2nd Sunday MG Regency Run
May, 3rd Sunday London to Brighton Mini Run
June, 2nd Sunday Classic & Kit Car Run
June, 3rd Sunday London to Brighton Cycle Run (27,000 cyclists!)
August  
September, 2nd Sat National Speed Trials
September, 2nd Sun Ace Cafe Reunion (40,000 bikers!)
September, last Sat Brighton Breeze - VW Camper Vans
October, 1st Sun Landrover Run
November, 2nd Sat Veteran Car Run
December  

These are the regular events - the dates can vary a bit from year to year. Other occasional motor events take place as well, such as the Lancia and Lamborghini runs.

 

 

Where is Madeira Drive? Not sure? Click here.

 

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