|Each state and territory in Australia has its own motoring organization, providing services to motorists. Directly through activities such as breakdown service, tourism services and insurance or indirectly by lobbying government for improved road infrastructure and legislation. These organisations come under the coordination of the Royal Automobile Club of Australia and the Australian Automobile Association. |
All of these organisations can trace their origins to the British equivalents.
The Royal Automobile Club of Great Britain was founded in 1897. It was active in sporting events and provided social Club services to members. Membership consisted of Full and Associate status. Members could purchase badges for their cars that reflected the level of membership. The Full Member badge was double sided and had the head of Edward VII, the original Club patron, on one side and the Union Flag in enamel on the other side. Associate Members only had the Union Flag on their badge.
The Automobile Association (AA) was founded in 1905 specifically to counteract the hostility to motorists coming from the pedestrian public and the constabulary. Police traps for motorists were becoming widespread and the AA set up cyclist patrols on major British highways to warn members of speed traps ahead. A covert system had to be devised to stay within the law. Patrolmen would salute members if the road ahead was clear. Members were told if they did not get a salute they should stop and ask the reason why. This enquiry from a motorist could be legally answered with details about the speed trap. For a patrolmen to recognise a member it was necessary for a member's car to carry a large and showy badge! The first AA badge was made of flat brass, it was round with a tang fitting and had the letters AA fretted out in the centre. The badge bore the signature of the first Secretary, Stenson Cooke.
From that point onwards it has been the tradition of AA and RAC worldwide to offer badges to their members. However, modern day cars have no grille and have no bumper bars, which are the traditional mounting sites for badges. Stickers displayed on a vehicle's windscreen are becoming more frequent to the demise of the badge. With this in mind, owners of older cars and badge collectors will play an important part in the preservation of badges as part of motoring history.
The following is a brief account of the badges issued by the major Australian motoring organisations.
Royal Automobile Club of Australia:
The ACA was formed in Sydney in 1903 and it is thought that the first badge was in a similar style to the flat brass "Stenson Cooke" badge of the English AA except that it had the letters ACA fretted out in the centre instead of AA. I am not aware of the existence of any authentic examples of this badge. A few years later, a bolt-mounted Full Member double-sided badge was produced with attractive central enamels either side, one side having the intertwined letters ACA in red on a white background with an outer blue ring. When the Club received its Royal Charter the word "Royal" was added to the enamels on each side. These badges are of an all-hollow construction being made from two pressed halves soldered together around the rim. A cast single-sided bolt-mounted badge was made by both Amor and Angus & Coote for Associate Members, which was more colourful with blue enamel around the outer edge of the badge and the word Associate in a red enamelled bar as well as the centre enamel.
A smaller single-sided tang-fitting badge was made, possibly in the 1930's. It also had red, white and blue enamel in the centre. The author has seen few examples of this badge and it is one that has eluded his collection so far. In the 1940's a lozenge-shaped chrome badge with RACA fretted out and a separate blue back-plate was produced. The first examples had a Kings Crown, these seem to be quite scarce, and later examples, post-1953, had a Queen's crown. The current badge from this Club is of similar style but is now made from chromed and painted plastic.
Royal Automobile Club of Victoria:
Founded in 1903 the ACV gained Royal Charter and became RACV in 1916. Stokes & Martin presented a badge design in 1904 and it is assumed that the first issue of bolt-mounted badges of The Automobile Club of Victoria were issued at this time. These badges were double-sided having a V and veteran car on one side and a red flag of Australia on a white background on the other. By at least badge number 1000, the badges had the name of Royal Automobile Club of Victoria around the outside but the enamels remained the same. The bolt-mounted badges are all of hollow construction and were issued for a long period, possibly to the 1940's. These badges were made by Stokes and by Angus & Coote and the enamels vary. Some have flat enamels, others are convex and the car varies in design. Later badges made by Stokes have a vintage car instead of the earlier veteran. Badges with numbers as high as 30,000 have been found. Like many RAC's the RACV issued a lozenge-shaped badge with separate blue back-plate, in the 1940's, firstly with a King's crown and later with a Queen's crown. VIC was stamped below the fretted out RAC. A cast one-piece badge was also issued and later replaced by the current plastic version, both of these badges had the Queen's crown. In 1978 RACV issued a special commemorative 75-year badge. It is a small round brass badge, wheel shaped with crown on top and marked 75 Year and Service to Members. It is rumoured that about 250 were made and that at least 80 issued to participants of a commemorative rally.
Royal Automobile Association:
The Automobile & Motor Cycling Club of South Australia was formed in 1903 and became the Automobile Club of South Australia in 1904. There was a design done for a badge at this time but only lapel badges were made. Records show that 50 car badges and 12 motorcycle badges were made in 1909, possibly by A W Dobbie & Co, for renting to members, but these are now extremely rare. The RAA sourced one some years ago but the others remain to be found. A facsimile version was produced by the RAA in 1978. In 1911 the club changed its name to Automobile Association of South Australia (AASA) and issued a tang-fitting flat brass badge that was reminiscent of the English "Stenson Cooke" badge but it had AA overlapped with a smaller SA in the centre. The first of these badges were made by Nichus & Lucy and later batches were made by Stokes and by Alwin Fisher Ltd. Most were nickel plated. The Association became incorporated in 1922 and a new badge was issued in 1923. It was similar to the 1911 badge except that it was cast and the edge of the badge had a raised tyre pattern design. Versions were made in brass and aluminium by Alwin Fisher Ltd and by Duncan & Fraser. This change of design away from the English style was aimed at achieving copyright. Royal Charter was obtained in 1928 and in 1929 two new badges were made by Schlank & Co. that were plated brass with AASA fretted out and having a crown on top. A car badge and a smaller motorcycle badge were made. In 1950 the large size was discontinued and the badge was made without AASA being fretted out, instead yellow enamel was placed between the letters to highlight them. A version was also made with serrations around the edge like a highly stylised tyre edge pattern. In 1959 a new oval-shaped badge with a broad short tang was produced to announce the new name of RAA, there are two distinct styles of this badge to be found. The "modern look" came in 1974 when RAA issued a rectangular badge with RAA and crown in black on a yellow background. A similar shaped badge was also issued for RAA Plus members, which was coloured in yellow, black, white and red.
Royal Automobile Club of Queensland:
The Automobile Club of Queensland was formed in 1905. The first bolt-mounted badges, with mid blue cross in the design, were made by the UK firm, Elkington. On these badges the central enamel is made by a process that creates the design without the need for metal cloisons between each colour. Stokes made badges from about 1912 using the more normal cloisonne technique. Royal Charter was obtained in 1921 and a badge, with light-blue cross, was made by Angus & Coote. All of these badges are made as a hollow construction, whereas the subsequent bolt-mounted types were solid cast badges. From 1924 to 1948 badges were made by Amor and by Wallace Bishop and both versions have a dark-blue cross in the enamel. From 1940 to 1950 the word 'Associate' in the outer part of the badge was replaced by 'Queensland'. RACQ then changed to the lozenge-shaped badge which had a separate blue back-plate and King's crown, QLD was stamped below a fretted-out RAC. There were no Queen's crown badges. Membership duration bars were introduced at this time that could be attached to the bottom of the badge and 5, 10 and 25 Year bars are known. In 1960 RACQ introduced a painted, oval badge similar in shape to the RAA badge of 1959. In the centre of this badge was RAC in large letters. By 1965 this had changed to having RACQ in the centre, and this style is still current. RACQ has more commemorative badges than any other organisation in Australia. Honour badges were produced in 1936, 1937 and 1939 for members involved in a membership drive. The 1936 badge is a kookaburra on a boomerang inscribed RACQ and members who were awarded this badge could upgrade in 1937 to a similar badge that had an additional wreath in the design, if they attracted more members. In 1939 the standard bolt-mounted badge was awarded with HONOUR stamped on the base. In 1980, to commemorate the Club's 75th year, an oval badge was issued. RACQ has also recognised its Life Members with two distinct styles of badge and 50 year membership is also recognised with a large shield shaped badge which has been produced in several variations over recent years, the latest having the word Limited added to the Club's name.
Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia:
A distinctive oval brass badge with a swan in the centre and marked ACWA on the pedestal base was produced in 1908, although the Club had been founded three years earlier. In 1915 this was followed by a more conventional round bolt-mounted badge also with a swan in the centre that was made by Elkington in the UK. Royal Charter was secured in 1922 and Royal was added to the badge but it was a very crudely made cast brass badge possibly of local production but lacking any maker's name. In 1924 it was improved by the maker Sheridan, who made a hollow construction badge on bolt-base which still featured a fretted-out swan in its centre. A tang-fitting version was also available from 1940 until the early 50's when RACWA introduced the lozenge-style badge with King's crown, made by Stokes. This changed to a Queen's crown in 1956 and from the 1980's the same design was continued by Sheridan. In the 90's RACWA issued a novel new design that was barrel-shaped, acrylic-coated and supplied with a bracket to fit the badge to the side of a car number plate. This clever innovation, with potential to maintain the relevance of badges on modern cars, does not seem to have been adopted by any other organisation.
National Roads and Motorists Association:
The NRMA was formed in 1923 to serve the motorists of NSW and ACT. Two sizes of round, enamelled bolt-mounted badges were issued in 1924. 90mm diameter for cars and 75mm for motorcycles. The badges were made until 1930 by Craftsmen Enamellers and by Angus & Coote. A few of the small badges combined with a motometer were issued in 1928. In 1930 a flat brass tang-fitting badge was made that had NRMA fretted-out in the centre and was adorned with wings on the top, this badge was reminiscent of the early English AA badges. A bolt-mounted version was also available from 1931 and both types were made by Angus & Coote. This winged style was later greatly reduced in size and was solid cast in metal in the 1960's. The space between the letters NRMA was painted blue and versions were made by Angus & Coote and Precision badges. This style of badge was then remade, in plastic, by Astor Base Metals in the 80's. A "modern-look" rectangular badge with acrylic coating was issued from 1989 until recently. Several special badges have been issued by the NRMA. The first being an Honour badge, issued in 1935, and similar in design to the 1930 badge but with superior enamelled detail. The author still seeks this badge. 1974 saw a 50 years membership badge issued, and in 1989 replaced by a rectangular gold-coloured badge along with a companion silver-coloured badge for 25 Years membership.
Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania:
Two early clubs that existed in Tasmania, Tasmanian Automobile Club and North-Western Automobile Club were replaced in 1923 by the formation of The Autocar Club of Tasmania. Stokes produced the bolt-mounted badge, it had an enamel centre in the shape of the Island State, coloured blue with a red lion. Royal Charter was obtained in 1927 and a new badge was issued for the Royal Autocar Club of Tasmania in that year. It was a solid one-sided badge made by Golding & Son, it had a round white central enamel with a red lion. Later examples were made by Angus & Coote. A Life Member version of this badge was produced in 1946 by the addition of a red enamelled Life Member bar. By 1952 the RACT, now known as the Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania, adopted the lozenge-shaped badge with King's crown. It did not issue a Queen's crown version and only changed in 1962, nine years after the Coronation, to what is known as the Elizabethan style, similar to the UK RAC badges. These were round badges surmounted by a large Queen's crown. The first issue was metal and made by Stokes and had a flat plastic insert with the RAC initials in white on a blue background. Later the RACT purchased badges from the RAC in England including the prestige heavy enamel version, metal and plastic version, all plastic version and a plastic type with a light inside. All of these were domed in shape. In 1978 the "modern look" took over with the introduction of a rectangular badge having RAC and a crown as the main design, this badge was very quickly replaced. In the following year a similar badge was issued with the addition of the word TASMANIA, this badge is still in use. RACT marked its 75th anniversary in 1998 with the issue of 500 gold plated badges.
Australian Automobile Association:
The Commonwealth Association of Automobile Associations was formed in 1924 following a conference in Adelaide of the existing organisations. This Association later became the AAA and is a coordinating body linked to the international motoring organisations.
It is believed that sometime before 1920 the English AA contracted the services of Arthur Dunscombe, "Irish borne and raised in New Zealand" according to the book 'This Motoring' by Stenson Cooke, to foster the development of AA's in Australia, NZ and South Africa. Sample AA badges were supposedly carried on his travels, which may explain the occurrence of early style badges which have the word Australia above the wings and marked below with either Queensland, NSW, Victoria or RACWA. The author would like to find out more information on the existence of these badges.
Subsequent badges that have been produced by the AAA are rather poor in comparison. A flat brass badge was made by Badger's, and had AAA painted in black on a white background. More recently, in 1999 two new issues have been released. A standard badge has AAA on a white background with Australian Automobile Association in yellow panel below. A 75th Anniversary version was also produced in limited numbers. This badge has the additions Est 1924 and 75th Anniversary and is believed that production was only about 200 badges.
Automobile Association of Northern Territory:
The AANT is the most recently formed organisation being established in 1963. The first badge showed true "territorial style" with a non-traditional coffin shape surmounted by bullhorns. The background was brown with AA in white. In 1965 the background colour was changed to red and this design is still current. It must be the most distinctive AA badge in the world. In the 1990's an attempt was made to protect the painted colours by an acrylic coat but this was not successful in the northern climate and was discontinued. It is believed that a 10-year anniversary badge was made in 1973 and was supposedly the same as the standard red and white issue but the exposed metal part was gold plated.
The major and surviving organisations are covered above. However other clubs have come and gone, some have already been mentioned but others include the Northern Motorist's Association, Newcastle Automobile Association and Newcastle Automobile Club (NSW), NRMA Queensland, Queensland Motorists Association, Gympie Automobile Club, Downs Motor Club and Automobile Association Queensland (Queensland) and Motor Users Association (Victoria) amongst others. Many of these organisations produced badges in small numbers.
Even a single badge from each Australian organisation makes a good display, either on a board or badge bar. This is how many collectors start, before the collecting bug hooks them. Many of the more current badges can still be purchased new and recently obsolete types are to be found at the swap-meets or in antique shops. Prices range from $15 upwards, but upward is the trend. The early bolt-mounted badges are also still to be found at prices from $50 to several hundreds of dollars, depending upon rarity and condition. Collecting doesn't stop there as most countries around the world have motoring organisations that issue or have issued badges and it is still possible to build up a substantial collection of these with perseverance and luck.