The RAC Story

The history of the RAC and its badges - by Brian Jewell, 1978:

Once motoring had started in earnest it was natural for car owners to form themselves into clubs and associations, and there were good reasons.  The condition of the roads was abysmal and only by some form of united pressure could improvements be hoped for.  But the main reason behind the formation of these early organizations was to make a stand against the antagonism shown to motorists by the public at large, the legislators, and by the Police whose attitude was nothing short of outright hostility.

This is particularly true of Great Britain where, in 1895, the locomotives on highways act restricted mechanically propelled vehicles to a maximum speed of four miles per hour on country roads and two miles per hour in towns.

The idea of funding motorists organizations seemed to have occurred almost simultaneously in several counties but in appears the USA can claim the honour for the first, if only by a few days!  The was the American Motor League, founded in Chicago on the 1st of November 1895.  This was after a letter by Charles Brady King, published in the Chicago Times-Herald, pointed out a need for such an organization.

At about the same time the Automobile Club de France opened its office at the Place de l'Opera in Paris.

A month later, at London's Cannon Street hotel, the first meeting of the Self Propelled Traffic Association occurred.  It was held under the chairmanship of Sir David Salamons, who had organized Britain's, and debatably the worlds, first motor show at Tunbridge Wells a couple of months earlier.

When the locomotives on the highways act was repealed in the following year, which was the basis for the organizations foundation, the Self Propelled Traffic Association became less active and was absorbed by the Automobile Club of Great Britain in 1898.  This later club was founded in December 1897 by F.R. Simms.

The club was granted Royal patronage by Edward VII and the Royal Automobile Club's first badge received Royal approval in 1907.  This was a full members badge, the design of which has changed little over the years, Edward VII's head being retained when the badge was redesigned in 1953.

1908 saw the introduction of the associate members badge and, later, the design was applied to the associate members badge of the Royal Scottish Automobile Club, the main difference being a St. Andrews Cross carried centrally in place of the Union Flag.

In 1936 the circular central flag was substituted by a lozenge-shaped insert carrying the letters RAC.  It was this lozenge that formed the basis for the clubs post-war badge.

The next change came in Coronation Year, 1953, a design known as The Elizabethan.  An illuminated version of this badge was also available.  The motor sports members badge of the same period was of a similar form, but retained the winged Mercury figure which featured on the full members badge.

Following the examples of the Automobile Association, the RAC adopted a rectangular 'cleaned up' badge in 1973.

Thanks to Brian Jewell for allowing me to use his article.