Some small local private Car Clubs sprung up and some are
thought to have kept a ‘cash kitty’ to assist their stranded members, but
that was about as organised as it got for the poor motorist.
As the twentieth century got underway, two motoring clubs would become
large enough to have nationwide membership (they would no doubt say
These were of course The Automobile Association (formed
in 1905) and The Royal Automobile Club (formed in 1897 and named oyal
Both organisations were initially set up to help
motorists to obtain fair treatment from the authorities. Although the
organisations become more 'service' related as the years went by, both
later also diversified into several non motoring areas (with varying
The services they offered then however, bears little relationship to
those offered by today's clubs. Both organisations would try to repair
members vehicles, with the limited tools and parts their vehicle carried.
Spares could often be collect from the many local garages and the nature
of the vehicles was such that a block of wood, some clean dry cloth, a
roll of insulating tape and piece of rope could fix almost any fault.
was not until the fifties that those vehicles would be linked by radio
(the AA in 1950 the RAC in 1958). Consequently patrols had to go to their
box at prearranged times, to be allocated jobs. If a 'tow' was required, a
local garage would be called and the member would pay.
The first to offer a limited 'get you home service' was the RAC,
in 1912. Members could apply for a brass token which when handed to a
RAC Repairer, would "Bring the necessary assistance and will indemnify
you as the owner of the disc, against the cost of hiring another car to
get you and your party home"
The instructions for the use of the token, also make interesting
"On the occurrence of a breakdown
you send this Talisman by an RAC Touring Guide (patrol), or by the
first available messenger (clearly no mobile phone's then), to
the nearest RAC repairer. Who will at once send a relief car to convey
you and your party home" (note the 'at once')
The restrictions on its use were probably acceptable
for the average private motorist at that time. For example it was only valid up to 20 miles from
your home and it did not cover accidents. If however you were less than 10
miles from your home, then you could also have the car towed there using
the Talisman. By the late twenties the RAC were dealing with in excess of
10,000 claims a year.
Incidents of accidents or breakdowns, were high for the number of vehicles
on the road, but were still uncommon occurrences, due to the small number
of vehicles and the short distances they travelled.