When Frederick Richard Simms and Charles Harrington Moore, two of Britain’s earliest motoring enthusiasts, decided to create a society dedicated to the horseless carriage, they already had a model on which to base their organisation. Indeed, the very constitution of what for the first ten years of its life was The Automobile Club of Great Britain (Ireland was added subsequently) was borrowed en masse from the French equivalent, translated and adapted by Simms and Moore. The formal inauguration of the club took place on December 8, 1897.
It was not until 1907 that motoring aficionado Edward VII gave the royal command that saw the name change to The Royal Automobile Club.
The Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland had its initial headquarters at 4, Whitehall Court, a prestigious enough location, but improved on when a move was made to 119, Piccadilly in 1902. Five years later the club bought the old War Office building in Pall Mall, where it has its town base still, although revamping the place took another four years.
For the ordinary motorist in Great Britain and Ireland the RAC had a great impact over the years. In 1901 it introduced patrolmen in their distinctive uniforms to assist the driver in difficulty. This service was developed further by the club when it had the first roadside emergency phone boxes set up in 1912. It also lobbied strongly to have speed limits raised, as they were in the 1903 Motor Act.
At the turn of the century motor vehicles were still a rarity in many rural areas, and the club spread the word about the possibilities of the new fangled machines through an endurance race, the 1,000 Miles Trial in April 1900.
And in motor sport (of which the club became the governing body in the UK) they arranged the first Tourist Trophy race in 1905, the oldest such event still run, as well as organising the first British Grand Prix in 1926. The club that had blatantly copied the French model when it was first established had become a great innovator in its own right.
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