Sinsabaugh, Chris, Who Me?, ! Forty Years of Automobile History, Arnold Powers, Inc. Detroit, 1940

Excerpt -"The development of the Automobile Club"

transcription of a book excerpt

Who Me?

"The Development of the Automobile Club"

The meeting, held in Chicago on March 4 and 5, 1902, was attended by representatives of nine motor clubs -- Chicago Automobile Club, Automobile Club of America (New York City), Automobile Club of New Jersey, Long Island Automobile Club, Rhode Island Automobile Club, Philadelphia Automobile Club, Princeton University Automobile Club, Automobile Club of Utica, and Grand Rapids Automobile Club -- and the American Automobile Association was formed. A constitution and a plan of operation were drawn up by special committees, and a slate of officers was elected.

Headquarters was established in the rooms of the Automobile Club of America, and at a meeting on April 1, 1902, Scarritt outlined the objectives of the infant organization -- the securing of rational legislation, formation of proper rules governing the use of the automobile, protection of motorists against unjust discrimination and maintenance of their lawful rights and privileges, encouragement of the use and development of the automobile, and promotion of the "Good Roads" movement.

In those times, when automobiles were the property of a select few and motoring was a "sport," the clubs were largely social organizations where members could gather, tell of their experiences, go off on motor trips, and fraternally cuss about the activities of horse-owners who objected to the new-fangled contraptions. In the country clubs still operated for their members by the Automobile Club of Buffalo, the Automobile Club of Minneapolis, and several others, and in the picnics for members staged by many Pennsylvania clubs, there lives an example of the spirit of fellowship and camaraderie among car owners that was provided by the early motor clubs.

Major activities of the A.A.A. at the beginning were opposing restrictive laws that were springing up on every hand, a vigorous battle for highway improvement, and governing automobile racing events.

Class winners were all right for the run of the mill advertising, but we had to have an outstanding winner, so we also had as the star feature the free-for-all. There was no formula in this, and pure speed was the deciding factor. But that free-for-all was eventually to take most of the starch out of Algonquin. Along about 1910, I think it was, Henry Ford sent over Frank Kulick with what looked like a four-cylinder job. In the free-for-all the cars did not have to be stock. Kulick really had a six-cylinder engine under the hood, which was camouflaged so it looked like a four. Well, Kulick made monkeys out of his high-priced competitors and won in a romp. Next year, when we tried to get entries, no one would go in unless we barred the Ford. Of course, that was impossible; but luckily for us Ford did not want to try to repeat, which gave Algonquin new lease of life. We discarded the two hills, and the township built a special hill for us right in the center of the village, up from the main road in a field that was good for nothing else. But Kulick had taken all the oomph out of our classic and besides that, hill climbing was easy for the class of 1912 or `13. So we called it a day at Algonquin.

Having blazed the way, the dealers found that others were willing to take over the job of promoting contests. There was the veteran Chicago Automobile Club, which enjoyed the unique distinction of being one of the very few mot clubs in the country to have a club house and operate as an owners' organization. And there spring into being along about this time -- 1906 -- the Chicago Motor Club. Whereas the Chicago Automobile Club was an owners' organization, the Chicago Motor Club really was supported and sponsored by the dealers, although owners made up the bulk of the membership. The Chicago Motor Club Spring into being because old Charley Root, then editor of Motor Age, thought the Automobile Club was snooty.