50 Years of Progress

  • In 1946 Britain’s motor industry celebrated its jubilee with a series of events ranging from an exhibition, to grand dinners and cavalcades throughout the UK.

    Just 50 years before in 1896 the Highways and Locomotives Amendment Act of 1878 was repealed making it possible to travel in a road vehicle without an attendant walking ahead to warn of its approach. The removal of this obstacle enabled Britain’s motor industry to make great strides during this short period.

  • However, the Jubilee was organised not only to honour the industry’s historic achievements but also to bolster Britain’s post-war economy through renewed interest in motoring. In 1946 Britain’s motor industry employed 1,385,000 people many of whom had worked tirelessly during the war years to increase production and who were now feeling the effects of that output. In `The Motor Industry Monthly Report’ all manufacturers were urged to send their staff to visit the exhibition to increase morale.

  • The Royal Automobile Club Archive contains photographs of the Jubilee events, such as the ‘50 Years of Progress’ exhibition depicted here. Staged at the Headquarters of the Motor Industry, 148 Piccadilly, London, the exhibition was opened on Thursday 18 July by the Rt.Hon John Wilmot MP, Minister of Supply.

  • Throughout Britain, processions of vehicles were organised. Cities famed for their industrial manufacturing heritage, such as Coventry, Belfast, Edinburgh and Manchester hosted cavalcades. The grandest of these departed Regent’s Park following an inspection of vehicles by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, depicted here entering the grandstand.

  • Following a parade through London’s West End, vehicles returned to Regent’s Park for public inspection. Drawing huge crowds the event epitomised post-war optimism which was reflected in a rise in sales during the 1950s. It also afforded the public an opportunity to engage with their motoring heritage and embrace their future through the veteran and sports cars on display, a tradition continued today at the Regent Street Motor Show.