From the Archives: Value for Money

In 1900 the Club staged the first 1000 Mile Trial as an exhibition and tour of the UK, to popularise the motor car as a new mode of transport, however just three years later increased production had led to a bewildering array of marques. In 1903 the Club staged the 1000 Mile Trial again, but this time as a Reliability event. Cars were classified into different price brackets ranging from under £200 to over £1,000. 104 vehicles out of 140 entries were weighed in a garage tent at Crystal Palace before submitting to brake tests.

This was promptly followed by dust trials and a luncheon at Lyons Restaurant, Crystal Palace. The speeches and responses from the Lyons Tea Rooms, give a vivid account of how the Club was perceived in 1903. The Chairman, Roger Wallace, noted in his speech that the Club had come into criticism for supporting road racing in the wake of the Paris-Madrid Race tragedy, but `The Club had thought it their duty to show that a road race can be carried out without injury or accident to anyone’ at the Gordon Bennett Trials in Ireland.

Roger Wallace called for the Government to decide whether it was going to propose a tariff on automobiles, for `nothing killed an industry so surely as uncertainty’. In response Colonel Crompton chose the event to remind the journalists present that fair reporting was required because when they `realised all that was being done by the Automobile Club and others to make the motor car the poor man’s horse, he felt sure they would eliminate from their columns all references to it as a rich man’s toy’.

The 1903 the 1000 Mile Trial carried on through South East London to Kent as this image of the Trial vehicles in Cecil Square, Margate depicts. Contemporary press reports also noted how filthy the vehicles looked, but washing the cars were discouraged to ensure that no one could cheat and change mechanisms under the guise of cleaning! The event was a great success. Many of the vehicles stayed the course and it enabled the Club to offer guidance to its members on the best automobiles in their price bracket.

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