History

A Social Revolution: 1954 to 1978

So great was the growth of motoring and membership at this time that the RAA moved to larger headquarters, built new Technical premises, expanded Road Service operations, began its office and Vehicle Inspection centre presence in the suburbs, established staffed offices in major country centres and started its march into the computer age.

1965-New Road Service HQPhoto: Premier Frank Walsh (right) and RAA President Robert Irwin at the official opening of the new Road Service headquaters in 1965.

If this was the State's most potent period of motoring growth, though, by the 1970s it was balanced by less buoyant issues. There were fears that the world was running out of crude oil, growing concerns about pollution and differing opinions on the development of freeways; and, indeed, on the future of the motor car.

To a backdrop of ever-increasing taxes and charges the RAA was still fighting to improve petrol-selling hours in Adelaide; still lobbying for the city's first major off-street parking; still trying to get the Eyre Highway sealed. It succeeded with all three, and kept an eye on other new features like parking meters, speed radar, seat belts and breathalysers.

The RAA spearheaded more than one national issue - initiating a proposal, for instance, to create a university Chair of Traffic Engineering, while motorists who use International Driving Permits while driving overseas can thank the RAA for generating that idea for Australia.

Member services continued to evolve and improve. The RAA Travel Service, Driver Training, Travellers Shop and Finance Service all began in this period, while an in-house Legal Department began the advisory service previously handled by the solicitors.

The Road Service country network continued to increase. One new road service contractor, at Woomera, was later upgraded to a district office while it was a restricted area, and was unique as the only RAA office in a town not open to the general public.

This mass motoring age generated enormous growth in motor tourism. The Touring Department found itself planning caravan parks, initiating the 'star' grading accommodation classification scheme which is still used and publishing its first touring guide books. Late in the 1950s the RAA employed its first cartographer and began drawing in-house the regional maps from which today's maps take their lineage.

A notable casualty of the 1970s was the RAA's role of providing much of the State's road signposting, a task it had handled for over half a century. In these inflationary times the cost was escalating alarmingly, and the last straw was the prospect of metric conversion when distances changed from miles to kilometres.

So many South Australian families were buying their first cars that the State's social structure underwent one of its most fundamental changes. There was, too, an escalation in the motor industry, with the coming of firms like GM-H (General Motors-Holden) and Chrysler cementing an involvement which had existed almost since the advent of cars.

Those interested in the scores of cars built in the State in earlier years - from one-off vehicles to small-scale commercial production (some of them built by RAA members) - will learn more in South Australian Motor Cars 1881-1942, by George Brooks and Ivan Hoffmann (contact David Vinall on 8296 7489 for further information).

Those vehicles, in addition to motor body-building plants and allied manufacturers, reflected how strongly both people and industry had adopted the car from its earliest days - this love affair with motoring had changed the face of South Australia by the 1960s.

The RAA rode on that wave of expansion and social development. It had a mighty impact, in fact, for in this quarter century its membership almost quadrupled, to 357,000, and cemented for the RAA a position as one of the State's most influential organisations.

How different this world was from the carefree days of the Club in 1903! Nothing brought that home more than news of the death in 1963 of Frank H Taylor, the last surviving founder member, whose son Max was by then on the Association's Council.

1979 to 2003: Years of Innovation

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