Our history

In May 1905, 12 of Brisbane’s pioneer drivers met to discuss forming a group to champion the rights of motorists. This marked the beginning of the Automobile Club of Queensland. 

The founders

Dr Henry C Garde, foundation member (1904)

Consisting of doctors, engineers and merchants, the pioneer drivers gradually increased in number to form the 18 founding members of The Royal Automobile Club of Queensland. 

The club’s first president, Dr George Hopkins, was a world renowned surgeon, and treasurer and secretary Dr Archibald Brockway was an accomplished author and poet.

At a time when few women drove and the Automobile Club of Victoria did not accept female members, Dr Lillian Cooper, Queensland’s first registered female doctor, was also a prominent foundation figure.  

The founders:
  • William G. Billington
  • Dr Archibald B Brockway
  • Archibald Carmichael
  • P Clarke
  • Dr Lillian V Cooper
  • Thomas Coupland
  • Alexander B Elmslie
  • Dr Henry C Garde
  • Nils P Gustavson
  • Dr David Hardie
  • Dr Claude S Hawkes
  • Dr G. Herbert Hopkins
  • Dr Aeneas J MacDonnell
  • Hon. Dr Charles F Marks MLC
  • Dr Victor R Ratten
  • William J Tarrant
  • Walter M Trevethan
  • James Wilson.

Why the club was formed

It took Australians a while to accept cars as a mainstream form of transport because they were seen as a danger to more conventional horse-drawn vehicles when introduced in the early 1900s. With less than 50 cars in Queensland and few quality roads to drive on, motorists were a minority. 

Much of the RACQ’s early activity was devoted to influencing legislation aimed at restricting speed limits and travel around Brisbane. One of the first letters drafted by the club involved a request to police to stop gangs of youths throwing stones at passing cars.

The youths enjoyed a degree of public support, as increasing numbers of ‘horseless carriages’ threatened traditional transport businesses and damaged Brisbane’s already sub-par road network. 

These are just some of the earliest examples of the how the club represented the interests of Queensland motorists and more than a century later, advocacy remains at the core of our service to our 1.7 million members.

How we’ve evolved

Since formation in 1905, the club has constantly evolved to meet the changing needs of Queenslanders. 

Today, we offer member services and products, including roadside assistance, travel, finance and insurance.

1905 – 1920

The early years of the club were notable for helping the motor vehicle become an accepted part of day-to-day life in Queensland. Of the 18 foundation members, 10 were medical practitioners of some kind. The use of vehicles to transport patients helped shine a more positive light on cars. 

Day trips to nearby towns proved a popular club activity, and the lack of road signs resulted in the members producing and erecting 100 directional signs to help motorists on their journeys. This important initiative gave birth to drive tourism in Queensland, which today is a multi-billion dollar industry, and the club’s first travel service was created in 1918. 

1920 – 1945 

In recognition of the club's patriotic efforts during the Great War, George V approved the use of the 'Royal' prefix in 1921 - and with that, the ACQ became the RACQ. 

It was in 1925 that the club commissioned two mechanics, George Clark and Eddie Henderson, to patrol the roads in search of disabled vehicles. Since then we have rescued more than 30 million motorists from the roadside. 

World War II brought about a change in the club’s focus. With the government imposing severe restrictions on motor vehicle use amid widespread protests, the RACQ was instrumental in facilitating petrol rationing and providing maps and road information to the armed forces.

1945 – 1969 

Post-war, RACQ purchased army jeeps for use as patrol vehicles and hired many ex-servicemen. It also wielded considerable influence with government, successfully campaigning for increased speed limits and motorists’ rights. 

From a membership of 18,000 in 1945, in 1957 the club boasted 100,000 members.  

1970 – 1989 

Queensland's population explosion in the 1970s and 1980s was reflected in the club's rapid expansion of member services, headlined by the establishment of RACQ Insurance.  

Technological advances in the 1980s also had a significant effect on club services, with a computer-aided dispatch system for roadside assistance and the introduction of a 24-hour road information service dramatically improving efficiency.

1990 – 2004 

The club's identity in its earliest years was defined by its motoring advocacy. As the club approached its centenary, protecting the interests of its members remained a priority, but there was also a focus on creating new services and products.

These included Free2Go, the world’s first free youth motoring club membership, the Show Your Card and Save member benefits program; and discounts on insurance premiums.

In 1995, RACQ membership surpassed one million, more than one quarter of Queensland’s total population, and the club began its naming rights sponsorship of community helicopter rescue services throughout the state with Gold Coast-based CareFlight Rescue, now known as LifeFlight Rescue.

2005 – today 

The club's centenary in 2005 sparked year-long celebrations, including a state-wide travelling exhibition honouring 100 years of motoring in Queensland, a television documentary, and a hardcover historical reference entitled ‘The Road Well Travelled’. 

We also introduced an online trip planner to the club’s website, helping Queenslanders better plan their journeys. This quickly became RACQ’s most used online service. 

In 2006, the club’s advocacy resulted in the launch of the Learn2go program. The online education resource for learner drivers and supervisors was introduced alongside legislative changes, in which RACQ played a significant advisory role to improve safety among young drivers.

As the club helped educate learner drivers, the Streets Ahead school program program aimed to develop the road awareness of primary school children. Launched in 2008, the primary school road safety education program has reached more than 50,000 students and won a Queensland road safety award in its first year. 

RACQ badges 

Car badges have been part of the tradition of motoring clubs since they began, as a way of identifying members. Today they are collector's items and many enthusiasts use them as a way to dress up their cars. 

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