RAC Roadside Assistance celebrates 90 years of rescues


An early incarnation of the Roadside Assistance fleet.
An early incarnation of the Roadside Assistance fleet.

IT is hard to conceive now, given the fleet of nearly 150 distinctive yellow cars around the State, but RAC Roadside Assistance began 90 years ago with just two “competent mechanics of good repute”.

The service celebrated its 90th birthday on Tuesday.

HV Mason and RL Stockbridge began the service on May 17, 1926 armed with a motorcycle and side car.

The job in those days involved roaming the streets of Perth on the lookout for motorists in strife, with their route published in The West Australian.

It was soon decided that the RAC would install phones in the men’s homes, so they could be contacted after hours.

And that was the genesis of the business WA motorists know today – a 24-hour rescue service.

Most of the calls were due to flat batteries, jammed starter motors, tyre punctures, broken fan belts, keys locked in cars and blown fuses.

Given all service stations closed at 6pm, there were also a lot of call-outs from people who had run out of petrol after dark, and patrolmen carried a one-gallon can (4.5 litres).

In that first week in 1926 the service attended to 31 cars.

By the 1950s, the Roadside fleet had four Austin vans and six motorcycles, mostly ex-army BSAs or Nortons.

In 2014, Roadside Assistance came to the aid of 369,037 WA motorists.