OUR HISTORY

Serving members for more than 100 years

The Automobile Club of Southern California was founded in 1900 by 10 Los Angeles-area businessmen and professionals. Over the years, the Auto Club has expanded to offer membership, insurance, travel, discounts, financial, and of course automotive services to more than 7 million members. Learn about some of the Auto Club’s highlighted achievements over the decades.

1900 to 1919  |  1920 to 1939  |  1940 to 1959  |  1960 to 1979  |  1980 to 1999  |  2000 to present  | Historic videos
 

1900 to 1909

  • 1900 - The Auto Club was founded. Within a few years, 13 southern counties in California became the Auto Club’s service territory.
  • 1903 - Auto Club sponsored races at Agricultural Park, now Exposition Park.
  • 1906 - Auto Club started posting directional signs on California roads.
  • 1908 - Auto Club began issuing license plates as an agent of the State of California.
  • 1909 - Auto Club issued its first maps in a guidebook of routes in and near Los Angeles. Touring Topics, the member magazine, began publishing in February.
MRM survey truck
Race Agricultural Park

1910 to 1919

  • 1912 - Affiliate Inter-Insurance Exchange began to offer low-cost insurance to Auto Club members.
  • 1913 - The first Auto Club branch office opened in San Diego, with five more following in the next two years.
  • 1914 - Auto Club started the Theft Bureau to assist police in recovering stolen vehicles.
  • 1914 to 1915 - Auto Club mounted signs throughout the Southwest to mark the National Old Trails Road, later known as Route 66.
  • 1916 - The Forwarding Department was established to ship members' cars cross-country and was later expanded to provide full travel services.
National Old Trails Road signs

1920 to 1929

  • 1921 - Public Safety Department formed to educate students on traffic safety.
  • 1923 - Auto Club Headquarters building opened at Adams Boulevard and Figueroa Street in Los Angeles.
  • 1924 - Emergency Road Service started as Highway Patrol Service and later expanded to include contract towing.
  • 1925 - Public Safety Department produced "Why Be a Goose," the Auto Club's first safety film for schoolchildren.
  • 1928 – The member magazine began to feature original cover paintings in the plein aire style by notable California artists.
Traffic Safety for Students

1930 to 1939

  • 1931 - Headquarters building became a closed courtyard complex with the completion of rear additions.
  • 1933 to 1955 - The Auto Club operated a branch office in Las Vegas to provide touring and roadside services to members in southern Nevada.
  • 1934 - First Outing Show at Headquarters showcased camping and outdoor recreation. Touring Topics was renamed Westways to signify its broader cultural mission.
  • 1937 - Auto Club engineer Ernest East proposed a network of parkways for Los Angeles.
  • 1938 - Auto Club provided registrations for more than 170,000 member vehicles.
1930s First Westways cover

1940-1949

  • 1941 to 1945 - During World War ll, the Auto Club provided special maps to the military, sponsored scrap drives, promoted war bonds, and guaranteed the jobs of its employees who were called to military service.
  • 1946 - Westways resumed its cover-art program, showcasing the vibrant California watercolor movement.
1940s Wartime Scrap Drive

1950 to 1959

  • 1956 to 1959 - Auto Club opened 18 new branch offices to accommodate the boom in population and membership.
  • 1957 - Foreign and Domestic Travel Department formed; cruises became a popular offering.
  • 1959 to 1971 - Southern California underwent years of mass freeway construction.
1950s world travel cruise

1960 to 1969

  • 1963 - Auto Club conducted emissions tests on 1,000 cars in cooperation with the California Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board.
  • 1967 - Automotive Research Center opened to conduct studies on vehicle emissions and performance.
  • 1968 - With rapid construction of new locations, Auto Club reached a total of 78 branch offices.
60s and 70s air quality

1970 to 1979

  • 1970 -  Auto Club began rating car-repair facilities, a service that became the Approved Auto Repair program in 1976.
  • 1972 - Frances Ring became editor of Westways and led the magazine to its greatest literary achievement, including regular contributions from Anais Nin, M.F.K. Fisher, Richard Lillard, Norman Corwin, and the return of Lawrence Clark Powell and Carey McWilliams. Richard Lillard, Westways columnist for Frances Ring, was among the first to point out the environmental implications of land development in California.
  • 1974 - Auto Club co-founded Commuter Computer to aid Los Angeles-area ridesharing and reduce traffic congestion.
1970s Approved Auto Repair

1980 to 1989

  • 1982 - Processing Center opened in Costa Mesa to house insurance operations and systems.
  • 1983 - Auto Club began offering homeowners insurance to its members.
  • 1984 - Auto Club began repair skills contest to encourage high school students to consider careers as auto technicians.
1980s new Processing Center breaks ground

1990 to 1999

  • 1995 - A new category of membership, AAA Plus®, was created to provide enhanced member benefits. "Show Your Card & Save" consolidated into one program to promote retail discounts available to members.
  • 1996 - Auto Club-sponsored uninsured motorists law passed. Auto Club began offering services online.
  • 1997 - Auto Club began offering life insurance to members. Processing Center doubled in size to become the Administrative Offices. Auto Club led the effort to establish Graduated Driver Licensing in California.
  • 1999 - Auto Club acquired tour provider Pleasant Holidays. Auto Club became a title sponsor of National Hot Rod Association Finals, putting its name on a major national drag-racing event for the first time.

 

2000 to 2009

  • 2000 - Auto Club celebrated its centennial with a year of special events and publications.
  • 2001 - Auto Club began offering Licensed-to-Learn driver education classes.
  • 2002 - Proposition 42, sponsored by the Auto Club, passed to increase funding for transportation.
  • 2003 - AAA Premier® membership added with the highest level of member benefits.
  • 2005 - Auto Club began to offer collector car insurance. 
  • 2008 - California Speedway was renamed Auto Club Speedway in recognition of Auto Club sponsorship.
2k funny car

2010 to present

  • 2010 - Auto Club handled more than 25,000 roadside service calls, its most in a single day, on December 21.
  • 2011 - The Auto Club launched an alternative-fuel research program, including the lease of electric vehicles for daily operations.
  • 2012 - Alternative fuel research program added electric-vehicle charging truck and charging stations at Auto Club locations in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
  • 2016 - Auto Club Enterprises websites reached a record of more than 30 million annual visits.