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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

OHIO MOTORISTS ASSN.

OHIO MOTORISTS ASSN.

The OHIO MOTORISTS ASSN., known as the Cleveland Automobile Club from its founding on 8 Jan. 1900 until 1978, was the second automobile club formed in the U.S. and is the oldest still in existence. Organized by local automobile manufacturers and auto enthusiasts to promote motoring as a sport, the association quickly became an information bureau and service agency for members and a lobbyist to promote "sane legislation and highway improvement." Originally a social club, the organization soon sponsored a variety of automotive contests, holding its first annual race at the GLENVILLE RACE TRACK in 1902. Later in the decade it organized hillclimbing competitions and endurance runs. In 1901 the CAC joined with 9 other auto clubs to form the American Automobile Assn., and by 1903 it was publishing traffic ordinances and a list of all registered car owners in the area for its members. By 1916 it had begun lobbying efforts on behalf of motorists, published the monthly Ohio Motorist, and with 6,954 members was the largest auto club in the country. The club's member services expanded to include emergency road service and touring information by 1928; it also became the first U.S. auto club to offer bail bond service. In response to increased automobile use, the CAC opened a driver-training school in 1937; the following year it began to assist in high school driver-training courses, first at West Tech.

Membership grew quickly after World War II, surpassing 100,000 in 1951, 200,000 in 1970, and 300,000 in 1975. In the mid-1970s new services included low-cost car rentals to members whose autos were stolen or being repaired and travel accommodations throughout the world. Between 1903-40 the club had offices at the Hollenden, 712 Superior; in May 1940 it moved into the former SAMUEL MATHER mansion, 2605 Euclid Ave., where it remained until 1967 when it sold the building to CLEVELAND STATE UNIV. and moved into new, $2 million headquarters at 6000 S. Marginal Rd. In 1978 Cleveland Automobile Club membership covered 7 counties; after merging with the Oberlin Automobile Club that year, it became the Ohio Motorists Assn. In 1995 the OMA was a part of the American Automobile Assn., with membership totaling more than 610,000 in a 9-county area.