The AA’s Veteran Car AA1

Posted on February 11, 2020

This Renault car, built and registered in 1905, is a model VB with Park Phaeton coachwork by Rothschild et Cie of Paris. The engine is a 4 cylinder, 4¼ litre producing 23/25 brake horse power. It has a 3 speed quadrant change gearbox operated by a leather cone clutch. The final drive is transmitted via a central propeller shaft to a “live” back axel. The maximum speed is in the region of 50 mph and petrol consumption averages 14 mpg. The fuel tank, which has a capacity of approximately 12 gallons, is located directly underneath the driver’s seat! The matched headlamps are powered by acetylene whilst the side and rear lamps burn paraffin.


The car was owned and purchased from new by Elizabeth Lady Cheylesmore in 1905 and used by her until 1919.

Lord & Lady Cheylesmore lived in Princes Gate (opposite Hyde Park) in Knightsbridge (until they purchased Coopers Hill in 1911) where she often met her close friend Queen Mary and they both were chauffeured in this car (nowAA1) around London.

Lady Cheylesmore purchased Coopers Hill Englefield Green on 17 January 1911 where the car was kept until 1948 (unused from 1919) Lady Cheylesmore died in September 1945.

The car being unused (1919-1950) the registered number was no longer available and had to be re-registered hence the registration OPL839

Towed by her son Francis Ormond Henry Eaton 4th Baron Cheylesmore to his home in Egham in 1948 he allowed the car to deteriorate it being parked in the open for 2 years.

Purchased by Mr Robertson from Lightwater in a derelict condition in 1950, he hurriedly worked on the car then applied and received a new vehicle registration (OPL839) and entered the 1950 L2B Run.
Mr Robertson was not able to undertake the considerable restoration; he advertised the car in the VCC Gazette, Paul Waring then purchased the car in the spring of 1952.

Paul spent considerable time restoring the car to its present condition and it was in regular use during the late 50’s and early 60’s. In 1963 the car was used to open, as the lead car the 50th Paris Motor Show, and the front seat passenger was Charles De Gaulle. He was the owner of the car for some 12 years or so, sadly in 1964 Paul and his son were killed in a motor accident.

In 1965 the AA decided to acquire a veteran car to mark its 60th anniversary. Paul Waring’s mother was at this time seeking a suitable home for the Renault car. She had already registered an interest with the VCC (Veteran Car Club) and they put her in touch with the AA. The original registration (OPL 839) was replaced by The AA when they acquired the registration plate AA1 and soon it was attached to the Renault. Since 1966 it has participated in the RAC London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. In 1996, the VCC re-dated the car was to a 1905 vehicle, but with the kind permission of the RAC, it has continued to participate despite the official cut-off date for entry to this famous event being 1904!

Over the years it has featured in many prestigious events including being included in the film “Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines” and the Queen Mother’s centenary celebration in London. AA1 continues to be used on a regular basis each year enhancing special events and attending veteran car rallies. In addition, it is used, on average around three or four times each year as a wedding car for AA staff and their families.

Denis Bass has been custodian of the car since 1998; He is responsible for the cleaning, maintenance, transportation and driving the car to Events each year. Denis has 57 years’ experience within the Motor Trade, 34 years working for The AA.

Denis Bass