The AEC Society and What's in a Badge?

In 1983 the AEC Society was founded by Brian Goulding for the appreciation, preservation and documentation of the former AEC marque of British commercial vehicles, internal combustion engines and associated products. AEC Emblem

AEC had ceased production in 1979 still displaying its most well known advertising slogan: "Builder of London's Buses".

AEC's association with London's buses harks-back to its origins. The initials AEC originally referred to the Associated Equipment Company Ltd., which was the name given to the manufacturing side of the London General Omnibus Company during its reorganisation in 1912. The London General Omnibus Company, or LGOC, had been founded in 1855 to amalgamate and regulate the horse-drawn omnibus services then operating in London. The Company began producing motor-omnibuses for its own use in 1910 at works in Blackhorse Lane, Walthamstow in East London. These buses bore the letters LGOC cast into their radiator top tanks.

In 1912 the Underground group of companies, who owned the capital's underground railway system, acquired the LGOC and set about its reorganisation, separating its bus operating and its equipment (or bus providing) activities. The Underground group had as its badge a red circular ring and overlayed horizontal bar bearing the white legend UNDERGROUND, which remains a recognised symbol of London's public transport system to this day. The equipment division of the Underground group's bus interests was called the Associated Equipment Company and soon after the reorganisation, radiators on some of its vehicles being built at Walthamstow were carrying the Underground group motif but with an AEC logo in place of UNDERGROUND.

During the 1914-18 War, the LGOC was required to provide buses for the military and in 1916 the AEC was asked to design and produce lorries for the War Effort. By the conclusion of hostilities, facilities at Walthamstow were such that the AEC was ready to produce and sell both buses and lorries for the wider commercial market, not simply for the LGOC. This development ushered in the continuous production of bus and lorry chassis, petrol and diesel engines, for general sale by the AEC.

In 1928 the Associated Equipment Company moved from Blackhorse Lane in Walthamstow, to new purpose built premises at Windmill Lane in Southall, Middlesex, just to the West of London. It was to remain there for the remainder of its existence. At the time of the move the Company was still part of the Underground group and closely linked to the LGOC. During the development of a new chassis design at this time, it was decided to enclose AEC's circle and bar motif in a blue base-up triangle when mounted on the radiator top tank. This became the standard badge for AEC Ltd. and led to an attractive radiator style forever symbolic of AEC buses and lorries. It also indicated the growing independence of the AEC relative to its big brother the LGOC, within the Underground group.

In 1933 the London Passenger Transport Board (or LPTB) was formed and took over the interests of London's road and rail transport activities, including the Underground group with its LGOC. The AEC was not part of this deal and so became a totally separate company. Despite the financial ties between the AEC and the LGOC having been severed, the close working relationship they had enjoyed remained and continued right up to the final closure of the AEC plant.

In 1948 the Associated Equipment Company purchased the Crossley Motor Company and the Maudslay Motor Company under the umbrella title of Associated Commercial Vehicles (or ACV), which was to handle sales for the group. In line with this change of role to a manufacturer only, the Associated Equipment Company Limited was renamed simply AEC Limited, still demonstrating its pedigree, but the letters losing their significance as initials. The ACV badge was a simplified version of the AEC badge, consisting of an open base-up triangle, inscribed with a circle containing the ACV initials, but it was not used on group products.

In 1950 with the introduction of underfloor-engined passenger chassis with their radiators mounted beneath the floor, an attractive winged design for the badge was produced to be used on the front body panels of such vehicles; silver wings bearing the familiar blue triangle between them. Like the triangular badge itself, the winged motif continued in use until AEC vehicle production ceased.

In 1962 the ACV group itself was merged with rival Leyland Motors Ltd. of Leyland in Lancashire, the new grouping being known as the Leyland Motor Corporation. Leyland was obviously the dominant force in this merger and by degrees the design and manufacturing facilities of AEC Ltd. in Southall were sidelined, until in 1979 the plant in Southall was closed, bringing the AEC marque to a premature end. The Leyland Motor Corporation introduced a new badge for its products, consisting of an L in the centre of a Catherine-wheel. Thus, in the closing years of the AEC story its products were to bear another symbol based on a circle, which this time round was an omen of decline leading to its demise.

A device often used on the AEC triangular badge was a horizontal banner set below the main motif and carrying additional text. It most often bore the name SOUTHALL, so pointing to the home of AEC, this style most often being used on advertisments and the like. The banner could, however, refer to other matters and the AEC Society took advantage of this when deciding on their own badge, using the format to advertise their standing as the AEC SOCIETY, at the same time preserving an historic and worthy emblem.

Eric A. Hayles (M/No. 1370) 21 Apr 2000

Further reading...
For a brief history of the AEC and its products refer to "80 Years of AEC" by Alan Townsin and Brian Goulding, published in 1992 by Senior Publications of Glossop, Derbyshire, England. For a fuller account of the rise and fall of the AEC and with particular regard to its passenger chassis design, development and production, refer to "Blue Triangle...a look at AEC buses" by Alan Townsin and published in 1994 by Venture Publications Ltd., PO Box 17, Glossop, Derbyshire, SK13 9FA, England. A more recent and complete account of AEC's history is to be found in Alan Townsin's book "AEC", published in 1998 by Ian Allan Publishing in their Ian Allan Transport Library series.