Safety Fast First
Octagon Newsletter January/February 1988
By Henry Stone
Known all over the world as the "Slogan" of MG Car Co. Ltd., Abingdon on Themes, but how many people know how such an apt description of the car came into being. I will enlighten those who have never thought about it.
In the early days at Abingdon the "Sales and Publicity" were run by three people Bill Mussel, Ted Colgrove (Salesmen) and George Tuck (Publicity). Around the early and middle twenties, cars were equipped with rear brakes only. The main reason being that braking systems were rod operated. It was not until Bowden Cables were introduced, was it easy to equip cars with front wheel brakes. A difficult operation due to the front wheels continuous steering angle changes.
As cars performance increased it became necessary to improve their stopping distances. Hence the introduction of "Four Wheel Brakes". In order to warn fellow motorists, that their cars were so equipped, such cars carried a red triangle at the rear, mounted around the rear number plate illuminating lamp, so that it was conspicuous at night. During the late twenties, early thirties, Clayton De Wandre brought out a Vacuum Servo brake. The Oxford Bus Companies passenger carrying vehicles were so equipped. In addition to the red triangle displayed at the rear, was the warning "Servo Brakes Keep Your Distance Safety First". In some cases the wording was proceeded by "This Bus Is Equipped With Servo Brakes".
One of the salesmen, Bill Mussel, I think, was driving to work one morning, trapped behind such a bus in Oxford main streets, no by-passes then. Bill went through the usual time wasting tricks of reading all the adverts and converting registration numbers into possible card game hands, imagining a hole card or turn up. When Bill arrived at the office later he said to his colleagues, "Some of those Oxford Buses should have "Safety Last" written on the rear the way some of them are driven, not "Safety First". "Ah nova" said George Tuck, "'Safety First', 'Safety Last' how about 'Safety Fast' for MG? Lets see what 'CK' thinks of this."
Well folks, so now you know how this historic and most applicable slogan of your favourite car came into existence.
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