Tuesday December 11, 2018
The location is Ecclesall Road in Sheffield and the premises are those of E H Pickford and Co. Ltd. The year, judging by the Austin A60 Cambridge, the Ford Thames 307E van and the Hillman Imp in the background, is the one of the Rubber Soul LP and Diana Rigg joining the cast of The Avengers – i.e. 1965. In the foreground are the Shell petrol pumps, a form of motoring life that has been with us for almost 100 years.
The first pavement mounted petrol pump appeared in Shrewsbury in 1915 and in November 1919, the Automobile Association established the first such venue on the Bath Road in Aldermaston, in order to promote benzole.
A uniformed AA patrolman served motorists from a solitary pump – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=za_0EXH2mMA - and four years later there were 7,000 of such devices in use in the UK.
Self-service pumps were seen in the UK as early as 1963 but in the 1970s, when the world was young, and my father would insist on referring to Alvin Stardust as ‘Shane Fenton’, the petrol stations in my village were still operated by an attendant.
This was usually a morose individual with Showaddywaddy sideburns and as for the array of goods for sale in the kiosk, these mainly consisted of ice-scrapers, Mars Bars, Swizzle lollies and dead wasps; the last-named were probably in the nature of a free gift. There would also be a Bedford J-Type crash wagon festooned with amber beacons and, for some inscrutable reason, a 1963 Hillman Super Minx on bricks that forever occupied a corner of the yard.
All of which brings us to our old adverts, commencing with a 1940s road safety film sponsored by Regent Petroleum and which follows the adventures of one “Woodhead”. This anti-hero a) acts like an understudy for Terry-Thomas and b) should never have been trusted with driving a Ford lorry. The film also features howling cads at the wheel of a MG and, best of all, a speed awareness feature with Richard Massingham and a very young Dick Emery - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVD7Xm8WfLk .
By 1950 the narrator of the news short appears utterly incredulous at the very thought of women being able to located the fuel cap of a Jaguar Mk. V - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMGGza4NLIc - and two years later we have an idea that may be fairly described as ‘utterly mad’; a petrol station staffed by roller-skating attendants… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CYflgbBSKw.
The driver of that Ford Zephyr Mk. I looks completely nonplussed but by 1960 a garage in East London was still attempting this same gimmick - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mTC3vOO8AU
And to conclude, a selection of adverts that will be recalled by readers of a more mature hue. This Shell “White Car/Black Car” advert features a pair of C-registered Ford Corsairs in the Sahara - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opHvG3R1FQw.
The “Keep Going Well -You Can Be Sure of Shell” commercials originally featured the crooner Michael Holliday in a Hillman Minx Convertible - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IdhOXh_g7s and went to star none other than the great Sammy Davis Jr. - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqySuUg8xhM.
But the best remembered campaign featured Bing Crosby (although that is obviously not him driving the E-Type) and was even revived out of the blue in Christmas 1987 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4O1nsc_z8s