Tuesday May 15, 2018
The photograph of the A1 services near Doncaster is more than an illustration of the fine vehicles you might have seen on the Great North Road circa 1963 – a BMC J4 van, a Morris Minor 1000, Ford Prefect 100E, a VW Beetle and, at the pumps, a very rare Ashley Sportiva. It is also a reminder of Great British Service Stations of the past, when a wooden kiosk might have a small array of travel sweets and chocolate bars while outside a morose Teddy Boy in a white overall would dispense 15/6d worth of Esso Extra or Regent’s Petrol. And so here are 10 different ways in which the various oil companies would attempt to persuade motorists that their brand was the finest:
1956 – Esso: Jack Brabham
The not so subliminal message is that if you fill the tank of your Hillman Minx or Vauxhall Velox with Esso Extra, you too would be able to achieve Jack Brabham like speed on the A46 to Bath. However, the main fascination is in the brilliantly stilted presentation and the total lack of conviction in the star’s line delivery.
1959 - Mobil: Donald Campbell
If Esso employed the services of Mr. Brabham to promote its wares Mobil commissioned an equally illustrious spokesperson. Meanwhile, for drivers who were more concerned with saving £sd than performance we have.
1959 – Mobilgas Economy Run
Not only an illustration of how Mobilgas could provide economical motoring in your Jaguar Mk. VIIM, Austin A35, Morris Minor, Vauxhall Victor F-Type or Ford Zodiac Mk. II – but, with the Hillman “New Minx”, a demonstration of the lost art of hand-signalling.
1965 – BP: Fenella Fielding
An Aston Martin DB5 Convertible, a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud plus Fenella Fielding (one of the most wonderful actresses to ever grace the screen) = an instant class of the genre. N.B. Slightly off-topic but how many readers will forever associate Ms. Fielding with the words ‘blue is beautiful, blue is best…’
1965 – BP: For The Car in Your Life and The Life in Your Car
According to this commercial, journalists are dynamic well-groomed types who drive a Triumph 2000 in a dynamic manner and who look generally dashing in all circumstances. No comment…
1969 – Shell Lubysil
There are two points of interest here. A) The E-Type is fitted with a Sebring GT hardtop and B) Both the Jaguar owner and the Mini driver act as though they have been drinking the product.
1978 - Save Petrol
More of a government information film than a fuel commercial but it merits a place here because of its essential message. Yes, if you drive a Morris Marina Series 2 while wearing a pair of oversize clown shoes, your petrol costs will suffer; a lesson well worth remembering.
1978 – Esso: Superlube
This is an advert that I do recall seeing on ITV - I think it may have been during the commercial break for The Famous Five. In the tough motoring environment of 1978, a Ford Cortina Mk. IV 1.6L needs the finest of lubrication to make it a veritable tiger amongst rep-mobiles. Presumably.
1985 – Texaco: Pull In For A Little Star Treatment
One of the funniest and best-executed sales campaigns for petrol on British television, with a fantastic pay-off line. N.B Enthusiasts of the Austin Mini Metro may well wish to look away at one point.
1961 – Caltex: Sabrina
And finally, we have a commercial from Australia which is not only probably the worst ever petrol advertisement but quite possibly the worst sales promotion in the history of the world. The plot is that our hero was ‘giving the usual Caltex service to my customers the other day’ when who should arrive in a MGA Roadster but the famous model Sabrina (nee Norma Sykes) – and the stimulating drama ensues -