Enthusiasts Directory: No. 5 -- Branded petrol

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Introduction

From February 1st  onwards the lot of sports-car and high-performance car users will be a happier one, for branded petrol will be available again for the first time since before World War II, and with it higher octane grades of good quality fuel in place of the universal, paraffin-like “Pool” with which we have put up for over 13 years. Moreover, competition will again be keen amongst the great petroleum companies and so some very good fuel should result.

True, like most material good things, the higher-octane grades will cost about 3d. more than the already savage charge made for a gallon of ordinary petrol, 2s. 6d of which is accounted for by the Government tax on the consumer. But there is some justice coupled with this, inasmuch as those using meagre cars in order to economise invariably operate on low compression ratios and so will not benefit greatly—apart from easier starting and a possible slight improvement in m.p.g.—as their more affluent (nasty word, nearly as bad as impecunious!) brethren who can afford to run high-performance, high-compression vehicles.

There are numerous ways in which “pinking” can be defeated and before the war we had leaded petrol to slow burning within the combustion chamber, and alcohol mixtures to cool the engine internals and so defeat the last harsh rush of the advancing flame front— if we may be allowed to generalise so drastically with a very complex and scientific subject! It will be interesting to discover what methods of “anti-knock” the leading petroleum companies and their technologists will adopt in 1953 and thereafter.

The benefits of higher-octane fuels are sufficiently well known to our readers to require much elucidation, but may be summarised by quoting from an article which appeared in Dealers Digest, a Shell-Mex & B.P. magazine, which contained the following:

“There will be less knocking and less gear-changing, giving more pleasurable as well as more economical motoring. The improvement will be greatest in new engines with higher compression ratios, and these will show the biggest improvement in miles per gallon. How many more miles per gallon will premium grades give ? Tests carried out have shown improvements in miles per gallon ranging from three to 19 per cent. The majority of motorists can expect to obtain a sufficiently increased mileage per gallon to offset the increased cost of premium grade, at the same time obtaining better performance and greater pleasure from their driving.”

On the subject of what demand is likely to materialise from premium (i.e., higher-octane) grades as distinct from regular grades of petrol, the following frank statement by the Regent people is of interest:

“There seems to be a great deal of varying opinion as to how much premium grade petrol is likely to be sold in the U.K. as compared with the regular brands.  Experience in two countries that have already returned to premium grades since the war, namely the U.S.A. and Canada, does show that after the initial flush of trying out the new premium grades the percentage of premium grades sold settles down to a comparatively low figure in comparison with the cheaper brand. For instance, in Canada the premium grade is about 20 per cent. of the total sold through the filling stations, and in the U.S.A. it is about 28 per cent.

“Various estimates have been given of what the percentage sales of premium grades are likely to be in the U.K. It does seem that the sale of premium grades will be well below the pre-war average and that the biggest seller will be the regular grade.”

The high cost of petrol in this country must be remembered in relation to this question. So far as the production methods of the new fuels are concerned, some interesting facts were contained in the Winter Number of the Esso Magazine :

“The old pre-war premium grades are not being reintroduced in the form in which we knew them, for, in the intervening years, this type of petrol has altered out of all recognition. Thirteen years of research and technical advances have passed since Pool was first introduced—thirteen years of continuous progress in petroleum refining techniques accelerated by the demands imposed by the Second World War. The 1953 premium grade petrol will be a completely new product of a quality unobtainable before the war.

“The basis of this great advance is catalytic cracking. Cracked fuel is very different in chemical composition and properties from petrol obtained by distillation alone. Distillation produced an average of only twenty barrels of petrol for every hundred barrels of crude oil—a proportion not nearly adequate to cater for today’s demands. This yield is doubled by subjecting heavier fractions of the crude oil to high temperatures and pressures which ‘crack’ the relatively heavy molecules into the lighter and more volatile molecules of petrol. This process has made it possible to obtain as much as forty-five barrels of petrol from one hundred barrels of crude oil.

 “The early application of cracking made use of heat and pressure alone. It not only increased the yield of petrol, but was found to produce a fuel of higher anti-knock quality than most straight run fuels. However, thermal cracking had its disadvantages. It was severe in action and, therefore, not readily capable of exact control. It was severe on equipment, which necessitated fairly frequent shut-downs. It also produced a petrol which was not very stable chemically, and which, in time, formed resinous products by polymerisation.

“Because of these disadvantages, the technicians worked ceaselessly to improve the cracking process, and a process involving the use of a catalyst, and hence known as catalytic cracking, was being developed when the war came.

“The latest advance was ‘fluid’ catalytic cracking in which the solid catalyst was introduced in such a fine state of subdivision that it acted as a liquid which could be mixed most intimately with the cracking stock and which also permitted a truly continuous process to be utilised. The use of a catalyst has made it possible to control the cracking reaction and to produce a petrol higher in octane number, or anti-knock value, and chemically stable.  It is, in fact, now possible for petrols to be tailor-made to fit the exact duties required of them. It is this new tailor-made fuel that will come into the market on February 1st.”

Reverting to advantages of premium fuels, Fina has this to say :–

“It will eliminate pinking from modern engines having high compression ratios and older engines prone to excessive knocking. Smoother running and more economical mileage with possibly advanced ignition, easier and quicker cold starting, better hillclimbing, acceleration and all-round performance with much improved condition of engines internally outstandingly evident.”

Readers of Motor Sport  are likely, as discerning drivers of high-performance cars, to possess a bias towards premium spirit. High compression engines formerly fettered by “pinking” now perform properly and enthusiasts will be found advancing the ignition and raising hitherto satisfactory compression ratios by the use of thinner gaskets, thus indulging in some modest  “hotting-up.”  In view of their interest in higher performance and efficiency we present below a brief summary of the leading makes of regular and premium petrol. — W. B.

Cleveland

Cleveland Petroleum Co., Ltd.. will be offering Clevecol, an antiknock spirit of first quality, blended to their specification in this country. At present it is anticipated that this spirit will be sold at the same price as ordinary premier grades; pre-war motorists paid a little extra.

Cleveland Guaranteed will be a general-purpose fuel, again to Cleveland’s own specification, and this will prove entirely satisfactory to engines of moderate compression ratios. This will sell at the ordinary price of second-grade petrols.

Cleveland Petroleum Co. Ltd., Central House, Upper Woburn Place, London W.C.1

***

Esso

 The Esso Petroleum Co. Ltd. believes that British designers will be able to turn out engines able to compete with those of the rest of the world on equal terms, now that premium grade fuel is available in this country  —  in their case Esso Extra.

In 1951 Britain’s first fluid catalytic cracking plant was opened at the Esso refinery near Fawley. Two hundred and fifty feet high, this plant holds approximately 1,000 tons of catalytic material, from which is produced over half a million gallons of high-octane petrol every day.

Esso Petroleum Co., Ltd,   36, Queen Anne’s Gate, London, S.W.1  

***.

Fina 

Fina Petroleum Products Ltd. — a new name to enthusiasts since the war —  will nevertheless be known to the senior amongst them. It was in 1927, as the Cities Service Oil Co., Ltd., that their foundation was laid in the United Kingdom. Enthusiasts will recall former brands “Citex” and “Citex K.N.” but probably best of all was that they introduced the first alcohol blend “Koolmotor” into this country.

The international oil group Petrofina acquired control of the company in 1939, when the name Fine was first registered. Acquisition and ultimate merging of many of this country’s independent oil distributors and their operation under the new name took effect by the time the Petroleum Board was dissolved in 1948. At least one of the companies so acquired originated as far back as 1860 in the paraffin and candlemaking trade.

As from February 1st Fina have introduced a premium grade of motor spirit known as Super Fina and a standard grade of good quality called Fina.  Super Fina, with a high octane rating, will prove on test comparable to the best of premium petrols.

As a completely independent organisation with strong international connections and resources, Fina’s research and development on fuels will keep them scientifically and practically very much to the fore in the future progress of motoring.

Fina Petroleum Products, Ltd.,  25 Victoria Street, London S.W.1. 

***

Mobilgas

Mobilgas and Mobilgas Special have been marketed in the United States for many years. The brand name is also familiar to motorists in Western Europe and many other parts of the world.

The Mobilgas Economy Run has become a very well-known feature of the motoring year in the United States. A variety of different standard American cars compete in the Economy Run and, using Mobilgas and Mobilgas Special, it is found that remarkable performance and mileage economy figures are recorded.

As a case in point, the 1952 Mobilgas Economy Run comprised 26 cars, 19 of which used only Mobilgas Special, while the other seven used only Mobilgas. From Los Angeles, by way of Grand Canyon and Salt Lake City, to Sun Valley, with a fastest running time of 34 hr. 22 min. 50 sec., the average speed, for all cars competing, was 40.8 miles per hour. Some indication of the gruelling nature of the test is provided by the fact that the highest point reached over the 1,415.4-mile route was 8,010 feet above sea level, and temperatures in the regions traversed ranged from over 100 deg. F. to below zero.

Mobilgas Special is the premium grade and Mobilgas the regular grade.

Vacuum Oil Co., Ltd., Portman House, 496/504 Oxford Street, London, W.1. 

***

National Benzole

National Benzole Company is different from all other companies distributing motor spirit. It is owned and entirely controlled by the great basic industries of this country —  gas, steel, coal and chemical.

It was created in 1919 after the first World War, when the producers of benzole who, during that war, had been supplying large quantities of benzole for the manufacture of T.N.T. and other explosives, decided to market Benzole as a motor spirit. In the early days benzole was sold by itself. Older readers will remember buying it to mix with their petrol. Sales improved rapidly, and before long it was decided to supply a standard benzole/petrol mixture to give motorists the added benefit of being able to purchase a scientifically blended fuel of consistent quality throughout Great Britain.

By 1939, National Benzole Mixture, as it was called, had become one of the most popular fuels in the country, and “Mr. Mercury” one of the best-known figures in the motoring world.

National Benzole Co. is marketing two brands, National Benzole Mixture and Dominion, the latter being their non-premium grade. The late John Cobb used standard National Benzole Mixture when he beat the World’s Land Speed Record.

National Benzole Co., Ltd., Wellington House, Buckingham Gate, London, S.W.1

***

Power

The Power Petroleum Co. announce that as from February 1st they will be marketing their well-known brand of Power petrol which will again be available to motorists at S.M.-B.P. group stations and other garages and filling stations throughout the country.

The Power Petroleum Co., Ltd., Bedford Chambers, London, W.C.2

***

Regent 

The Regent Oil Co., Ltd., came into being on April 1st, 1948, when, after demise of the Petroleum Board, Trinidad Leaseholds Ltd. and the California Texas Oil Co., Ltd., decided to form a joint U.K. marketing organisation on a 50/50 basis to distribute their products.

Before the war “T.L.L.” marketed Regent and other Trinidad petroleum products in this country on its own account, and the Texas Oil Co. itself distributed a full range of Texaco products  —   mainly oils and greases.

Regent Oil Co. is therefore only just over four years old, although the brand name of Regent has been well known for over twenty years in this country.

Trinidad Leaseholds Ltd. has long been established as a producing and refining company on the island of Trinidad. The refinery, which is at Pointe-à-Pierre, is capable of processing not only the crude oil from the island but also large quantities imported from Colombia and Venezuela. A new catalytic cracking plant embodying all the latest developments has just been completed at Pointe-à-Pierre and is now  “on stream” producing the high-octane fuel which will be the basis of Regent T.T. brand. A full range of products is processed at Pointe-à-Pierre, including a small but increasing range of chemical products. It is, however, mainly the light products from this refinery which are marketed by Regent in the U.K.  Trinidad Leaseholds (Canada) Ltd. also have their own oil fields in Alberta and a refinery at Port Credit, Ontario.

In the case of Trinidad Leaseholds Ltd. and Regent, shipping is handled by the Regent Petroleum Tankship Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of T.L.L. and an associate of Regent.

The California Texas Oil Co. was incorporated in June, 1936, and is formed by two of the world’s major oil companies, the Texas Co. and the Standard Oil Co. of California, each with a 50 per cent. interest.

In the beginning Caltex group comprised the Bahrein Petroleum Oil Co., the California Texas Oil Co. and five marketing companies in countries east of Suez. Today, there are 82 companies in the group, which produce, refine and market largely in the eastern hemisphere. In the U.K. Regent markets, on behalf of Caltex, a full range of oils and greases of every description. Caltex shipping is handled by Overseas Tankship (U.K.) Ltd.

Regent new No. 1 or premium grades of petrol will sell at approximately 3d. per gallon more to the public than the regular grade of petrol. It is probable that the premium grades which will be sold in this country will be similar to those at present marketed in other large consuming countries of the world, such as the U.S.A. and Canada. In these two countries, octane rating of premium grades is around 90, or perhaps slightly above, when expressed by the research method, and about 80 when expressed by the motor method. The expression of octane rating by these two different methods, with their differing results, is apt to be rather confusing, but nevertheless we give them as they are both accepted methods of expressing octane ratings throughout the world.

In the manufacture of premium grades, Regent is supported by oil fields and refineries with up-to-date refining processes, including the latest catalytic cracking plant which has recently come “on stream” in Trinidad. Another important factor regarding Regent premium grades will be the consistency in quality. This is made possible as they will all come from Trinidad, which island has the great advantage of a crude oil which in itself has a high octane rating. Thus the Regent Oil Co. can ensure that the octane rating of their premium grades is as high as any competitive grade on the market. A great deal of attention has also been paid to balanced volatility. The distillation range of Regent T.T. is vital to a car as regards quick-starting in cold weather, acceleration, and economic performance.

The significance of the initials ” T.T.” after the word Regent, the company’s premium brand name, stand for “Track Tested.”  Regent Oil Co. intends to carry out extensive tests with this petrol under test conditions to ensure that its performance will be equally good in engines of the ordinary range of cars on the English roads, in addition to more expensive cars with high-compression engines. This is important, because if the motorist can afford to buy the best, irrespective of the type of car he is driving, it is essential that he gets value for money.

Regent’s three grades will be as follows : “Regent T.T.” (Track Tested) — the premium grade; “Regent “– regular grade; “Regent Benzole Mixture “– a blend of premium petrol plus motor benzole.

Regent Oil Co., Ltd., 17, Park Street, London, W.1.

***

Shell-Mex & B.P.

Shell-Mex. & B.P.,  as the marketing organisation for the 46 great oil refineries operated by the Shell and Anglo-Iranian Groups in Great Britain, will be able to offer a choice of four brands, two premier grades — Shell and B. P. Super — and two commercial grades — Shellmex and B.P. The premier grades, which have been unknown to the motorist since September, 1939, will mean more miles to the gallon and less wear and tear on car engines, and will therefore be well worth the premium which will be charged, at present estimated at 3d. per gallon but dependent on market conditions at the date of introduction. At the same time the commercial grades will be branded and therefore have a guarantee of quality unknown under “Pool” conditions, but they will be subject to the same pricing arrangements as at present.

The successful conclusion of the investigation into the supply of premier grades is an outcome of the British oil industry’s refining programme. In this great scheme Shell and Anglo-Iranian account for more than 70 per cent. of Britain’s oil refining capacity. In their refineries all the latest catalytic cracking and other techniques, which the world-wide experience and activities of these two groups have brought to perfection, will be available and will guarantee to the motorist a supply of premier grade petrol for his needs second to none. Of the six catalytic cracking plants which will eventually be operating in Britain to produce premium grade petrol, four will belong to Anglo-Iranian and Shell, the parent companies of ShellMex & B.P., Ltd.;  three of them will be at the Llandarcy, Grangemouth and Kent refineries of Anglo-Iranian. The total capacity of the six “crackers” will he more than 5,000,000 tons a year and their cost over £20,000,000.

Shell-Mex & B.P. Ltd.,  Shell-Mex House, Strand, London, W.C.2.