The American magazine Road Test bravely undertook recently to prove what many people have long suspected, namely that all brands of petrol are virtually the same, irrespective of what the advertisements tell us. Appreciating that it would be impossible to test sufficiently accurately on the road, they used scientific laboratory methods at the Bill Thomas Race Cars establishment in California, checking on different makes of fuel in one run-in 396 cu. in. Chevrolet V8 engine, rated as giving 325 b.h.p. with a 4-barrel Rochester carburetter.
It would be unfair to disclose the results of Road Test’s probing’s but briefly h.p. varied only from 299 using Gulf petrol to 301.5 using Mobil. In terms of consumption in lb.-per-h.p. Union came off best. So much for maximum power. On the score of fuel economy, which was tested with the engine running at 2,500 r.p.m., equivalent to a Chevrolet cruising at a steady 60 m.p.h., consumption varied by almost 1 m.p.g. and the testers were surprised to find that much difference between the six different brands (premium grade) they tested. The variation was the equivalent of from 15.880 m.p.g. on Standard, to 16.732 m.p.g. on Union. In terms of m.p.g. there appears to be nothing worthwhile between them, until you realise that a locality price differential of 1% per gallon at 30 cents a gallon equals about 0.5 m.p.g. in this 15/16 m.p.g. range, so that if you can live up to the test figures on the road, using Union petrol you would go 334 miles on a 20-gallon tankful of Union, or 9.46 miles further than if you were on Shell “Platformate!” When can we buy Union here?
We are only permitted to reproduce 100 words from Road Test without permission, so have chosen the following, relating to this test of different brands of petrol:— “If it is possible to coin a word ending in ate, ium, ene, or ion, to describe a “New” additive or refining process (even though it may be a regular part of the operation or a component common to all fuels), great advertising minds can base a complete campaign on it . . . . The entertaining, even suspenseful, Shell TV commercials showing how the car using gasolene with “Platformate” goes further than the car using gasolene without “Platformate,” filled us with a great deal of delight—at first.” Discovering that their friends were taking the claim seriously, Road Test decided to put the aforesaid investigation into operation. After showing that, on its finding good economy is attained in descending order by buying Union, Mobil, Gulf, Texaco, Shell and Standard petrols, it saucily adds: “Watch out for the paper banner!”
Those who read the complete test report can judge for themselves how scientific the investigation was. Road Test found that when it asked Shell’s ad. agency reps. if it could be present at the filming of one of those commercials in which a car on rails, on Shell “Platformate,” runs through a paper screen not reached by luckless automobiles using inferior petrols, its request was not honoured. We would like to give Shell in this country an opportunity to say what they feel about Road Test’s findings, especially as these paper banner commercials have been appearing on British TV.—W. B.