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Navigation aidJET

Conoco, Sopi, VK

Brief History

Jet Petroleum was formed in Yorkshire, England in 1953 (taking its name from local vehicle registration plates). Soon finding a niche in price cutting, Jet's 250 stations were acquired by the American company Conoco in Spring 1961. This was its first downstream operation in Europe since selling its interest in Sealand Petroleum (which used the Dominion brand) in 1933, seven years after it had been bought by Conoco's predecessor, Marland.

Conoco's next major purchase was Sopi, which supplied nearly 500 service stations in Germany and Austria. Further acquisitions in the 1960s included Marathon's small chain in Northern Italy, filling stations in Ireland and the SECA branded chain of the Société Européenne Des Carburants in Belgium & Luxembourg as Conoco needed to find outlets for its plentiful Libyan oil.

It continued in the early 1970s by buying two more chains in Germany: the 170 VK outlets in 1970 and 48 "Klaus Salm" outlets in the following year. After the first oil supply crisis, Conoco ended its policy of growth through acquisitions, and focused on organic growth through price leadership.

In the 1980s Jet started expanding again, buying almost 200 Globe branded outlets in Britain from Tenneco in 1981. It soon acquired the small distributor ARA Bolagen (which had been established in 1928) and the unmanned Maxi outlets in Sweden and, seeing Scandinavia as a growth area, by 1985 it had opened its first site in Denmark. In the 90s Jet started building unmanned automat stations in Norway and Finland as well as expanding into Spain and Eastern Europe; with the Seca name being used in a move into Northern France. There were also some disposals: Italy was sold to Shell and Ireland to Statoil although the latter divested some sites to Maxol. Jet's company owned stations in Britain were sold in 2001, although it retained the supply contracts to these sites, although about a fifth of the chain later switched to Murco.

European Conoco logo

Conoco tested a specifically European "big C" logo (which is not known on any maps) in several countries, but it did not prove successful and by the early 70s was replaced by Jet.

Jet guide to London 1965

The oldest known Jet "map" is this guide contained a sliding card marked with red blobs aligned beneath holes on a basic map of Central London. Sliding the card revealed addresses and opening hours of places of interest on the side shown and car parks on the reverse.

In 2002 Conoco merged with its domestic rival Phillips 66, which had only had very limited operations in Europe. (Phillips owned a 50% share of a British oil refinery, distributed diesel under its own name and supplied jobbers using the TOPS brand, but had sold its remaining UK interests to the Dutch firm Petroplus in 2001.) In 2004 ConocoPhillips acquired a minority stake in the Russian Lukoil. As Russia was a major exporter of oil to Europe, it made sense to sell some of the retailing assets to Lukoil, and in early 2007 it was agreed to divest the Jet assets in Belgium, Finland, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Jet's Scandinavia chain was sold in 2009, with Norwegian (and some Swedish) sites going to the Finnish company St1 and most of the Danish and Swedish ones passing to Statoil, who continue to use the brand on around 200 locations. Jet (Conoco) remains active in the UK, Germany and Austria.

Maps: Jet

Top of PageAs a discounter with relatively small numbers of full service stations, Jet has only been an intermittent issuer of maps.

1970 Jet route card

1971 Jet map of Southwest England

Rear of 1971 Jet maps

1989 Jet Unleaded map of Britain

1992 Jet glovebox atlas

Jet's first UK map was a series of 68 small format route cards, covering all of the country at 10 miles to the inch. Produced by Map Productions Ltd, the set came in a yellow vinyl wallet with a 24 page gazetteer. Four cards of major cities and a clear plastic holder completed this 1970 set. In the following year, Jet issued its only British sheet maps in a series of nine, each illustrated with a humorous character on the cover. The rear cover showed how Jet's four grades fitted into the new BS star ratings. All were drawn by George Philip at 4 miles to the inch.
After a long pause, Jet issued a free map to promote the location of its stations selling unleaded petrol. This dated from 1988/9, and included a coupon for £5 off at Halfords to have your car converted to run on unleaded fuel, as well as an entry coupon for a Halfords competition. The example shown was stamped by Hen & Chicken Filling Station in Hampshire, a location that once sold Conoco fuel as well as Jet.
AA produced a version of their 96 page small format Glovebox atlas for use with a Jet oils promotion in 1992. This is the only map with the revised British logo on it. Across the Irish Sea, Jet issued a Handy Map of Ireland in 1986, (not shown here).
Jet Unleaded map image courtesy Richard Horwitz

1979 Jet map of West Germany

Rear of 1979 Jet maps

1979 Jet map of Munich area

Jet issued a number of maps in West Germany in 1979. Each had card covers and measured around 9.5 by 5.25 inches; cartography was by Haupka & Co. Shown (L-R) are the map of Germany at 1:800,000; the common rear cover design marking Jet locations with red dots; and the map of the Munich area at the enlarged scale of 1:100,000.
German map images courtesy Richard Horwitz

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1996 Jet map of Scandinavia

1998 Jet map of Scandinavia

1999 Jet map of Scandinavia

2002 Jet map of Denmark

In recent years, Jet has issued a single sheet covering the whole of Scandinavia indicating Jet locations. Shown above (L-R) are the 1996, 1998 and 1999 covers; other years have the same general design as these but feature different service stations. The 1999 map gives the Conoco logo equal prominence to the Jet sign; the earlier maps lacked any form of Conoco logo. The most interesting feature of these maps is that they have a small plan for every city with a Jet location: by the 1999 edition there are a total of 165 such plans! The map of the Swedish city of Umeå is shown here.

Umea from the 1999 map

2003/4 Jet atlas of Scandinavia

As station numbers grew in Denmark, it became clear that a larger scale map of that country was desirable, so from around 2001 onwards, a similar map was produced showing just that country (top right). Note how the Conoco logo has been dropped again.

The cost of producing free sheet maps left at unattended filling stations must have become prohibitive as the number of Jet stations grew, so its 2003/4 edition was only available on request from Jet. A lower print run allowed a switch to an A4 booklet format, consisting of 40 pages: twelve of maps at the same scale as before, plus 20 of town plans. Kartcentrum produced this atlas in October 2003.

In 2002, at the time of the switch between the Seca and Jet brands in Belgium, a very small format map was printed, folding down to around 10cm x 8cm (although when unfolded it measured 71cm x 30cm). This map at 1:400,000 scale was produced in two versions - French and Flemish (shown here).

2002 Seca/Jet map of Belgium

1998 Jet map of Poland

2004 Polish Jet map of Slovakia

2006 Jet map of Warsaw

1998 Czech Jet map of Austria

2004 Jet map of Slovakia

Jet has grown rapidly in the former Eastern bloc countries, where there was no tradition of discounting petrol prices. The first three maps above come from its Polish subsidiary. The left-most dates from 1998; in the same year it also published a spiral bound atlas with a similar cover design. In recent years it has had a moderately extensive map programme extending to cover neighbouring countries (Slovakia, 2004) and major cities (Warsaw, 2006) as well as spiral bound atlases and of sheet maps Poland and Europe. All known Polish Jet maps have been produced by Daunpol.
The map programme that covers both the Czech Republic and Slovakia is possibly even larger, with a broader range of atlases in different formats and scales, as well as numerous sheets maps. The two example above are from 1998 (of Austria, with cartography by Kartografie Praha) and 2004 (of Slovakia, with cartography by its current partner Shocart).


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Maps: Sopi

Sopi mainly sold petrol in Germany, although it had a very small operation in Austria. This undated JRO map comes from the early or mid 1960s and was drawn at a scale of 1:1,000,000. Although specially printed for the company, it gives no indication of the extent of the Sopi network.

Maps: VK Georg von Opel

1960s Sopi map of Germany

1969 VK map of Germany

The Volks-Kraftstoff ("People's Fuel") company was established in 1955 by Georg von Opel (a grandson of Adam Opel, founder of the car manufacturer) and had developed a chain of over 100 filling stations by the end of the decade. West Germany's first deep discounter, its image was dented when it was publicly revealed that its supplies were being bought from the Leuna refinery in East Germany. By 1969, when this JRO map of Germany was printed, it was using a simplified VK brand and giving more prominence to the "respectable" Opel family name. The map is at the relatively generous scale of 1:750,000, and lists all VK locations on its rear and inside cover - showing them to be spread fairly evenly across West Germany, excluding Berlin. However the map itself is overprinted with V-symbols locating Vergölst-Service-Stellen (tyre and automotive centres). In 1970, VK's 183 service stations were sold to Conoco and soon switched to the equally black and gold Jet brand. (Vergölst is now owned by Continental Tires and continues to operate over 250 autocentres nationwide.)

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Text and layout © Ian Byrne, 1999-2011

All original copyrights in logos and map extracts and images are acknowledged and images are included on this site for identification purposes only.