Back to previous page in sequence Next page in sequence

Navigation aidRoad maps and atlases issued by lubricating oil companies in the UK

Century Oils, Millers Pistoneeze, Price's Motorine, Thelson Oils


Lubricating Oil manufacturers and blenders have occasionally issed road maps in Britain and Europe, either for use as an on-pack promotion or for sale through service stations stocking their oils.


Please follow this link for maps issued by Castrol and Duckham's, the two largest independent lubricant specialists.

Century Oils

Century Oils can trace its roots to 1874, when William Walker started buying oil produced as a by-product of the North Staffordshire coal industry. As Walkers Century Oils it became a well-established Midlands lubricant specialist, that in the 1970s developed a specialsm in re-refining used oils, and in was acquired in 1991 by the German company Fuchs Petrolub. This hardback road atlas was probably prepared as a gift for dealers selling their products, rather than as a sales promotion for end users. Solid green covers, with a gilt title and Century Oils branding, were applied by George Philip & Sons to the 1976 National (Benzole) road atlas of Britain. It is interesting that Philip's presumably lacked a suitable road atlas under their own imprint and had to resort to using one originally designed for another oil industry customer. (National may have been selected as they lacked their own lubricants, selling BP Visco at their service stations.)
More detail about the maps inside this atlas is given on the Philip's atlases page.

1976 Century Oils National road atlas of Great Britain

Top of PageMillers Pistoneeze

Millers Oils (formerly John W Miller & Son Ltd) dates back to 1887 when its founder acquired an older firm based in Brighouse, West Yorkshire. Still located in the town today, it sell ma wide range of automotive and industrial lubricants including ones for the motorsport and classic car markets. In the 1950s and earlier it sold to the general retail market using the "Millers Pistoneeze" brand under the slogan "the Ace of Motor Oils".

pre-1950 Millers Pistoneeze Map of Britain
Enlarge image

The is the earliest of the three Millers Pistoneeze maps shown here (from the phone number Brighouse 23); the cover design looks 1930s, but the three-colour Bartholomews map inside at 1:1,000,000 carries a code of 407 which may relate to 1940 or 1947. Almost exactly A5 in size, a four page colour booklet was stapled inside promoting the Importance of Correct Lubrication, Some Advantages of Pistoneeze Oil (with reference to trophies earned by Outboard Motor Boats), and prices for drums or cartons of oil. The title "England & Scotland" is a little misleading as all of Scotland North of the Moray Firth and much of Western Scotland is missing from the map - Wales is, however, included in its entirety.

ca1951 Millers Pistoneeze Map of Britain

This map consists of light card covers (smaller than A5) containing a fold out sheet map from Bartholomew that appears to be dated 1939. However the front cover shows a rather outdated spout pouring oil, but the rear shows a can and (in the black and white images) a Jowett Javelin, a short-lived car that was made in nearby Bradford. This proves the map to be from around 1951. This map covers all of England, Wales and Scotland at a smaller scale than the preceding one, but is similar to pre-war designs from ZIP and the R.A.C. so may possibly have been sitting in a warehouse unused for a dozen years before being used.

Millers Pistoneeze Map rear

On a third map, the same montage including the Jowett is now used as the front cover, and the rear cover now consists of a simple box listing the company's contact details. Pasted inside is a very cheap black + white map of England & Wales from the little known name of Cartographers Ltd, at a scale of 1:1 million but printed with Millers name on it. This map fails to show distances or road numbers. Something else was once stapled inside the cover - most likely a lubrication guide. It was however apparently given away with the compliments of John W Miller & Son Ltd.

Alternative rear cover for Millers map

Top of PagePrice's Motorine

Edward Price & Co was established by William Wilson and his partners in 1830 to manufacture candles using a recently discovered process from coconut oil. (There never was an Edward Price; the name was invented to hide the true owners' involvement in the business.) Developing new saponification techniques to create better candles in the 1850s, Price's found that a by-product - oleine - made an excellent lubricant and initially sold it to cloth companies. By the turn of the century, Price's had introduced their "Motorine" for the growing number of cars and even attempted, in 1902, to drive a car to the South Pole to demonstrate the quality of their lubricants!

The soap giant Lever Brothers bought the company in 1919 and three years later sold an interest to a consortium of Shell, BP and Burmah Oil, who supplied it with raw materials. As the lubricants became more important than the original candles, Lever lost interest and sold out to its partners in 1936; by then Motorine had acquired a reputation as a high quality product marketed as the "oilier oil".

In 1951, it introduced Britain's first multigrade oil (Energol, a name originally used by a BP predecessor in France), which proved so successful that BP dropped the Price's name on lubricants altogether in 1954. The candles business remained owned by the three oil companies until 1982, when Shell bought out its partners, before selling the company to management in 1998.

Cover from 1936 Morris/Motorine map of England and South Scotland

In 1936 Morris drivers were "Presented, with the Compliments of Price's, makers of Motorine Oil", with this Morris Owner's Road Map of England and South Scotland. John Bartholomew specially printed the map at 1:1,000,000. The inside cover listed approved grades for engine, gearbox, rear axle, chassis, wheel hubs, distrbutor and water pump (where fitted).

Graphic and scale bar from 1936 Morris/Motorine showing the blending of fatty and mineral oils

A small graphic above the scale bars showed how Motorine blended fatty oils (ie. oleine) with mineral oils and this was explained in "the case for 'compound' oil", printed on the inside of the plain plain card covers.

In the mid-1930s Price's Motorine sold a pair of "Foldex" maps of North and South Britain at 8 miles to the inch (12 for Northern Scotland). Printed by John Bartholomew these cost 3/3d each or 6/9d for the pair in a red leather wallet.
Motorine also gave away a series of 31 Pleasure Motoring Routes, which could be obtained by writing to their Head Office. Split into three series (Home Counties, Yorkshire and North Wales & North Western counties), map 18 (right) showed a circular route between York, Whitby and Scarborough. These maps were printed on light card and lacked a conventional cover; the reverse side included a brief description of route highlights, a panel listing the maps, another promoting Motorine and an abridged chart of recommended grades by make and year of car.

For an A4 size image (88K) please click here or on the map.

1934-5 Price's Motorine Map 18: York-Scarborough

Top of PageThelson Oils

Thelson Oils was the trading name of Alan Thelwall Limited, with five depots in London and the Northeast of England.

early 1930s Thelson atlas of Britain

Two versions of this Thelson Oils atlas are known with identical covers. One dates from 1931-2 and has fairly basic maps by W & K Johnston Ltd at 12 miles to the inch: it has a more detailed list of the right oils to use for specific makes and models of car. The other version has colour contour maps by George Philip & Son at 10 miles to the inch, as well as a four colour street plan of Central London. This version is probably a year or two younger.

Those interested in the many small companies active in the British lubricants industry, most of which never issued a road map, are referred to Tim Hill's excellent book on the subject. Published in 2018, A History of the British Lubricant Industry may be purchased through its publishers Merton Priory Press.

Text and layout © Ian Byrne, 2000-19

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