Being the owner of a classic car you will also find other aspects of motor culture interesting. The gas station is an important element in this culture. Today’s gas station is converted into a repulsive supermarket, where we only if needed will stay for a longer period of time. But it wasn’t always like that…
In the very earliest days of motoring motorists bought the petrol at the local pharmacy. Pharmacies were at that time the place you bought chemical products, and thus also fuel and oil for the few cars that existed. With cars dissemination in the US the original gas station came into existence, architect-designed for the purpose. Already in 1905 the world’s first was built in St. Louis. As motoring gained ground, the gas stations took an important place in the city and particularly in the newly constructed road system. In Europe the inspiration was found in the American gas stations. In 1926 the Italian government established the company Azienda Generale Italiana Petroli (AGIP). A management was gathered including Fiat’s Giovanni Agnelli in the inner circle. The aim was to exploit the oil resources Italians had at home, but also in Libya. AGIP would also support the growing motoring in Italy, and this should be done the American way with a network of gas stations. Thru the years AGIP developed a network itself well into Europe and into some of the northern African states. The focus was quickly on motorists as a whole culture, and gas stations evolved into actual service stations with restaurants and other necessities that the travelling motorists could benefit from. At that time AGIP used the best architects, and a very special building style and aesthetics of these country roads new ponds arose. In that way AGIP had an enormous impact on car culture and is today an icon that we as classic car owners have a romantic relationship with.
The famous AGIP logo with the six-legged fire-breathing dog was created in the 50s after AGIP had arranged a logo competition. The logo has been through 4-5 updates over the years, but still decorates the gas stations with great recognition.
Competitors were quickly to follow suit, and the whole of Europe had beautiful gas stations with petrol from Shell, Esso, BP, etc.
Unfortunately, most of these companies merged or closed. I almost think AGIP and Shell are the only ones left from that time. Motorism has changed; today there is no need for the old service stations with car-thingies. Once you could witness a gas station attendant bring out a box of bulbs for car lights. On the shelf a large selection of wiper blades hung and on the floor a larger selection of accumulators was placed. Now it has almost disappeared in favor of oatmeal, endless rows of chocolate, and dishwasher tablets. Now it’s no longer okay to call them service stations, now it’s Quick Store. The buildings are made of powder coated aluminum corrugated sheets and the decor is conducted by consultants specializing in flow analyzed purchasing patterns ….
The official interpretation given by Eni’s press office in 1950 explains the six-legged mythical creature as the sum of the four-wheeled car and the two-legged driver. A sort of modern centaur and almost a guarantee that this form of locomotion is the fastest possible through a symbiosis between car and driver. An interesting parallel can be drawn up in African mythology where animals with more than the usual number of legs symbolize strength.