Monday, 29 September 2014

Remember the Red Trident?

Isn't it amazing how you can drive past something a thousand times without seeing what's actually there? Look what I just noticed around the side of my local Repco:

"Neptune." Just one of many oil companies - Atlantic, Amoco, Alba, Golden Fleece - that old fogies will remember coming and going as the oil giants went The Blob on their smaller rivals. Neptune was apparently founded in 1909 and traded under the Waratah name; they were sold back-and-forth a few times until they were bought by Shell in 1926, but didn't open petrol stations under the Neptune name until 1952, by which time Shell wanted them to be their franchise in rural Australia (God knows why). I asked around and it seems that back in the day this building was home to Continental Motors, the local Volkswagen dealer and repair garage, which implied petrol retailer as well (yes, petrol stations were once garages rather than mini-supermarkets. Tell your kids).

Like this one at East Denistone, NSW (via

Why does any of this matter? Because in 1964, Neptune's Rod Troone had the bright idea to blow his entire marketing budget on touring car racing, setting up one of the country's earliest professional racing teams. Since it was class-based racing in those days, Troone made arrangements with three separate owner-drivers to form the Neptune Racing Team: Norm Beechey in the over-2.6 litre class, driving a tweaked 170 kW Holden EH S4 Special; Jim McKeown in the 2-litre class, driving a just-as-tweaked Lotus Cortina; and Peter "Skinny" Manton in the sub-1.3 litre class, driving his Mini Cooper S (presumably tweaked). All were painted in Neptune Blue, a colour that washes all over a Google Image search for "Neptune Racing Team" and one guaranteed to lower your blood pressure at least a little.


The following year (1965) Beechey traded the EH for a Mustang and won his first Australian Touring Car Championship, beginning the Aussie muscle era in earnest. The next time he won it, in 1970, he was back in a Holden, but it was now painted yellow; Troone's bold gambit had either proved a bad idea or a spectacularly good one, because in 1969 Shell had moved in and taken over all the Neptune sites for themselves. The Neptune Racing Team became the Shell Racing Team, and it wouldn't be until the '80s when they formed a partnership with Dick Johnson that the Shell colours became as ubiquitous as Neptune's were back in the '60s.

Via, which is very worth checking out.
Little bits of history, hidden in plain sight. Only motorsport tragics care enough to notice.

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