REDLINE MOTOR SPIRIT was a brand of the Union Petroleum Products Co Ltd of 21 Bury Street, London EC.
This British owned and controlled company was incorporated in 1914 with its main business being as dealers in Oil and associated products. They had a second brand,
The inset sign circa 1914 appears to show initial brands of Union and Redline Motor Spirit, or does it?. There was a Union Motor Spirit associated with South Africa and perhaps due to confusion 'Union' was changed to 'Ensign'. The sign is also possibly misleading in its message as to whether it is referring to 2 brands of motor spirit, or to the company name along with their main brand. Further research may provide the answer.
Ensign Motor Spirit, which advertising suggests may initially have been called 'Union Motor Spirit'.
Petrol had largely been distributed in the UK by the British Petroleum Co Ltd which was a German controlled company until its assets had been seized by the British Government at the outbreak of the Great War of 1914 to 1918. The Union Petroleum Products Co Ltd had been formed at the beginning of this war and was very demonstratively nationalistic as the first advert opposite clearly shows. During the war the company was a contractor to the War Office and the company's other brand. 'Ensign Motor Spirit', a commercial grade spirit,
was probably the grade supplied as part of the contract. This brand was still being advertised in 1920 but by the late 1920's it was known as' Redline Commercial'.
Most early Redline globes were round but this version is pill shaped with a flat front and back.
Around 1920 petrol pumps had started to be installed in the UK by the main petrol companies. Redline pumps were in blue with a vertical red line and were topped with ball shaped globes, other globes were pill shaped and around 1930 Redline introduced the striking 'Arrowhead' petrol pump globe which was the initial design to be used in the later merger with Glico Petroleum Ltd.
By 1923 the Union Petroleum Products Company had moved its head offices to Waterloo House, 16 Charles Street, Haymarket, SW1.
Stunning 1920's advertising aimed at society's more affluent.
Other changes were to follow and by 1927 the company had changed its name to "The Redline Motor Spirit Co Ltd". The company believed in quality advertising
and paid for some of the best graphic artists who produced some stunning advertisements such as those that appeared in 'The Autocar' and 'The Motor' which were targeted at the more affluent section of society.
The last major pre second world war changes for The Redline Motor Spirit Co Ltd came in 1931 when it merged all of its operations with Glico Petroleum Ltd to form a new company called "Redline - Glico Ltd" with the head office situated at Waterloo House. At the same time the merged company itself became wholly owned by the Anglo-American Oil Co Ltd but continued to operate under its own separate identity.
The left flag is called the 'White Ensign' and is commonly flown by ships of the Royal Navy, and the small flag in the corner of it is called the 'Union Flag'. The Union Petroleum Products Co Ltd has clearly used elements of the White Ensign flag, not just in their company name and Motor Spirit brands of 'Redline' and 'Ensign' but also in its initial advertising as illustrated by the inset look-alike sign on the right.
If you have not spotted where the idea for the "Redline" name originated from - surely it must have come from the red lines making up the cross of St George.
How the Redline and Ensign brands came about is an interesting story in itself which requires further research on the founders of the company to see whether there was any personal connection with the Royal Navy. However there are strong clues that the original company name and brands were connected to the symbolism of the White Ensign flag flown by the Royal Navy. Please click the flag for more details.
More of the Redline Motor Spirit Co Ltd and its merger with Glico Petroleum Ltd can be found by following the links in the left hand column.