Rear-view Mirror

A regular look back at old motoring and motor sport items…



When walking through FMM’s Hall A, if you lift your gaze above the vehicles on display you will see a couple of old metal signs advertising Pegasus products, one for Motor Spirit and the other for Vacuum Spirit. Based in Rochester, New York, the American company’s South African connection began 110 years ago when the Vacuum Oil Company established a subsidiary in Cape Town.

Vacuum Oil was a successful petroleum lubricants business established around a patent lodged by Hiram Everest in 1869 – long before gasoline was even a branded product! The company produced petroleum-based lubricants for horse-drawn carriages and steam engines, and used a stylised red gargoyle as its advertising logo. By 1931, the growth of the automobile industry had encouraged Vacuum Oil to expand its product line-up to include Pegasus Spirit and Mobilgas, the latter simplified to Mobil in 1963. When Standard Oil of New York and Vacuum Oil combined to form the Socony-Vacuum Oil in 1931, Pegasus – in Greek mythology, a winged horse that carried thunderbolts for Zeus – was adopted as the company trademark.

In 1955, the company name changed to Socony Mobil Oil, and in 1966 to simply Mobil Oil.


In 1951 the American post-war horsepower race was ignited with the introduction of Chrysler’s hemi-head V8, which developed 180 hp (134 kW). At the same time, Ford unveiled its first overhead-valve engine, a 3 523 cc six-cylinder. Chevrolet broke new ground by offering automatic transmission on it low-priced cars.

Borgward announced the first petrol-injection engine for a passenger car in its Goliath model. Mercedes-Benz patented a safety cage body with a rigid passenger compartment and impact-absorbing zones front and rear. Lancia helped cement the status significance of the initials GT with the success of its Aurelia B20 Gran Tourismo coupé. And on the racing scene, Argentinian Juan Manuel Fangio won the first of his five F1 World Championships for Alfa Romeo.

(NB: No copyright infringement is intended with any of the images used to illustrate these articles.)