The last time Australians filled their cars up at Ampol service stations in 1995, petrol prices were about 70 cents a litre.
The Ampol brand was phased out after it merged with Caltex in 1995 but in December 2019, Caltex announced the much-loved brand would return to service station forecourts after US oil giant Chevron terminated permission for Caltex Australia to use the Caltex name.
Around the time the name Ampol disappeared, Canberra author Colin Dennett discovered a cache of 5000 photos held by the National Library in Canberra.
He has written An Illustrated History of Ampol fuelled by strong support from the company.
"It took until my retirement before I could tackle all this. The story has been building for a long time and I am now so pleased it has been recorded and now being read," he said.
As the book relates, the Ampol brand has a lot of history to it.
The Australian Motorists Petrol Company, which later became Ampol, was founded in 1936 and has been part of Australia's DNA since then. Ampol has also been part of the ethos of Caltex Australia since the two companies merged in 1995.
Ampol was created in NSW, with support through the NRMA, as a way to deal with rising petrol prices and fuel security back in the 1930s.
It marketed itself as the only major fuel company owned by Australians, with adverts in the 1980s and 1990s using the tagline "I'm as Australian as Ampol".
Colin said the disappearance of the iconic Ampol brand in 1995 remains a mystery for many.
"Ampol which was first established in 1936 had, by 1995 grown to become a very large and diversified company," he said.
"In 1995 it merged with Caltex, also a large oil refiner and petrol reseller. The combined market share of the new conglomerate, then being US owned, was about 32 per cent.
"Sadly, as often happens, the local Ampol brand disappeared as it could no longer claim to be the Australian Company.
"For the merger to proceed both The Foreign Investment Review Board and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission looked closely at the matter all of which resulted in a sell-down of certain assets.
"Furthermore, by 2015, US owner Chevron sold all its interests to Australian shareholders so that the company was once again 100 per cent Australian owned, as Ampol once was, but the Caltex name remained.
"Best of all, it was announced in December 2019 that the much-loved Ampol name would return.
"Today's Ampol management is doing all it can to bring back the spirit of Ampol."
The timing of Colin's book, which he had actually started before news of the name change, could not have been better.
The Illustrated History of Ampol is crammed with photos, stories and yarns and took him three years to complete.
It traces how the company came to be and how Ampol, together with other independent oil companies such as Golden Fleece, played important roles in the Australian oil industry.
"Readers should enjoy reading about these names and seeing the many photographs," he said.
Colin said he is also now asked if Golden Fleece will ever return. The company, which dates back to 1913, was taken over by Caltex in 1981. Today, ironically, the brand is owned by Ampol.
"Maybe it could," Colin said. "There is still a lot of goodwill and memories associated with that name."
The book is a tribute to Ampol founder Sir William Gaston Walkley who also founded the Walkley Awards for Excellence in Australian journalism. For the recent 67th Annual Walkleys, Ampol returned as a platinum sponsor, cementing Ampol's connections to the prestigious event.
"While William Walkley was the founder of Ampol and the Walkley Awards his association with both is generally not known so I have gone to some lengths to address that," Colin said.
"The sub-title to my book reads 'A tribute to WG Walkley' as you can see on the back cover photo.
"Not only forgotten in name but very few would recognise a photo of him as there were very few accessible. Fortunately I found some good ones in the company archives. He had no children so I saw the opportunity to do what I could."
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