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Navigation aidBENZINA


Brief History

Prior to the Second World War, Czechoslovakia had a range of brands of petrol, although most appear to have been local rather than international. BZ appeared, possibly in the 1920s or 30s, as a leading brand on Czech service stations and became well known for its Mogul Motor Oils. During the German occupation, a factory "Sudetenlandische Treibstoffwerke AG Oberleutensdorf" was established to produce diesel oil from brown coal. This became the base for the Czech Republic's oil and petrochemical industry after the Communists assumed power and was renamed Stalin Works, Záluzí in 1946, the Chemical Works of Czechoslovak-Soviet Friendship in 1962 and finally Chemopetrol in 1975. Slovnaft, the successors to Apollo, took over all assets in Slovakia including the network of BZ stations. Chemopetrol used the Benzina name on its Czech stations from 1958, whilst Slovnaft used Benzinol, but both names were only weakly displayed on their rather anonymous stations, as in much of the Eastern bloc.

Following the velvet revolution, and subsequent divorce of Slovakia from the Czech Republic, a new state holding company Unipetrol was set up and today owns 89% of Benzina. Unipetrol also owns 51% of the Ceska Rafinerska (the balance being owned by Shell, Agip & formerly Conoco) and 100% of Chemopetrol. Privatisation of Unipetrol proved difficult, but Poland's PKN eventually acquired a majority stake in the company. In April 2011, it experimentally converted 7 Benzina stations to the Orlen and Star brands, used in its non-Czech markets, and soon after trialled an unmanned site under the "Expres 24" identity.

Maps - BZ

Cover of 1930s BZ map of Prague

As the base map marked all petrol pumps in Prague with a code identifying the brand, BZ pasted two red and blue stickers advertising Mogul oils of the part of the legend identifying its competitors - from holding the map up to the light it appears that they included Fanto-Grey, Ostla, Kralupskagrafi (?), Photogen and Jenský (JAS), with a few unnamed white pumps. From the map it appears that BZ supplied around 20 locations, just under half the total in the city. Fanto had the next largest with around a dozen, then Ostla and the K brand.

This map of Prague distributed by BZ-Benzin and Mogul Motor Oils and probably dates from the early 1930s. A stock map of the city was used, but pasted into semi-glossy paper BZ/Mogul covers. The left panel carried advertising for products including Mogul gear oil, but the rear of the map included panels of advertising for businesses such as hotels and service garages. No cartographer was credited on the map.

1930s Prague map distributed by BZ-Benzin
Map courtesy Dave Leach
ca1935 BZ tourist map 1 of Czechoslovakia - Ceskosaske Svycarsko ca1937 BZ tourist map of Czechoslovakia 23 - Stredni Povazi Fatra Extract from ca1935 BZ map of Czechoslvakia (Decin area)

Around 1935, BZ started issuing a series of maps of main the main tourist areas. Initially it was planned to produce 34, and the first batch contained 11 and most opened out to around 320x280mm, covering a small geographical area. The maps were simple two colour affairs, with roads and topographic details in black, surrounded by a background reading "Mogul Auto Oil". From No 12, the cover got slightly narrower and taller, but opened out slightly larger. The background area was now white and the series described as 35 sheets. Finally, the series expanded to 37 sheets, and the standard photograph of a BZ zapfstelle on the cover was replaced with a photograph of the area covered. All maps marked BZ-pumps in red and from 12 on, gave their addresses. All maps also carried a brief description of the main places of interest.

ca1935 BZ tourist map 1 of Czechoslovakia - Ceskosaske Svycarsko: map

Maps - Benzina

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1968 Benzina map of Czechoslovakia 1970s (?) Benzina (etc.) map of Czechoslovakia 1974 Benzina map of Czechoslovakia Detail from 1974 25th anniversary map

Typical Communist-era Czech Benzina station

Typical Communist-era Czech Benzina station

The Benzina maps above date from 1968, the 1970s (?) and 1974. All are printed on relatively poor quality paper stock, with cartography was by Kartografie of Prague at 1:1,000,000. The middle map carries logos from other Czech concerns including Skoda Auto, Tatra Trucks and the Czech Automobile Repairers. The right hand map, from 1974, celebrates the 25th anniversary of the establishment of Benzina. The final image is of a typical communist era Benzina station, which can be seen to be very similar to that illustrated on the 1978 map (below left).
1968 image courtesy Richard Horwitz; 1970s (?) & 1974 courtesy Michal Okonek

1978 Benzina map of Czechoslovakia - cover

1978 Benzina map of Czechoslovakia - map

On the map shown above, the front cover does not mention the brand, although it does show an outline of a modern service station similar to that in the photograph above. The rear (not shown) carries advertising for Benzina and Chemopetrol. Inside, the map - which measures 32cm x 81 cm when opened out - carries extensive advertising for the company, around a map at 1:1,000,000 by Kartografie of Prague. The reverse side lists all Benzina stations as at 31.3.1978 - which were only in the Czech half of the country - identifying the grades of gasoline (90 or 96 octane) on sale. Like most Eastern bloc maps of its era, it was printed on poor quality paper. Because it was intended for domestic customers, it is wholly in Czech, although the E12 road running East from the border near Plzen is, optimistically, marked as being the road to Waidhaus, Nürnberg, Paris and London.

Post Socialist Era Maps

2002 Benzina map of Czech Republic

Benzina has issued fewer maps than Western competitors in the liberalised Czech market, but these have included a 2002 map at 1:300,000, and a coverless map locating its filling stations in 2005 (right).
2002 image courtesy Richard Horwitz; 2005 courtesy Michal Okonek

2005 Benzina map of Czech Republic

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Text and layout © Ian Byrne, 2003-11

All original copyrights in logos and map extracts and images are acknowledged and images are included on this site for identification purposes only.