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Shell Petrol Can Puzzle

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Georgineer22/09/2019 00:35:37
259 forum posts
14 photos

I recently inherited this petrol can from an old friend, and it puzzles me. I've never seen one like it and it's too late to ask him what it is for.

It is a perfectly ordinary Shell can, with the usual embossed lettering and a cast brass cap lettered SHELL MEX. The paint seems to have been black, with a gold Shell emblem on the side. Where it gets puzzling is that there is a cylindrical steel vessel, 3" in diameter and 10½" deep, let into it and soft soldered in place. There is a hint of what may be oil toward the bottom of the inside.

The cylinder gives every impression of being machine made, which I emphasise because the handle is an obvious home-made replacement of brass, soft soldered in place.

So the puzzle is, what was the purpose of this modification, and was it done by Shell? Was it to hold a can of 2-stroke oil? If so, why wouldn't you just mix it straight in with the petrol? Was there a standard Shell 2-stroke oil can which would fit? And why would you want to reduce the capacity of a 2 gallon can to 1 gallon, 2 quarts, 1 pint and 2½ gills? (I stuck that in for the traditionalists. Imperial gallons of course.)

Over to you for suggestions,

George

shellmex petrol can.jpg

Alan Johnson 722/09/2019 01:13:17
71 forum posts
13 photos

Vickers Machinegun used a can much like yours. I have a WWII example, but not quite the same - no vertical tube.

Bill Phinn22/09/2019 01:16:11
202 forum posts
39 photos

Was there a separate cylinder (now missing) that fitted the cavity and held (4 stroke) engine oil for top-ups?

JasonB22/09/2019 07:05:30
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Was it to stand a funnel in? Though the old glass 2-stroke bottle is a probability

Speedy Builder522/09/2019 07:09:00
1815 forum posts
127 photos

Spare petrol and a bottle of beer ?

JasonB22/09/2019 07:43:29
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2 stroke.jpg

JasonB22/09/2019 07:45:51
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Pity you don't have the missing bit as they seem to fetch a good price

If you search "shell Duo" taken from that description there are plenty of photos

Edited By JasonB on 22/09/2019 08:20:33

3404622/09/2019 08:12:25
735 forum posts
8 photos

Nice item - a replica oil can would make an interesting project now you have the pictures.

Bill

martin perman22/09/2019 08:18:20
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1649 forum posts
67 photos

Out of curiousity whats the can date, look at the base and you will see a number.

Martin P

not done it yet22/09/2019 09:16:38
3341 forum posts
11 photos

I somehow doubt it would be for two stroke oil - at 40:1 (or even 25:1) it would hold enough oil for a lot of refills and would also need some means of measurement to get the correct ratio - so I suspect it was for normal engine oil. Also, were there many two stroke cars around, even, back then? Could be wrong, of course.... Thoughts or evidence?

Brian G22/09/2019 09:29:27
586 forum posts
25 photos
Posted by not done it yet on 22/09/2019 09:16:38:

...Also, were there many two stroke cars around, even, back then? Could be wrong, of course.... Thoughts or evidence?

Perhaps depends on date, the Valveless comes immediately to mind in the pre-WW1 era. Could their rarity make it necessary for motorists to carry a larger amount of two-stroke oil in case they come to a petrol station that didn't sell it. I remember having to carry a bottle of two stroke for my bike back in the 70s because not all garages carried it.

Brian

Michael Gilligan22/09/2019 09:31:03
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13975 forum posts
605 photos

< deleted >

Edited By Michael Gilligan on 22/09/2019 09:32:57

roy entwistle22/09/2019 09:43:25
1033 forum posts

not done it yet There weren't many two stroke cars about but there were a lot of motorbikes and Villiers recomended 1/2 pint oil to 1 gallon of petrol

Roy

3404622/09/2019 10:22:42
735 forum posts
8 photos

Worth keeping and sympathetically restoring.

Collectable item from the 1930's known as a Shell Duo.

There is one on ebay at £695 with plenty of detailed pics of the oil can

Bill

 

Edited By 34046 on 22/09/2019 10:23:03

not done it yet22/09/2019 11:01:37
3341 forum posts
11 photos
Posted by roy entwistle on 22/09/2019 09:43:25:

not done it yet There weren't many two stroke cars about but there were a lot of motorbikes and Villiers recomended 1/2 pint oil to 1 gallon of petrol

Roy

Yes, Roy, but not many motorcyclists would carry around a 2 gallon can of reserve fuel? Stored at home would not necessitate two containers in the one package? I would have thought this combination was for when cars consumed rather more engine oil, than modern engines, and the driver carried a reserve of petrol strapped somewhere on the body work?

I just don’t think they made cans as ‘gimmicks’ back then, so it would have had a sound practical use - unless it was usual for motorists to buy oil dispensed in bulk from a petrol station. Living on a farm, it was usual to have bulk tanks for TVO, cans of petrol (for starting engines from cold) and engine oil in larger containers (gallon tins and 5 gallon drums, commonly). Villagers or townies may have had different customs/habits.

Georgineer22/09/2019 12:45:39
259 forum posts
14 photos

Puzzle solved. It makes such a difference when you know the right words to make a search! Thank you everybody for your suggestions and information. All I have seen on the base so far is flaky rust and cobwebs - I'll look for a date code when I'm next in the workshop.

I doubt I'll be making a replica can, so while I save up for a real one for only £299.99 (may have been repainted in the past!) I'll look for a beer bottle to fit. Thanks for the suggestion, Speedy. At present I'm saving up for this collectible book about gas engines: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Antique-1907-Russian-Empire-book-Gas-oil-other-internal-combustion-engines/183896162971?hash=item2ad110c29b:g:2aAAAOSwi05dNzY0 I'm just glad it isn't a rare first edition.

George

Neil Wyatt22/09/2019 19:05:24
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As most people would have mixed their two-stroke at the pump, the oil is probably for general lubrication?

Neil

Brian Oldford22/09/2019 19:22:32
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563 forum posts
4 photos
Posted by 34046 on 22/09/2019 10:22:42:

Worth keeping and sympathetically restoring.

Collectable item from the 1930's known as a Shell Duo.

There is one on ebay at £695 with plenty of detailed pics of the oil can

Bill

Edited By 34046 on 22/09/2019 10:23:03

There's many items for sale on E-bay at what seems silly prices to some people. Will that petrol can sell at that price?

Georgineer22/09/2019 23:42:16
259 forum posts
14 photos
Posted by Neil Wyatt on 22/09/2019 19:05:24:

As most people would have mixed their two-stroke at the pump, the oil is probably for general lubrication?

Neil

I agree, Neil. Since it was common at one time to carry a petrol can strapped to the running board, I'm wondering if the 'duo' can was a neat way of carrying spare oil and petrol in one package. Certainly the large rounded flange on the oil cans I see in pictures would have discouraged them from rattling about while on the move.

At one time petrol was delivered to the customer in 2 gallon cans, before petrol pumps became common. Dad used to tell tales of delivering full cans on his bike and returning with the empties - that would have been in the early-to-mid 1920s at a guess. I presume the 3/- price embossed in the top of the can was the deposit, much like the 3d deposit on lemonade bottles when I was a nip.

I looked for a date code on the rusty bottom of my can, but it's pretty ugly under there. Rather than having to scrape the whole thing, can anybody suggest where I should look first? The panel is corrugated rather than flat.

George

David George 123/09/2019 06:29:35
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908 forum posts
301 photos

I remember buying 2 stroke oil separately, as it was cheaper, then putting in measured amount in to tank before filling with a gallon of petrol, about 1s- 10p a gallon. Filling my James scooter.

David

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