Fuel crisis, what fuel crisis?


Author: James ElliottPublished:

The UK fuel panic – it is not yet a crisis, or at least wouldn't be if it weren't for the idiotic panic that runs the risk of the people who really need petrol not being able to get it – brings to mind the last major shortage in 2000.

The then-fledgling Goodwood Revival looked set to be scuppered as blockades halted deliveries all over the UK.

But, as ever, the classic car enthusiasts found a way and turned out en masse.

Goodwood found a way, too, by laying on vintage buses to ferry people from Chichester station to the circuit.

The result was one of the best atmospheres I can remember at the event, the camaraderie outstripping the pain because for so many it was an achievement just to have got there.

An achievement, but not necessarily a hardship.

The C&SC team convoyed down with all our classics and no hassles. The reason was that back then there was a filling station in Feltham that still sold leaded fuel.

Sure it was pricey, but as other cars indicated to pull in and then jagged back on to the road as they saw the "sorry, no fuel" signs, we just cruised on to the forecourt in and casually filled up.

This had an unwelcome effect in that other motorists saw this happening and decided to do the same.

In their fuel frenzy, they simply could not be convinced – as we tried to politely explain – that this petrol would do serious damage to their car.

"Don't care, need fuel."

How bizarre is that? I guess at that time a full tank might have set them back £40 whereas a new cat would have run to several hundred.

And a bus ticket probably £1. 

So, as I drove into work today, the Elan +2's fuel warning light flickering ominously, but all the stations either dry or besieged by apocalyptic panic (all it needed to complete the picture was a few shotguns being brandished), I resolved that – mirroring my attitude to classic cars as a whole and the threat that one day their use might be restricted – I will simply have my fun in my classic until I can't anymore.

And then I will take public transport. That bit doesn't reflect what I will do if/when classics are restricted or banned, of course.

Unless I can find a garage selling leaded nearby,,,



Remember it well, quiet roads, full tank of leaded in a '68 Amazon, spotting Morris Minors and P5's all out enjoying a perverse sense of superiority ...

Chris Martin

What's up now?
I hadn't heard of any shortages? Certainly no shortage in Australia, just ever increasing prices.
Is it back to the old tanker driver strike plot?
I thought that had been legislated against by holding the unions responsible for their actions.
I remember last time I got caught, have a photo somewhere I took while sitting in a queue at midnight in Camden Town back in the late seventies, I will post it if I can find it.
Chris M.


James Elliott

It's complicated Chris, though it shouldn't be, a rather unpleasant little episode showing the dumber side of human nature in the UK. 

Basically, the tanker drivers have threatened to go on strike. Importantly, they haven't, and the talks aren't even until next week, which means that even IF they do go on strike, it will not happen until after Easter at the earliest.

However, thanks to the media making everyone aware of the possibility and then the Government advising everyone to fill up AND store jerry cans, word spread and people started to besiege fuel stations.

Other people saw the queues and just joined in.

The effect of this was that the fuel stations ran out of petrol, started putting signs out saying no fuel and people just panicked more as a result. As soon as there was a scheduled delivery, everyone went crazy again, the fuel stations ran out again and then the whole situation just became cyclical and self-perpetuating.

I watched one bloke queue for half an hour, then risk life and limb by jumping the queue (people are getting frenzied and violent out there) just to put £7 of petrol in.

The biggest issue for me is that a lot of people who actually need petrol (travelling healthcare workers etc) hadn't put their contingency plans into place yet because there WASN'T a strike and then couldn't get any because all the cars in London that are barely used were being brimmed.

Of course, by early next week, every car and every jerry can in the UK will be full, the scheduled deliveries (because there isn't actually a strike, remember) will happen on then-deserted forecourts and then I will pop out and brim my fleet. 

That's the plan anyway.

Of course, if they do take the decision to strike, it will start all over again next week. Utterly pathetic, I am embarrassed by it all to be honest.

Group Editor, C&SC


Agree with you breakdown of the sorry situation James, and in a slightly related subject the landlord of my local pub has put a sign outside stating 'Beer shortage - panic buy here'.  There's a pint waiting for you at the George and Dragon if the poor boys tour ever finds itself in Belper, Derbyshire!

James Elliott

For the record, filled up one classic on the way into work and a different one on the way home. Plenty of fuel, no queues. Phew!

Group Editor, C&SC


It's all just a conspiracy for the government to raised additional revenues ahead of the Olympics. And I am certain in two days they have amassed quite a tidy sum through duty on fuel...


I agree with Mr Benovich,also cannot see and end to these prices
being hiked up,so is there a case to be made of human rights...
preventing classic car drivers enjoying their hobby.

How about starting a Classic & Sports Car party I am sure plenty of folk would join and perhaps have a seat in Parliement.

Chris Martin

And folks say I am cynical ! Really !
But yes, that all sounds entirely believable, and apart from government manipulations, anyone in doubt as to how low oil companies would go should revisit old episodes of Dallas.
We all laughed at Larry Hagman back then and thought the plots a bit far fetched, but how many of their scenarios have come true in the years since the first Gulf war?
Chris Martin


plastic penguin

The British Government are irresponsible. For a top Minister to urge people to fill up Jerry Cans proves how naive they are. (As a consequence of scaremongering a person seriously burnt herself while transferring petrol in the kitchen - pathetic or what?). According to reports the petroleum unions have to give 7 day notice before any strike action can take place.

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