What if British motorway service stations had a 60s psychedelic rebrand?

It’s been a strange year so far to say the least. One of the many things that’s changed in 2020 is the way we travel, with ‘staycations’ becoming standard – campsites and holiday cottages across the UK are already getting booked up for summer 2021.

Whilst travelling to Cornwall might be more realistic than a trip to California just now, there’s no reason why you can’t bring some of those West Coast US vibes to the UK.

The idea of a California road trip might evoke the classic sounds of The Mamas and the Papas, and expansive images of hazy, sun-kissed coastal landscapes, but adventures around the British Isles sometimes have a slightly different feel. There are some beautiful roads in Yorkshire and beyond, but we’re also well-accustomed to grey skies, rainy campsites, and overpriced service stations.

But what if we channelled some 60s Summer of Love Californian spirit into our uncannily British motorway services? Like when we asked “what if Volkswagen made a coffee machine?”, it was time to let our imaginations run wild…

Service station brands like you’ve never seen them before

These are the UK’s three biggest service station brands, reborn in a very different style. Below you can read more about what inspired us, and see the images full-size.  

Moto and chill

Granada – the company that produced Coronation Street from its inception in 1960 – also used to operate over 40 service stations in the UK. After a merger, they were rebranded as Moto in 2001, before Moto became a separate company in 2006. Whilst the Moto brand is only 19 years old, their sites are firmly rooted in the decade that brought us the Summer of Love.

The character in the real-life Moto logo exudes a level of chill any 60s hippy would be proud of. But when you feel yourself getting a bit too relaxed on the motorway and hypnotised by the road ahead, it might be time to stop and recharge…

Moto: Time for a chill

Roadchef reimagined

Roadchef – the UK’s third-largest motorway services operator – has been around since 1973. That’s a year that brought us some memorable British rock music – Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, The Who’s Quadrophenia, and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, to name a few.

The current Roadchef logo is frankly pretty forgettable (unlike the iconic, but now defunct, Little Chef). But what if ‘Roadchef’ was actually an early 70s super-group with a fondness for motorways and fast food? Well, now we know the answer to that question…

Welcome Break: The swan returns

The company we know today as Welcome Break opened its first service area at Newport Pagnell on the M1 on the cusp of the swinging 60s, in November 1959. Originally branded as Forte, the name Welcome Break came from a chain of restaurants competing with Little Chef. Those restaurants became Happy Eaters (remember them?!), or closed.

In the 1990s, a new Welcome Break logo was introduced, featuring a large mute swan, mid-flight. The swan remained until a 2006 rebrand, when a they moved away from this illustrative style:

We thought it was time to bring the swan back, along with some of the more calming colours of years gone by…

Welcome Break - psychedelic swan

A trippy twist on the places we stop to refuel  

The architecture of British service stations is rarely something we stop to think about, never mind appreciate. Each site is a milestone on our “journey to modernity”, but they are also places of fading romance, often crying out for some TLC. Similarly, the country’s petrol stations offer an interesting window on British architectural history, even if most of them seem at best boring, and at worst bleak, today.

But there are a few locations that stand out as genuine landmarks on our travels around the UK. We wanted to pay tribute to two of our favourites…

The Pennine Tower – Lancaster (Forton) Services

Lancaster (Forton) opened in 1965. Operated by Moto today, Forton is famous for its iconic, air traffic control-style tower, which has been Grade II-listed since 2012.

As well as being instantly recognisable for anyone that’s driven along this stretch of the M6, the site has also captured the imagination of many Northern writers and artists. Photographer Henry Iddon served as artist in residence there from late 2015 to early 2016, and produced a series of images looking at its history, location and characters, titled ‘Forton Stories’.

In keeping with our service station rebrands, we couldn’t resist giving this 60s concrete icon the flower-power treatment…

Lancaster Forton - Tower Power

‘Pegasus’ – Red Hill filling station

Not a motorway services, but certainly a piece of Britain’s motoring heritage, Red Hill filling station also dates back to the mid-1960s. Described by English Heritage chief Dr. Simon Thurley as “perhaps the most innovative and distinctive petrol station in England”, this Grade II-listed site sits on the west of the A6 Loughborough Road, near Leicester. The futuristic ‘Pegasus’ design takes its name from the old Mobil logo, which began featuring a winged horse in the 1930s.

The six overlapping parasols rise from the forecourt like alien spacecrafts lifting off – “a vision of the future, as conceived of in the 1960s”. Today, the site is operated by BP and edged in their colours; our tribute to Red Hill takes us back to the decade from which it sprung, but with the contemporary colour-scheme dialled up to 11, and a Volkswagen California refuelling en-route to the coast, with the nostalgic sounds of the Beach Boys on the stereo no doubt…

Leicester Red Hill - California Dreamin'

Still not had your fill? Check out our service stations quiz and see if you can spot the fake motorway service names!

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