BP Autotanker: the Dromedary

The Thompson BP Autotanker, also known as the “Dromedary,” is an interesting piece of automotive and industrial history. Here’s a detailed look at its background and significance.

Background and Development

  1. BP’s Challenge: In 1959, BP Trading Ltd. faced a significant issue with the weight of their tanker trucks, which affected fuel efficiency and load capacity. To address this problem, they approached Thompson Bros, a company known for its innovative engineering solutions.
  2. Thompson Bros.: Thompson Bros. (Bilston) Ltd. was a British engineering company based in Bilston, Staffordshire. They specialized in manufacturing various types of transport equipment, including tankers.
BP autotanker

The Dromedary Concept

  1. Design Objectives: The primary goal was to reduce the overall weight of the tanker trucks without compromising their durability and capacity. This would allow BP to transport more fuel with the same vehicle, improving efficiency and profitability.
  2. Innovative Design: Thompson Bros. came up with the “Dromedary” design, also known as the Thompson BP Autotanker. The name “Dromedary” likely refers to the one-humped camel, symbolizing the tanker’s ability to carry a substantial load efficiently.

Features of the Thompson BP Autotanker

  1. Lightweight Construction: One of the key innovations was the use of lighter materials in the construction of the tanker. This included using aluminum and other lightweight alloys for the tank and body structure, significantly reducing the vehicle’s overall weight.
  2. Streamlined Shape: The tanker had a streamlined design, which not only reduced weight but also improved aerodynamics. This design helped in reducing wind resistance, leading to better fuel efficiency.
  3. Increased Capacity: By reducing the weight of the tanker itself, the Thompson BP Autotanker could carry more fuel without exceeding the weight limits set for road vehicles. This could increase the payload capacity and operational efficiency for BP.

Did they ever came into production?

As far as is known, only one vehicle was produced. It was exhibited on the Thompson Bros stand at the 1960 Commercial Vehicle Show. After that, BP Trading Ltd took it to Denmark to test it. During tests, BP requested various modifications. They were all done by the manufacturer’s engineers but, at the end, and as far as its known, the autotanker was never used.

However they were perpetuated by Matchbox Lesney. They produced a model of the BP Autotanker and it was released in their line from 1961 to 1965. As there were no variations on the models, there’s no way to know from which year the model below is. Even though its around 60 years old, its still in great shape.

Matchbox BP Autotanker Miniature