Esso Roadshow '67 - The Gas Station Game With the Coolest Prize of All!

Esso Roadshow '67

Esso Roadshow '67

Above: Front and back of an Esso Roadshow '67 game card.

ESSO ROADSHOW '67 was a promotional game issued by Imperial Oil at their Esso-branded gas stations (only in Canada) in 1967. This was a collect-and-win game with instant winners. The game consisted of a game card given to customers each time they visited a participating ESSO gas station.

This game, in my opinion, had the coolest prize of any oil company promotion ever; the custom-built Esso 67-X, which was a car specially made for this promotion. More on that later.

Roadshow '67 game cards have three perforated pull-up flaps which, when opened, reveals symbols. If your card had two matching symbols you won a radio. If your card had three matching symbols you won a television.

Every Roadshow '67 card also has a large perforated pull-up flap (above the three small flaps) which reveals one of five safety slogans. In order to have a chance to win a car, players had to collect five game cards with five different safety slogans. The cards then had to be mailed to Imperial Oil so the player could be included in the drawing for the car.

Because so many game cards were mailed in (and presumably destroyed by Imperial Oil), surviving Roadshow '67 game cards are hard to find.

There were only three prizes available in this game; Kodak Instamatic Cameras, G. E. Portable Color TVs, and ... drumroll please ... four Esso 67-X luxury automobiles.

Esso Roadshow '67

Above: The Custom-Built Esso 67-X.

The Esso 67-X

The Esso 67-X is a dramatically-customized 1967 Oldsmobile Toronado and was made just for this promotion; it was the grand prize. Four of these cars were made and given away. The cars were big and bold with swoopy body panels, a swivel front passenger seat, and limo-style seating in the rear. All were painted bronze with gold interiors. The promotion, Esso Roadshow '67, tied into the 1967 World's Fair held in Montreal. Since many Canadians needed to drive long distances to get to the fair, Imperial Oil encouraged people to drive safe and fill up at Esso gas stations along the way. In the process, drivers could accumulate Roadshow '67 game pieces for a chance to win an Esso 67-X, which Imperial Oil dubbed "A family car for safety and travel," "The ultimate in luxury and safety," and "A dream car." Hats off to Imperial Oil for dreaming up this great prize concept. The base price for a new 1967 Toronado was $4,800. It is reported that it cost Imperial Oil $52,000 each for the finished 67-X. The cars were stunningly beautiful and have been legendary and valuable since their creation.

Esso 67-X

Esso 67-X

Esso 67-X

Above: A refurbished Esso 67-X. It was reupholstered in white instead of the original gold.

The Builder

Imperial Oil commissioned George Barris to design and customize the cars. George Barris was a famous car customizer in Hollywood. He is best known for creating cars for the movie industry including the Batmobile, the Munster Koach and 'Drag-U-La,' and the Beverly Hillbillies haywagon jalopy. He also customized Zsa Zsa Gabor's gold Rolls-Royce, Elvis Presley's Cadillac limo, and made custom cars for John Wayne, Dean Martin, Sonny and Cher, and others.

Imperial Oil delivered four brand new 1967 Oldsmobile Toronados to Mr. Barris. He cut the cars and increased the wheel base by severals inches, added custom body panels which increased the overall length by over fifteen inches, and dramatically remodeled the interiors. His finished product was named by Imperial Oil as the 'Esso 67-X.' It is sometimes called the 'Expo 67-X,' 'Toronado 67-X,' or even '70-X,' but the cars were built for (and paid by) Imperial Oil so they have the say-so in the matter. In the developement stage, Imperial Oil referred to the car as 'Project "Bubbles."'

George Barris actually produced five of these cars. He delivered four of them to Imperial Oil as requested, and kept one for himself. Below is a photo of Dean Martin's 12 Golddiggers sitting on George Barris' Esso 67-X.

Esso Roadshow '67

Above: Dean Martin's Golddiggers Sitting on a 67-X.

The Winners

Winners of the four cars were by drawing from all the qualifying entries in the promotion. The first winner was announced on April 27, 1967 at Expo '67 in Montreal. The remaining three winners were announced throughout the summer of 1967. Imperial Oil also provided free gas, free maintenance, and free insurance for one year for each winner. How cool is that?
  • The first car winner was Cliff Hackett, 53, of Edmonton. His car spent most of its life on display in Regina (from 1968 to 2005). Since then, this car has resided in Houston, Texas.
  • The second winner was Vernon Scales of Okanagan Landing. For a time, his car was on display in a restaurant in Vancouver, Canada. His car ended up in the United States and was poorly remodeled at some point. It was purchased by Trevor Welfen in 2011 who did a great job restoring the car. This car, now restored, is shown at the top of this page, and below with Mr. Barris.
  • The third winner was Michel Bussieres of Quebec. He has since passed away and no one in his family knows where the car is now. An Esso 67-X (in very poor condition) was listed for sale on eBay in 2009. I suspect this is Mr. Bussieres' car. The car did not sell so perhaps it will surface again some day. In the eBay photos, it was sporting Texas license plates.
  • The fourth winner received his happy notice in August 1967; Mr. Paul Sparrow, 26, of Thunder Bay. He sold his car in 1968. It now resides in Niagara Falls, Canada.

  • Esso 67-X

    Above: An Original Esso 67-X Being Paraded Around By Esso for Promotional Purposes.

    The Reunion

    Three of the original five cars are still in good shape. One was purchased by Trevor Welfen in 2011 from a car dealership in Missouri (Daniel Schmitt & Co. in St. Louis). Mr. Welfen displayed the car at a car show in Canada in 2011 and George Barris came to the show. Below are two photos of George Barris with the Esso 67-X that he customized 44 years previously. How cool is that?

    Esso 67-X

    Esso 67-X

    Above: George Barris poses in 2011 with the Esso 67-X he designed 44 years previous. Mr. Barris passed away in 2015 at the age of 89.

    Esso 67-X

    Above: Cover of a Book About the Esso 67-X, Written By Dale Johnson.

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