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Marfak Lubrication, Mr. Harcum, and Walter Dorwin Teague

January 23rd, 2010 · 10 Comments

By Garland Pollard

Marfak greaseOne of the more forgotten sub-brands of a major oil company is Marfak Lubrication. Marfak was the lube brand of Texaco and Caltex. If Havoline was the actual oil, Marfak was the process. I can’t say it was actually used much as a verb, as I never heard the word used; I only saw it above station bays. But the slogan was “Let Us Marfak Your Car.”

Us folks of a certain age know Marfak from its appearance above the service bays on classic white porcelain clad Texaco stations, of which there were a significant number as late as the 1980s.

The classic Texaco station was designed by Walter Dorwin Teague, the great industrial designer. Teague took something supposedly dirty and messy, a service station, and turned it into the white, sparkling image of a hospital. Many stations remain, though most were reclad and have new identities. (Note to readers: please start a list of extant Teague stations after this article.) I also believe Marfak was on CalTex stations across the world.

My assumption is that the brand declined within Texaco because as automotive technology increased, less and less lubrication was needed. No other new use surfaced.

The Teague Texaco station design (seen below on an ad) was simple and could be configured a number of ways depending on the space available. In all versions, the outside was white, porcelain-clad metal, which defied rust and sparkled with only a quick wash. The inside of the station was completely visible to outsiders, with glass auto bays and a large glass window on the front.

I happened to have close experience with one station that still stands in Irvington, Virginia. It was right next to the Irvington Country Store, which my father ran. It had a number of characters who visited and resided there, including a certain Harcum (Mr. Harcum?), who exposed me to the Southern habit of putting Lance peanuts in 6 1/2 oz. bottles of Coke, which he drank seemingly on the hour. And he needed to drink plenty, as he seemed to use the wooden Coke carton holders as something to sit on out front of the station.Marfak Lubrication Bays, Mr. Harcum, and Walter Dorwin Teague

But back to Texaco and Marfak. The ability for drivers and passers by to see inside the station conveyed a strong message that Texaco dealers knew cars. It would be interesting to see if oil companies would go back to selling service, rather than Coke and cigarettes. It always struck me as silly that oil companies would see nothing weird in owning a convenience store brand, but would largely ignore the car repair market. Perhaps Marfak could be used again in this manner? ExpressLube is a brand that does the same services as Marfak; perhaps there are other needs for a repair brand.

The USPTO registration for Marfak said its first use was in April of 1924; Chevron Intellectual Property keeps the brand alive, still. In the trademark file is the use of the name with a product called Marfak Heavy Duty 2, which is a lithium soap grease. This is smart IP management for companies, namely keeping a sub-brand alive through using its name on a few products, which keeps the brand alive and associated with the company. If the brand is ever needed again, it is ready, protected and has some measure of brand value, even if minor.

More branding stories of interest:

Gulf, Ford Pinto and Standard of California Tees
Texaco Still A Strong Brand

Tags: Advertising · Cars · Energy

10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dennis Jensen // Apr 19, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    May Father ran a Texaco service station in 1953 and used the Marfak lubrication It was on the building .We found some old pictures of the station and noticed the name brand. We had never heard of the Marfak brand and finding your web sight was a great joy and brings back alot of memories for my self and family Thank you Dennis Jensen

  • 2 billy k. // Sep 28, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Thanks for your knowledge, i found a 16 gallon can with” MARFAK- O” ( in 2 inch green letters) on it. The texaco T is there in a circle( green with white background ) but No Star. Could this be a 1920s can? thanks again. Billy K.

  • 3 Anonymous // Dec 18, 2010 at 9:28 am

    I read your comments on Queenella chitterlings. If you clean a bucket of Smithfield chitterlings you will understand why Queenella advertise their product as though they are clean. Advice: Never rinse any brand of chitterlings and cook them. ALL chitterlings need cleaning at some level. Queenella, however, needs the least amount of recleaning.

  • 4 Philip Bjerke // Jan 6, 2012 at 4:42 am

    My father, Clifford Bjerke (97) was awarded a national award by Texaco for writing the best essay for MARFAC when it was first introduced (late 30’s early 40’s) He worked for Joe Johnson the Texaco distributor in Milton, Wisconsin. It got misplaced during the move to Assisted Living in Moorhead, Minnesota he wishes he had it. Any suggestions on how to find out if Texaco still has a copy or record of this achievment? He was very proud of it.

  • 5 Jean-jacques LIMAGE // May 20, 2012 at 5:47 am

    My father , who had most of his career (1947-1965) as a commercial agent for Texaco, later Caltex, in Belgium had samples of Marfak grease at home. I distinctly remember as a little boy the dark green stuff in small glass containers.
    JJ Limage

  • 6 Jean-jacques LIMAGE // May 20, 2012 at 5:52 am

    Ah! I also remember that the local Caltex station manager had named his cat “Marfak”

    JJ Limage

  • 7 Richard // Jul 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Fading memories of Marfak from NZ. Our local Caltex service station was run by Les McLaren, father of the legendary Bruce McLaren. Marfak lubrication was available but I don’t recall it after the 1970s.

  • 8 MARFAK LUBRICATION « Adventures of Dorrie Anne // Oct 6, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    […] Remember Marfak Lubrication? Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  • 9 Jeff Scism // Nov 1, 2012 at 8:00 am

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jgscism/8132775473/in/photostream

    1959 photo of Texaco Station in Long Island

  • 10 Roberto Carmona // Mar 2, 2017 at 9:43 pm

    My father runs a Chevron lubricants distribution here in Mexico, he runs it since 1983 as a formerly Texaco distributor and guess what, we can proudly argue that probably we have the very last pails of Marfak grease, since for North America all Texaco subbrands became Chevron’s in late 2008, we have 2 pails of ‘Marfak Multipurpose 2’ with date of december ’08, we never sold them to keep them as a great memory!

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