Your First Gas Pump
"I just found an old gas pump... NOW what?"
We get this question a lot here at Vintage Gas Pump Supply, so today I’ll go over the first things you should consider before restoring your collectible gas pump. This post is geared toward someone who is doing this for the first time.
It's important to be patient. If you are not familiar with gas pumps, there is a lot to learn. Taking the time to do this will make the process much more enjoyable and hopefully prevent you from doing something you later come to regret. A good start is to find out what you have.
What is the manufacturer and model of your gas pump?
Your pump was made by a gas pump manufacturer, not an oil company. Typical manufacturers were Wayne, Tokheim, Bennett, Fry, Bowser, Martin & Schwartz, Gilbarco, and more! They all made many models over the years in vastly different designs. Once you determine what you have, this opens the door to getting advice, helpful information, and determining what parts you may need. Here are a couple good links to start:
Old Gas is the online community for collectors of gas pumps and service station memorabilia. Register and go to the online forums. There are lots of knowledgeable people on the site who are willing to help. Searching the forums can yield lots of information too! Additionally, there are resources there to find other publications and websites that may be of help.
After you've identified your gas pump comes the fun stuff.
What do you want to do with your pump?
Most people do one of two things with their gas pump: restore it or leave it as-is.
Leaving your gas pump original and unrestored.
If it is complete, leaving your pump as-is is a very popular option these days, especially among seasoned collectors. You may have heard the term "It’s only original once!" This may be a good option for rarer gas pumps that are near complete and well preserved.
Options here may be to sympathetically enhance the pump by adding a correct globe, upgrading the electrical system so it illuminates safely, and adding a hose & original nozzle to give it a look like it’s ready to pump gas! More experienced collectors even take this up a notch and do a "rustoration"—taking a pump and enhancing the patina, including aging decals and crackled paint. We'll be expanding on this in a future blog post.
Restoring your gas pump.
It can be tricky to decide how far to go when it comes to a restoration, so I recommend taking your time and exploring your options before diving in. You need to consider cost, your skill level, and available resources—unless you are able to do most of the work yourself and have the shop and tools necessary, it can be expensive. Do you want a "rattle can" restoration? A high end job with mirror-finish paint and all the trim chrome plated? Something in between?
You also must determine if you want to restore your pump to be as authentic as possible. Authenticity requires you to learn about your gas pump and date it so everything is appropriate for its age. You'll also have to source authentic logo globes, decals, and possibly advertising glass. All of this should also be authentic to the oil company you want to brand it as.
A good book to get is PCM's Guide to Gas Pump Restoration. For the most part, this is a pretty comprehensive guide to restoring your pump. It also includes great illustrations that show color schemes and appropriate markings.
One question I get asked often is something along this line: “I want to do my pump in Richfield (or any other brand); which globe and decal are the right ones?” The book mentioned above may help, but it can also be helpful to get advice elsewhere. We have a lot of experience restoring pumps from the western US, so I can often help. The forums on oldgas.com are also a great place to find people who know.
to be continued in part 2