Retro Refuel: Restoring Your First Vintage Gas Pump

Rusty Vintage Gas Pump

“I just found an old gas pump… now what?”

We get this question a lot here at Vic’s 66, so here I’ll go over what you should consider before restoring your collectible gas pump. This post is geared toward someone who is doing this for the first time.

First, expect that it will take time to learn about your pump, decide how to restore it, and source needed parts. If you like antiques and love a project, you’ll enjoy this process. The first step is figuring out what you have.

STEP 1: Determine The Make and Model of Your Pump

Your pump was made by a gas pump manufacturer, not an oil company. Well-known manufacturers included Wayne, Tokheim, Bennett, Fry, Bowser, Martin & Schwartz, Gilbarco, and others. They all produced 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 the parts you need. 

Here are a couple of good places to start your research:

  • Primarily Petroliana:

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 eager to help. Searching the forums can yield lots of information too. Additionally, this site may lead you to other publications and websites that may be useful.

  • An Illustrated Guide to Gas Pumps by Jack Sim

This popular book written by the late Jack Sim is full of images of gas pumps from nearly all the major US manufacturers. This hefty tome is the go-to resource for identifying gas pump models. Unfortunately now it’s only available as an e-book or as used on sites like Amazon. Of course, the price guide is already outdated. Most values are much higher now.

  • Hobby Zines

Petroleum Collectibles Monthly

Check the Oil Magazine

Both magazines offer a wealth of knowledge on the hobby of collecting gas pumps and oil company collectibles. Both feature schedules of shows and collector meets that are great places to meet other like-minded collectors.

  • Facebook Groups

If you’re on Facebook, you can join groups such as these:

These groups actively post and share information.

OK, you’ve identified your gas pump. Now comes the fun stuff.

Step 2: Decide Between Restoring It To Like New Or Leaving It Rusty

You’ve arrived at a fork in the road. Which way will you go?

Option 1: Leaving Your Gas Pump Original and Unrestored

If your pump isn’t missing major parts, leaving it as-is is a very popular option these days, especially among seasoned collectors. You may have heard the phrase, “It’s only original once!” This may be a good choice for rarer gas pumps that are near complete and well preserved.

If you’re choosing to leave it unrestored, you still may want to sympathetically enhance the pump by:

  • adding a correct globe for the pump’s age
  • upgrading the electrical system so it illuminates safely
  • attaching a hose and original nozzle so it looks 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.

Option 2: Restoring Your Gas Pump to Shine Like New

It can be tricky to decide how far to go when it comes to a full-on 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 can do most of the work yourself and have the space and tools necessary, it can be expensive. 

Restored Vintage Gas Pump

Questions to consider include:

  • Do I want a less-expensive and easier to achieve “rattle can” restoration?
  • Or is my goal a high-end result, with mirror-finish paint and all the trim chrome-plated? (Or maybe something in between?)
  • Finally, do I want to go the extra mile and restore my pump to be as authentic as possible?

If authenticity is important to you, you’ll need to learn more about the era of your gas pump and the oil company logos it may have displayed during its use. That way you can source authentic-logo globes, decals, and possibly advertising glass appropriate to your pump’s age.

For reference, I recommend the book PCM’s Guide to Gas Pump Restoration. This guide to restoring your pump includes great illustrations that show color schemes and appropriate markings. It has gone out of print, but some new and used copies are available online. Or maybe your buddy has a copy you can borrow?

In addition, it can also be helpful to get advice elsewhere. I have a lot of experience restoring pumps from the western US, so I can often help. The forums on and the Facebook hobby groups listed above are also great places to find people with expertise.

Step 3: Sourcing Parts and Finishing Your Project

We recommend first figuring out what you need and determining where those parts are available before starting your work. Finding gas pump parts can be a challenge, but it’s also part of the adventure. Online forums (again, like, swap meets, and specialty shops (like us here at Vic’s 66) are great places to start. And remember, patience is key. If you can’t find a reproduction part, you may need to seek out an original, or vice versa.

Ready to roll up your sleeves and dive into the world of gas pump restoration? Welcome to the club, and remember, we’re here to answer questions, offer advice, or just chat about our shared hobby. Join us in promoting the appreciation and preservation of the Golden Age of the American service station!

Discover all the essentials for your next restoration project at Vic’s 66. Whether you’re searching for reproduction gas pump globes with authentic logos or hunting down essential gas pump parts, we’ve got you covered.