Bearded Biker is a Petrol Head
Where did this idea stem from?
Karen and I have a real petrol pump at home, which we restored years ago. We take part in The Hot Rod Hayride at Bisley each year. It's an event for old hot rods, with the big turns-ups, chequered shirts and tattoos. We had a stand there as we were selling a few of our vintage leather jackets, but we thought we'd make the stand look a bit more interesting. We created a little wooden garage and it went so well that we thought about how we could top it the following year. I thought I would build a petrol pump and it didn't seem that difficult to do.
Was it difficult?
It was to begin with, as our initial shape didn't work well. I made another set of moulds and things improved. I spoke to Gary Foley from Public Enemy Customs about the pumps and he was interested in buying one and Chris at P&D Custom Bikes and he was keen too. So we started learning a bit more about the process and creating proper fibre glass moulds. We are improving with each one we make, as you perfect the moulds with steel structures, and add accessories and trimmings.
How do you create the signs on top of the pump?
We know someone who creates glass globes, and he often makes them for people restoring petrol pumps. The
Americans pumps have a disc shape and the English ones were traditionally a little chunkier, which I actually prefer. It's just a matter of finding the right stickers from that point. We can actually create a glass shape for a BP or Shell pump too.
Would they be popular brands?
Not really. We have lots of memorabilia relating to oil companies and American cars, and there are a lot of collectors out there looking for genuine oil products. If you're into vintage or classic cars, there's probably a pump design that you associate with your favourite era. This shape of pump was mainly used between the 1930s–1960s, before the square shaped pumps were introduced. I'm sure if you're in the middle of Wyoming, some of these pumps are still about with some chap filling up and spitting tobacco.
Is this a unique product?
We know there are other people making petrol pumps. A friend of ours went to Goodwood Revival and there was a company selling pumps there. But in all honesty we didn't think a great deal of them. They were very nicely finished, but the front was essentially a flat piece of vinyl and I thought it was shaped like a filing cabinet. Petrol pumps were never like that. The ones being made elsewhere look like they were made to do another job, whereas all we have done is tried to create something that looks like a vintage pump.
Is there anything inside the pump?
It's an empty space. We thought about putting shelves in, but we leave it so the buyer can do what they like with it, to a degree. You can use it as a drinks cabinet or for trophies or model cars. In theory, it can be refrigerated but you'd have to seal it and we cannot prepare it as an electrical product. I'm not a licenced electrician for a start! People have asked us about fitting speakers, which could be built in too. It's all possible, but what we'll do is create authentic looking petrol pumps.
Could they ever be used as real pumps?
Are you crazy? Only if you want to burn your house down! One person has said he would like to put a keg of beer inside, but he was underestimating how quickly the nozzle would pump out the beer. It would fill a pint glass in no time at all, as these are genuine nozzles and pipes, although we do paint them.
Is the 'weathered' look deliberate?
It is down to personal taste, but I would have a bit of a weathered look incorporated in, as they can look a bit too pristine without it. It's selling an idea really, which is why we can put the price in shillings and pence for some, or dollars and cents for others. You create the style for the era, so we make them look like a pump that has been around for a while.
Is there really a market out there for vintage pumps?
The more people we've spoken to about them, the more people who have come forward and expressed an interest. You might buy them if you're a fan of Nascar or any form of racing, hot rods, and classic cars too. But my thoughts were that shops might like them in their own colour scheme. You always see car memorabilia in shops and restaurants, like old front wings and wheels, so why not petrol pumps? They are relatively cheap and we can create them to any design within reason, as we are a paint shop. They also look fantastic.
How much do they cost?
They can cost as little as £900 with a relatively simple paint job. One customer, who sells Champagne at shows, asked us to come up with a gold leaf design for his pump, which will give him something different to display. It's a flamboyant paint job so it'll cost a little more money, but they are not expensive. The globes alone cost £125, so it costs a lot to create the pumps, but I don't want to make money on them until we have perfected it.
They are not the finished article as yet then?
You have to research quite a lot but we're getting there. The latest designs look nice with stainless fittings. Our panels are infinitely better now than they were when I started and we mix the resin up faster, roll them out better and the shape has improved. After one or two more pumps I think we'll have just about nailed it.
For more details visit www.classic-cycleworks.co.uk or call Keith and Karen on 01403 791140.