How to Build an Inexpensive Vintage Style Gas Pump

Written by jeremy cato
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How to Build an Inexpensive Vintage Style Gas Pump
Vintage gas pumps can be expensive and hard to find, so why not make one? (county gas pump image by Robert Bourgeois from

Before gas pumps were the box-shaped, computerised, bland-looking objects they are today, they were smooth, round, sleek and shiny works of arts. Many people are enthusiastic collectors of vintage gas pumps. Unfortunately, this can be an expensive hobby: Authentic vintage pumps can cost thousands of dollars. However, you can make your own vintage gas pump model inexpensively, using only a few items.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Large refrigerator box, 8 feet by 4 feet by 4 feet
  • Box cutter
  • Thick black permanent marker
  • Yardstick
  • Roll of invisible tape
  • 2 large tubes of strong craft adhesive
  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Face mask
  • 3 cans of matt white spray paint
  • 3 cans glossy red spray paint
  • 2 red toy flying discs
  • 8-by-11 inch piece of thick, clear plastic
  • Package of 1-inch, white adhesive letters
  • Old garden hose
  • Old garden hose sprayer nozzle
  • Can of matt black spray paint
  • Can of silver spray paint

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  1. 1

    Remove any tape or staples from the refrigerator box. Use the box cutter to carefully cut off the top and bottom pieces of cardboard and discard. Cut the refrigerator box apart so you have four large cardboard panels.

  2. 2

    Use the black marker to draw a five-by-two-foot vertical rectangle on one of the panels. Redraw the top two edges of the rectangle so they are slightly rounded. Use the pictures in the Resource section as a guide.

  3. 3

    Cut out the cardboard shape that you drew in the previous step. Place it on top of the other cardboard panel and trace the outline with the marker. Cut the resulting shape out of the cardboard. You now have two identical pieces that will become the body of your gas pump.

  4. 4

    Cut two one-foot wide, eight-foot long pieces from one of the other cardboard panels. Tape these two pieces together end-to-end to make one 16-foot-long strip. Trim four feet of cardboard off this 16-foot strip to make a 1-by-12-foot strip. Bend this strip so that it curves into a "U" shape. Set aside.

  5. 5

    Retrieve one of the rounded rectangle pieces you made earlier. Lay the piece flat and squeeze a line of craft adhesive around the top and sides of the piece (do not put adhesive across the bottom). Take the "U"-shaped piece and bend it gently around the tops and sides, pressing it into the adhesive. Use tape in a few spots to hold the shape in place while the adhesive dries.

  6. 6

    Spread adhesive around the top and side edges of the other rounded rectangular panel and press this on the other edge of the "U"-shaped piece. Again, use tape to hold the panels in place. This is your gas pump body. Allow the adhesive to set for about six hours or overnight.

  1. 1

    Put on your gloves, safety goggles and face mask. Spray the entire cardboard gas pump body with the white spray paint. Allow this to dry for two hours, then spray a second coat. Allow the second coat to dry.

  2. 2

    Spray the entire cardboard gas pump body again, this time with gloss red spray paint. Allow this to dry for two hours, then spray a second coat. Allow the second coat to dry. Apply a third coat if desired.

  3. 3

    Glue the two toy flying discs together with craft adhesive so the rounded sides are facing out. You will see the shiny outer curve of each and not the underside. Let the glue dry, and then affix this disc component with adhesive, placing it upright on top of the gas pump. Use tape to hold it in place. Allow this to dry. Remove tape.

  4. 4

    Spray the 8-by-11-inch plastic rectangle with black spray paint. Allow it to set for two hours to dry. This will become the face of the pump. Attach a few "gas price" numbers and the word "Unleaded" to the plastic rectangle using white adhesive letters. Affix the black rectangle to the front of the gas pump with adhesive, positioning it about one foot below the top disc. Allow it to dry.

  5. 5

    Cut the garden hose to a length of about 10 feet. Discard the remaining hose. Spray the hose with black spray paint. Spray the nozzle with silver spray paint. Allow both pieces to dry for about two hours. Attach the spray nozzle to the hose. Using the box cutter, cut a 1-inch diameter circle into one side of the cardboard pump. Insert the nozzle into this hole. Glue the other end of the hose to the bottom of the gas pump. Allow to dry for two hours. Your pump is finished!

Tips and warnings

  • The white adhesive letters are the type used on project boards or signs. They are readily available at school supply stores and hardware stores. The garden hose and the spray nozzle should be ones that are no longer usable.
  • To shorten drying time, you may want to use a hot glue gun instead of craft adhesive for the assembly.
  • This model can be used as a prop in plays or other theatrical productions.

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