Nebraska collector enamored with antique gas pumps

gas pump

Rare Refiners gas pump globe, original condition. Image courtesy of Archive and Mecum Auctions

OSMOND, Neb. (AP) – Along with being an auto repair owner, Adam Rice has a hobby that keeps him busy in his spare time. He restores antique gas pumps.

“When I was in college, I had a roommate who was interested in antique gas pumps. Thanks to him, I got hooked,” Rice said.

He purchased his first two then and has accumulated at least 100 in various locations around Osmond, but that number is fluid since he buys, restores and sells pumps all the time.

The repair of the pumps is the most fascinating part, Rice told the Norfolk Daily News. He tears them down, cleans them and sandblasts them, preparing them for a new paint finish, which are all aspects of his auto repair business.

He paints them their original color scheme, adding authentic decals that he orders from a business that replicates original logos.

Rice brings the antique pumps, some 100 years old or more, back to the shiny new appearance they had when new. But it’s the pumps from the 1920s and 1930s that intrigue him the most.

As Rice moves from one pump to the next in his garage, lining all three sides and each one different, he calls out each manufacturer like American, Milwaukee, Butler, Hayes, Correct Measure or Frye.

Gas pumps were not made by the gas companies but by many small manufacturing businesses across the country.

“I love taking them apart and seeing how they worked and what changes they made over the years,” Rice said.

Although Rice renovates the antique pumpers, they don’t actually pump. It is quite difficult many times to find parts for every model, so the pump machines can serve as accent pieces in an aficionado’s den, family room, or even as a night light in a son’s bedroom.

Rice mainly works on the electrical components of the pumps, so the lights work and the pump clock will run — showing the number of gallons and dollar amounts.

The oldest pumps Rice has in storage are what’s known as visible pumps — tall and thin with globes on top that actually display the gas pumping.

gas pump

Polly Gas double 10-gallon visible gas pump, Canadian, professionally restored. Image courtesy of Archive and Dan Morphy Auctions

Today he finds these most often on farm places, but they are difficult to restore because parts are almost non-existent. Rice said he thinks people collect these for their unique appearance and a gentle reminder of days gone by.

One visible pump attracted Rice because it was made by the Omaha pump company, clearly printed on a metal plate on the front with the name of the owner, business and street address.

Rice not only restores pumps but actually buys and sells pumps on the internet, especially through his Facebook page. He has traded and sold pumps across the United States and is often contacted to do a custom restoration.

Another draw for Rice and the gas pump crowd is swap meets that are held throughout the Midwest. These meets are great places for pump lovers to gather, discuss their passion and look for additions to their collection or parts they have been unable to find.

It’s a good place to make a delivery of a sale or sometimes Rice suggests a weekend trip to his wife, and then reveals he has a gas pump to deliver.

“She knew when she married me I collected gas pumps, so it was no surprise,” Rice said with a laugh.

Rice also has a small collection of antique cars, a passion his dad shares. When his wife and his dad gave him a wedding gift of a car his dad drove when he was young, he knew he was truly in love.

Already Rice’s 3-year-old son is getting into the gas pump passion and asks his father, “When are we going down to the shop to tear apart a gas pump?”


Information from: Norfolk Daily News,

By LINDA WUEBBEN, Norfolk Daily News