Ahead of the derv: buying a vintage petrol pump

The days of putting a tiger in your tank might have gone, but as Gordon Cruickshank discovers, vintage pumps are big business

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You know how you can never find a petrol pump when you really need one? There’s a place in Derbyshire where you’ll find as many as you want. And since they don’t have any fuel in them you can take them away. Automobilia-UK does a steady trade in restored forecourt petrol pumps among much other automobilia, and proprietor Rob Arnold says that it’s not just for private collections. They’re a regular source of colourful accessories for Goodwood, the London and NEC classic car shows and even motoring wedding receptions. The website is vibrant with advertising signs, oil cans, tins and pourers, and counter sales material.

“We do a lot of work supplying props to TV and film companies,” Rob tells me. “We worked with Disney on Dumbo – they had about 40 set-dressing items from us. We had just restored the pump they chose, but they took it to their art department and distressed it. When it came back we liked the look so much we kept it like that.

And we supplied many props for Grandpa’s Great Escape, with David Walliams and Tom Courtenay.”

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