American Restoration, a show on the History Channel that chronicles the work of five restoration shops, is all about keeping the past alive. And one of the shops featured on the program, Bob’s Garage, fixes and restores everything from gas pumps to vending machines to signs.
“We pride ourselves on saying that we can restore anything—which may or may not be actually true,” jokes Bob Halliday, owner of Bob’s Garage. “Everything is really just a matter of time and money.
“The skill is assumed. If you don’t have the skill, you don’t work here anyway.”
Whether Bob’s Garage is restoring gas and oil steel signs or soda machines from the ’50s, the process usually involves paint.
“We have a paint booth, and it’s cooking most all the time,” says Halliday. “That’s the largest part of our business—seems like just about every restoration starts with painting.”
Bob’s Garage has been using Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes for years because of their durability and ease of application. But the shop also values the line’s ability to color match.
“We knew that we wanted to use authentic colors. There’s more than one Coca-Cola red, and there’s more than one Texaco red—it depends on the era,” says Halliday. “And we pride ourselves on using authentic colors. Years ago, we researched paint codes for all these different oil, vending machine, soda, and sign companies, etc., and sent those referenced to Sherwin-Williams so we’re able to mix exactly the right color.”
This ability to color match was on display during a recent restoration of a Dr. Pepper slider machine from the ’50s.
“The Dr. Pepper color for that era is an unusual color, which because of the Sherwin-Williams brand, we were able to match exactly,” says Halliday.
In addition to new paint, Bob’s Garage went through the whole Dr. Pepper machine.
“In this case, it was replacing the liner, replacing the stainless steel lid, and we always replace refrigeration and wiring in any refrigerated vending machine we do,” explains Halliday. “And then it’s all reassembled, and original type signs and decals are attached.”
One of the challenges of restoring these older machines is parts.
“The parts aren’t readily available,” he says. “Just parts searching is a full-time job, as well as fabrication. If we can’t find it, we’ll make it.”
To fabricate parts, Bob’s Garage uses lathes, routers, sheet metal machines, or woodworking machines (depending on the material and the part that’s needed).
Despite the challenge involved in restorations, Halliday won’t be throwing in his paintbrush or tool belt any time soon.
“My life has been one project after another,” he says. “I’m one of those people who has to always have projects.”
By Ashley Bray
Photos: (Top) History Channel/American Restoration; (Rest) Bob’s Garage