DRACUT — Everything old is new again.
Or could be in the capable hands of J.P. Borriello. The 31-year-old lifelong Dracut resident has been restoring old gasoline pumps, air towers, Coke machines and tractors for more than 10 years now.
Standing in front of his Pleasant Street home is a vintage 1952 Gilbarco gas pump. The dial says 37 cents a gallon.
“That is probably the nicest piece I have,” says Borriello, an automotive instructor at Shawsheen Valley Technical High School in Billerica. “It came out of a guy’s barn in Maine. It was in pretty bad shape when I got it.”
Borriello painstakingly sandblasted the unit, repainted it, and sent away for the lighted Mobilgas globe that sits on top. The globe lights up at night.
Inside the old farmhouse at 362 Pleasant St., which he bought three years ago, is a completely restored red and white 1952 Vendo-56 Coke machine that is in fine working order. The unit holds 56 12-ounce bottles and could sell for as much as $4,000. A refurbished Coca-Cola cooler and a Gilbarco air meter tower also grace his enclosed back porch. There are several pieces in his garage, along with a 1925 barber’s chair, just waiting for the Borriello touch.
Q: How did you get started in this hobby?
A: “My parents own an automotive shop in town and I grew up working on cars. The first one I bought was back in 1996 when I was still in high school. It was a 1935 Gilbarco gas pump that is actually at my father’s shop right now. That first one took a while but it got me going. Then I started looking around in Maine and Vermont and found quite a few different items, like the Coke machines and the tractors.”
Q: Do you keep them, give them away or sell them?
A: “I was collecting them but now I’ve started selling them. This past summer really took off as far as selling them. I’ve done quite a few tractors, a lot of Coke machines. I’m trying to build up a little business in the summer.”
Q: Who wants them?
A: “Collectors mostly. People all over want them. Shows like American Pickers kind of sparked an interest in these old pieces. People want the Coke machines for their man-towns or their man-caves. Maybe put a gas pump in there. It looks cool. People want to dress up their house with something unusual.”
Q: Is it difficult to find parts for these items?
A: “Surprisingly enough, you can get almost any part in two or three days. There are a handful of people in the United States that build stuff. They make new chrome dials for the air towers and gauges and dials for the pumps. There are some people who are really into it. There’s a lot of history and I guess, a lot of money.”
Q: Why do you enjoy doing this so much?
A: “Mostly because I appreciate the old stuff. It reminds you of simpler times. I like the historical aspect. I’m afraid that people are forgetting how things used to be. And it’s a good feeling to take something that looked like a piece of junk and when you’re done with it, it looks brand new.”