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The Venice Police Fill up with Purr-Pull Gasoline in Los Angeles

Purr-Pull gasoline looked just like it sounds – it was purple – and being a premium grade of fuel, part of it’s name came from the fuel’s good pulling power. Its slogan was: It will make a motor purr on the hard pull. According to the book, Little Giant of Signal Hill, the fuel was a mix of casinghead and manufactured gasoline colored with a purple vegetable dye. The United States Refining Co. produced it, and it was sold at Signal Products Stations. The casinghead portion of the mix came from the Signal Hill Oil Field in Signal Hill, California.

In these photos taken during 1930, you can see three members of the Venice, California Police Department posing with their vehicles. Shown are a 1930 Model A Ford Coupe and a pair Henderson KJ Streamline model motorcycles. The two-wheelers produced between the years of 1929 and 1931 were powered by 40 h.p. straight four-cylinder engines and were capable of reaching 100 m.p.h. Note the small airplane ornament that has been installed on the front fender of one of the motorcycles. You can view over 175 more vintage motorcycle photos here on The Old Motor.

The purple fuel in the Station’s clear glass visible pump cylinders must have been a sight to see at this location at 11520 West Washington Boulevard, in Los Angeles. The photos are courtesy of the USC Libraries. The postcard at the bottom of the post titled: Air View, Famous Signal Hill, is courtesy of the Boston Public Library. You can view over 150 more old gasoline station related photos here on The Old Motor.

Signal Gas station Model A Ford Coupe Henderson motorcycles

Signal Gas station Model A Ford Coupe Henderson motorcycles

Signal Gas station Model A Ford Coupe Henderson motorcycles

Signal Gas station Model A Ford Coupe Henderson motorcycles


21 responses to “The Venice Police Fill up with Purr-Pull Gasoline in Los Angeles

  1. From Wikipedia. ‘By 1925, Venice’s politics had become unmanageable. Its roads, water and sewage systems badly needed repair and expansion to keep up with its growing population. When it was proposed that Venice be annexed to Los Angeles, the board of trustees voted to hold an election. Annexation was approved in the election in November 1925, and Venice was formally annexed to Los Angeles in 1926.’
    This means that in 1930, these policemen would have been LAPD.

  2. It looks like the motorcycle on the right has Goodyear Diamond Tread tires. These were popular tires on Model A’s as well and I believe are still available from some of the various antique car tire dealers.

  3. I’m afraid I can’t add to the Venice vs. LA discussion, but I’d like to know more about “casinghead” being used in the gasoline formulation.

    Does anyone know how that works? My understanding is that the “casinghead” is the cap that covers of the producer pipe. Casinghead gas is the gas which often comes up with the oil., and which can be captured separately from the crude. But how does “casinghead” get formulated into real gasoline?

    Tom M.

    • Tom, The only thing I can add is the snippet view of “Little Giant of Signal Hill” I found mentioned that the company sent casinghead gasoline a couple of miles through a pipe line to a refinery and blended it with “manufactured gasoline”.

      Signal Oil, Sponsor of the Whistler mentions: “They were just getting this natural gasoline which if run on its own produced large holes in engine pistons. Very high octane volatile stuff but when blended with gasoline would make great starting fuel in the winter and more power like adding ethyl”.

  4. I wonder at what stage in the process the color was added? I remember Red and Green colored gasoline in those visible pumps, but no purple. Until tetra ethyl lead I suppose gas was gas!…..or?

  5. The Model A looks new but I’ve never seen one with the body and fenders the same color. I thought the fenders were always black.

  6. Very interesting, both the photo/story and the comments. However, I still don’t know if I could sell “Purr-Pull gasoline with a straight face.

  7. Purple gas was sold here for years . The dye was added to identify gas sold tax free for off road (farming) use. Anyone caught with purple gas in their car tank was subject to a fine.

  8. The KJ Henderson was the second last model built by the Excelsior owned company. The KL came out in 1931, the last year Henderson motorcycles were manufactured. Every Henderson model from the commencent of production in 1912 up to 1931 was powered by an in-line 4-cylinder engine.

  9. That would be a speedometer drive sprocket, and would usually be on the rear wheel but that space is taken by the siren the near motorcycle. The KL was a special order, and 1931 Hendersons were still KJs. KL’s are quite rare but their extra power was dubious. Supposedly, there were cam, and piston enhancements, as well as head work, and I have heard, a different cylinder. As a Henderson expert told me; a KL is still just a KJ. I had a 1930 KJ and they were indeed the best performing motorcycle at that time. They couldn’t catch a Duesenburg, but everything else was easy prey for a Henderson KJ.

  10. I’ve made a few other observations about the Henderson motorcycles. The motorcycle with the chrome horn is quite possibly a 1931, and it’s mate is possibly a 1930. Hendersons from 1929-1931 were very similar but subtle things like horns, and headlights were changed. Hendersons were made by Schwinn, of bicycle fame and Ignaz Schwinn was notoriously conscientious about proprietary purchases. The flat horn is generally considered a 1931 feature, however that motorcycle has a chrome airplane fender ornament which could mean it was purchased by the officer and was “leased” to the city. It’s possible the horn was an upgrade to make the bike look newer, and more up to date.

  11. Both bikes are probably 1930 models. The 1931 models used a different front brake, a different headlight, a different horn, and a different generator. Both bikes have the 1929-1930 style front brake, headlight and generator. The bike on the left (top photo) has a horn similar in shape to the ones used on 1931 models, but the face is not one normally seen. It is possible that the horn was used on automobiles, but with a different face for different automobile marques. The bike on the left has a black headlight ring, but otherwise it is a 1929-1930 headlight. The bike on the right says “Special” above the tank decal, and probably is. The KL “Special” was advertised in May 1930, but there are no visible differences. Whether the factory applied the word “Special” on the tank is unknown. The bike on the left has the standard handlebars, while the bike on the right has the “Sport” handlebars. The Specials probably all came with Sport handlebars, but they were available for the standard KJ also. The front “roll-off” stands were probably fabricated by the local dealer – note that the stand on the bike on the right has “feet”. Both bikes have an external cutout relay on the generator. The standard Splitdorf generator cutout relay (internal) was unreliable. The bike on the left has what appears to be a Harley cutout relay, while the one on the right has a different one. Henderson called them the “Streamline” and the “Special”. The prefix to the serial number was “KJ” and “KL” respectively, and these became the colloquial names. A period magazine article said that the average rider could expect 80-85 mph on the Streamline ($435), and 100 mph on the Special ($30 extra).

  12. The square “E” plate would indicate it’s a city or county plate. State agencies like the CHP had diamond “E” plates. Unfortunately, the exempt plates were issued based on the next plate in the series, so there’s no code that will help us. The 1930 plate was also a one year issue. The motor cop’s uniforms look like CHP but the badges look like LAPD, since the CHP had six pointed stars. It’s unusual to have no department markings on the car or the motors. I lean toward this being LAPD but it might still be a Venice PD if the Venice detail was operated as a contract to the city of Venice. Since LA annexed Venice in 1925, that doesn’t seem likely. The only thing that makes sense is that those are LAPD officers operating in Venice. They still do police Venice, one of the most gang ridden and dangerous parts of Los Angeles.

  13. I have a police cap like they are wearing. At first I thought it was Highway Patrol but it has two horizontal holes in the front that matches an LAPD hat badge. I would love to get a hat badge for it. Looks bronze instead of silver?

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