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Vintage Gas: Get Your Valvetop Oil at Patterson & Holland Gulf

Today’s feature image is a promotional photo taken at a Gulf Station run by partners named Patterson and Holland; the facility is in an unknown location. The object of the promo is Gulf “Valvetop” Oil, an engine top end lubricant, one of many its type which was popular at the time for adding a small amount of extra oil to the intake valve faces, stems and the upper cylinder walls.

A service station attendant in front of a 1947 Studebaker coupe is holding a can of the top end lube and showing it to a customer, a crudely lettered rack filled with cans of the engine potent is visible on the gas pump island on the far-left. The banner hanging over the “Good” Gulf and Gulf “No-Nox” pumps is advertising Gulf “Pride” motor oil. Note the small AC spark plug box attached to the lamp pole just behind the car.

Tell us more about the Studebaker and what you may find of interest in the photograph via Ameristation.


23 responses to “Vintage Gas: Get Your Valvetop Oil at Patterson & Holland Gulf

  1. As a teen pump jockey in 1950 at a Mobile gas station we would offer gas customers Mobil top cylinder oil which came in small bottles with the Mobile logo. To be honest we had no idea what it was good for but it cost something like 25 cents per bottle and we were told to try and sell it. We refilled each little bottle after pouring it in a gas tank, and reused the bottle. I still have an empty bottIe I saved more than 65 years ago as a momento.

  2. That looks like Fred Mertz who is hawking the product. When I worked for a Honda dealership in the mid 70’s we were told to sell this stuff non-stop. I asked the service manager what it did. He said “adds another six ounces of oil to the crankcase!”

  3. I remember Bardahl® had a TV ad with cartoon characters for their own top oil: ‘Avoid sticky valves and sludge’ in the early-50s. You never hear about that stuff no more–guess it’s not needed with overhead valve engines.

    • I can see how the 3 attendants could (might?) get on the bench seat in the Studabaker, but 3 of the man in the 3 piecc suit (large ,as in giant), never. He’s as big as one of the gas pumps.

    • Hi Jim, I think it’s the quality of oil these days too. At the station I worked at, they sold “re-refined oil”, 4 for a buck. Real oil, maybe .79 cents. You wouldn’t believe how many people bought that cheap oil. I was told by the bos, when checking the oil, not to put the dipstick all the way in, and show the driver, oh, oh, 1/4 low. I never did that though.

      • Funny, my boss never told us to do stuff like that. Maybe that is one reason we were pretty busy as most people trusted us to give them the real skinny. He finally opened a large tire business on the lot and we were busy selling tires as well. Problem was we had to put all the tires on display near the driveway back into a semi-trailer he brought when we closed up every night. That along with locking the pumps, counting the cash and our receipts (we did get a small percentage of those sales), washing the concrete down and cleaning the toilets. Busy time! Great experience!

    • I remember that Bardahl ad. A cartoon character that looked and talked like Edward G. Robinson said something like, “This is a stick-up, see”. Wow, and some people say advertising doesn’t work.

  4. When I was a pump jockey “back in the day” we pushed the extras: air filters, wiper blades, oil top-off, even air fresheners – and so on. Getting the hood open to check the oil was an opportunity to sell belts, batteries and hoses. That’s where the profit was. The margin on gasoline was slim.

  5. Dude with the [dirty] cloth doing the windows always received brunt of my dad’s derision.
    My sister giggling in the back seat didn’t help maters and as I always leaned over the front seat standing on the hump, I’d retreat to the back seat for self preservation.
    Paper towels were marginally better and it wasn’t till the use of the now ubiquitous squeegee did the old man drive away from the gas station in a good mood.

  6. I don’t think “Good Gulf” could be called gasoline. Lots of guys bought it when I was a kid and even the lowest compression engines pinged. The octane rating must have been on a par with Wesson oil. Mr. P. is right. When I worked for Phillips and Esso/Exxon we were happy if gas sales paid the rent. The profit was in TBA – Tires, Batteries, Accessories.

    I still have the award I won for seeing the worn fan belt on the Gates Mystery Car.

  7. Hi Jim, I think it’s the quality of oil these days too. At the station I worked at, they sold “re-refined oil”, 4 for a buck. Real oil, maybe .79 cents. You wouldn’t believe how many people bought that cheap oil. I was told by the bos, when checking the oil, not to put the dipstick all the way in, and show the driver, oh, oh, 1/4 low. I never did that though.

  8. I have a number of cans of that product from various gas and oil brands from that era, still full. Don’t know how beneficial they were, but do look nice all lined up in a display case. Love these old gas station shots.

  9. I just bought an unopened pint can of Gulf Valve Top Oil this summer at a flea market. That was the first I’d heard of it so I couldn’t resist.

    Now I understand it was perhaps the original snake oil that cured all your automotive woes.

  10. Service with a smile, hmmm, not so much– for a promotional photo the expressions are surprisingly pretty glum. I have a few early 1950’s company guides from Gulf, instructing attendants in the proper dress, courtesy, upsell techniques, station neatness and cleanliness, etc., that would have this crew on the carpet for their demeanor in working with a customer. Still, the level of service depicted is leagues away from the do it yourself bare minimum of today.

  11. My guess is that AC box on the pole is actually an ad for AC oil filters since it looks like it says “Keep Oil Clean” below the logo. What it might be used for is another question however. Perhaps to hold those punch thru oil can spouts, altho they were usually kept with the rack of oil cans.
    Remember when there would be a rack full of oil cans out there right next to the pumps? You need gas? Eh, you probably need a can of oil too.

  12. That Studebaker is, indeed, a ‘4 7 Business coupe. 1947 initiated the slogan, “First by far with a post war car!” Studebaker introduced their brand new styling way before all the other car makes.

  13. Does anyone remember the Mobil Oil commercial in the early 70s,
    ”We’re the rocker arm assembaly,–assembally–.assembally…”
    A cartoon with the Clancy Brothers doing the singing

  14. My favorite Studebaker Device was: The “Hill Holder”: A simple mechanical linkage between the ( Clutch Dis-engaged) position, — Clutch pedal at the floor) that would Retain brakes- ON pressure to prevent the car from “slipping back” when releasing the Brake pedal — until the clutch pedal was raised enough to cause forward motion in “low gear” (while pressing the accelerator pedal) — which would simultaneously release the brakes! This made the Studebaker a favorite in the hilly sections of Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles or any other heavy traffic at a stop-sign or signal in any hilly place or at a R.R. Grade crossing! A Big seller for Housewives & Geezers! Another ” Clutch – down safety device” was The Nash Starter Button — located beneath the Clutch Pedal : NO Dis- Engaged Clutch = NO start! Fully Automatic transmissions also eliminated Starting while: “IN gear”! Many older Buicks had another “Starter Surprise” —- (but that’s another story!)Edwin Winet

    • You’re right Ed. We had a tan ’47 Studebaker Champion 4-door and loved that “hill-holder”. We didn’t need it that often but when we did it was a life saver.

  15. The Buick starter was engaed by pressing the accelerator pedal all the way down. This also held the carb choke plate open so the vehicle would not “flood’

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