Gene Mills

This my space on the web.

Coca Cola Collector!

Posted on 01 Oct 2013 in Projects | Comments Off on Coca Cola Collector!

I’ve been collecting Coca Cola memorabilia for as long as I can remember. I really don’t know when I started but I do recall what started it: an old Vending machine. Over the years of acquiring various Coke stuff I always knew that a vending machine would be the pinnacle of my collection. I even joked that once I had one, I wouldn’t even need to collect Coke stuff anymore! I set my focus on a Vendo 44 model due to it’s small size. On Sept 8, 2013, I found one in an antique shop in Courtland, Ontario that wasn’t in bad shape and convinced Heidi, my future wife it would be the ultimate wedding gift! I agreed to pick it up in two weeks after a vacation and I’m sure Heidi laughed at me the whole way home as I could barely contain my excitement! Thank you though babe for making my life long dream come true as well as allowing me to put it in the living room for now!


Two weeks later, I returned with a van and brought it home. I don’t have kids but rolling it through the door had to feel exactly like a parent does bringing their child home from the hospital the first time! I was eager to plan a mini-restoration and plug it in and enjoy a cold one but some work needed to be done first.

First I wanted to gather all the information on the machine that I could. The guy who previously owned the machine said he would send me some background on it but I wanted to see what I could find out for myself.

Two companies began in the 1930’s producing vending machines. With $3,000 in start-up capital, two brothers started The Vendo Company in 1937 in Kansas City, Missouri.  Then there was the  Vendorlator Manufacturing Company (VMC) also established in 1937 (although some reports list the year as 1931) and established itself in Fresno, CA.

In 1956, the two companies merged. While Vendo had mainly served Coca-Cola bottlers before the merger, Vendorlator counted Pepsi-Cola and Royal Crown among its principal customers. After the merger, the combined companies became a major supplier for the entire soft drink industry.  Within two years, the companies were completely consolidated and operating out of the Fresno location. The Vendo Company went public in 1956, and company stock began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in 1961, where it remained for over 20 years. In 1988 Vendo became a subsidiary of the Sanden Corporation of Japan. Vendo moved its headquarters to Dallas, Texas in 2005 and the name changed to SandenVendo America Inc. They still operate today as a manufacturer of vending machines, in addition to commercial freezers, and automotive air-conditioning systems. Novices have confused VMC and the Vendo Company since a few models were almost identical to each other. An example of this was in the only difference between the Vendo 44 and the VMC 44 is the absence of a chrome coin entry bezel on the VMC 44. This was important information I figured as my machine has the chrome bezel and is clearly a Vendo 44..but with a twist.

The next step was to see if I could determine the month and year my machine was built. I knew that Vendo made the 44 between the years 1956-59 and used an 8 digit serial number. The first digit represented the year, the second and third the month, while the remaining 5 digits were the actual serial number. So a serial of 70812345 would be 1957, August. Feeling pretty smart I tracked down this info I immediately went to the serial plate of my machine and read it off: 18467A31. Well that made no sense as it surely wasn’t made in the 84th month of 1951. Then I looked at the tag a little closer.2007-05-22 AL'S COKE MACHINE 007

There at the bottom you see Vendorlator Mfg Co – Fresno, California. So the good news was that this is still a Vendo 44 (not a VMC44), it was just made for Vendo by Vendorlator as often happened during those years. The bad news was that Vendorlator did not use a date sequence in their serial number so there was no way to tell when it was made. Jeff Walters, the author who wrote Classic Soda Machines – A Field Reference and Price Guide (this book is on my Amazon wish list, feel free to gift it to me!) also reports that the Vendo 44’s were produced into the early to mid 60’s in Canada. This makes sense as: 1) i’m in Canada 🙂 and 2) there is a Grandale Company LTD, 35 Jenkins Street,Toronto, Canada sticker on the front of it. They were the original company who sold the machine for the Vendo company. I have yet to google map this street and see if this company still exists? Probably not.

So no go on the machine’s birthday but I did learn alot of background info on the model and found some really great websites and forums on restoration and maintaing it as well as service and owner manuals.

The store assured me the machine was all original and in working order and keeps drinks cold. They said the previous owner used it right up until the day he brought it in. However they said they couldn’t plug it in for me because every time they did, it blew a fuse. I was hoping the machine doesn’t output that much power or maybe the store was on a smaller fuse box or something. Then I checked the power cord: DSC_0712

Ok, I think I see a problem here! The ground prong was completely missing! Actually I was wondering if they even had 3 prong plugs back when they made this machine but more on that later.

So while I was away, I found the Fun-tronicsllc website. They claim to be the world’s largest supplier of soda machine restoration parts and that is no exaggaration. I ordered a new power supply cable, a color catalogue of their stuff and rocker can conversion which will allow my machine to vend cans instead of the hard to find 6 oz bottles of pop.

Of course getting anxious waiting for my parts to arrive, I had a thought: why not just replace the 3 prong end of the cable? Off to Lowe’s to pick up a cheap 6 dollar socket and I thought I was good to go. All I had to do was cut off the old socket and strip back enough insulation to expose the green, white and black wires, attach them to the new socket and it would work. After splicing into the cord, I thought I could make out the 3 color wires; problem was as soon as I touched the insulation on them, it would crumble like dust! Perhaps this really was the original power cable! Not to be discouraged I found a outdoor rated cable, ran it through the back and connected it to the appropriate leads.

Now it was finally power time. I turned the thermostat down to low and plugged it in. The condenser fan started immediately as it should and turning the thermostat 1/4 turn started the compressor and lower fan!!!

I do have some older 6oz bottles that the store gave me with the purchase of the machine and I may just try loading them in to see if they will fit. I heard that some of the newer 6.5oz bottles are wide enough so I might get lucky or have to wait for my can conversion. The machine holds 44 bottles/cans and I found a dime in the coin dispenser so I’m almost ready to test it.

There’s only so much I can do in a small condo as far as restoring and painting  but I will give it a good scrubbing and definitely order some replacement decals for future looks!