Downing -- also known as Oil Can Charlie -- is a longtime member of the North
East Florida Studebaker Club.
Charlie had a 28-year history of selling automobile-related literature at swap
meets, car shows, and flea markets. Along the way, he accumulated an abundance
of paraphernalia related to old gas stations.
In a mind-numbing fit of activity, Charlie -- in a two week period -- built a
replica of a mid-1930s Texaco gas station and filled it with the items he had
The result -- as documented in the following photographs -- is terrifically
Charlie specifically built a Texaco station because he worked in an Iowa Texaco
station in 1939.
He also was inclined to replicate a Texaco facility because Texaco items are
especially common. With the Chevron-Texaco merger, the production of new
items has been curtailed.
are some examples of Texaco promotional items, including some delightful model
planes. Charlie noted that one of his more recent acquisitions is the last
Texaco plane to be manufactured.
year, Charlie finished the five-year restoration of this gorgeous 1951
Studebaker pickup truck. Heads turn when they see this brilliant yellow
Charlie fitted the truck with an oak bed and side rails. The dashboard is
made from cherry. (Not exactly stock, but absolutely fantastic.)
is looking at the beefy power plant in his little 1957 Metropolitan convertible.
He bought this terrific (well terrific for a Brand X car) car at an estate sale
on Oak Street in Jacksonville in 1992.
The car had been sitting (topless) under an oak tree and had a considerable
accumulation of oak leaves and mulch in the passenger compartment.
The tannic acid in these leaves had rotted through the floor. Charlie
cannibalized some parts from two parts cars to build this sweetheart.
a shot of the Metropolitan in the station's repair bay -- an addition to the
Charlie next wants to add a grease rack to the project. He has located one
in Worthington Springs, Florida and is waiting for its owners to come to their
senses and part with it.
wall -- behind the Metropolitan -- is a collection of 1935 license plates.
The Texaco station is designed to duplicate the appearance of a 1935 facility,
hence the '35 plates.
number of friends have contributed other plates in a variant on the 1935
theme. For example, see the Idaho and Nebraska plates, which are more
modern, but in some manner feature the numerals "1935."
not enough for Charlie to build a 1935 Texaco gas station in two weeks and
restore ancient cars to pristine condition. He also collects -- what else?
-- oil cans.
At left is a sample of his collection of 550 and growing oil cans.
Charlie's collection depends in measure on the thoughtful contributions of many
friends. He has documented all the contributions and keeps a master
list in the Texaco station.
What's next for Charlie?
For one thing, he's occupied with this 1949 Champion convertible in throes of
restoration. When it arrived, the brakes were frozen and wouldn't budge.
Charlie is now rebuilding the brakes -- with wheel cylinders from his
neighborhood NAPA, I might add.
Unfortunately, Charlie passed away after a long battle with cancer 2pm, Friday, October 1st, 2010 at his home.
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