A while back, we brought you the story of Joe Cook and his amazing vintage spark plug collection. Now, meet Fred Stoke, whose automotive curiosity is all about the oil can.
Stoke’s Santa Rosa, California ranch is where vintage car buffs wish they could retire. It’s a detailed recreation of a small American town complete with a bell steeple church, fire barn, restored 1920s service station and a faux general store that serve as a charming backdrop for the many antique and vintage car shows held there throughout the year. But the top attraction just might be his massive vintage oil can collection housed in the general store. At 10,000-strong, it’s quite possibly the largest one-quart oil can in the world.
Stoke “grew up in the grease” as the son of an auto shop owner. Naturally, he became an adept mechanic at a young age and took a keen interest in not only fixing cars, but driving them, too – fast. Throughout the 1960s, Stokes was an avid drag racer and today still rebuilds and restores amazing vintage hotrods.
But somewhere along the line, he developed a fascination with the colorful cans that held the lifeblood of all the cars he raced, repaired and loved. Lining shelves by the hundreds, they come in a variety of shapes and styles, from simple cylindrical disposable cans opened with a church key to cans with hemisphere bases and tapered straight spouts to more intricately designed cans with handles and push-buttons. Stoke’s collection also includes a selection of oil bottles. Yes, bottles.
“This is the way oil used to be distributed, in the bottles in the old days,” Stoke says, pointing to a row of metal spout-topped glass bottles in an episode of Snap Shots, a show produced in Sonoma County, California and posted on YouTube. “But they used to cheat on them because they could just go out back and put any kind of oil in them.”