Restoring a 1960's Coke Machine!

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About: I'm a Virginia Tech Student studying Ocean Engineering. I'm into a lil' bit of everything I guess.

Hey there!

Every summer a goal of mine is to complete a project so I can have something to say for those "what did you do this summer?" conversations. This year I was able to restore my 60's model Cavalier CSS-64 Coca-Cola machine back to (almost complete) working order with a fantastic new paint job.

Overall this project took about a month and a half with an estimated budget of about $200. I'll try my best to remember and list prices and materials used. Thanks for reading!

I'm entering this Instructable in the Fix-It! contest! If you enjoy it, I'd love to have your vote! Thanks!

Step 1: Figure Out Where to Start

If you're lucky enough to have been given a machine like me, chances are you have absolutely no idea what you've gotten yourself into (I know I was there). Start out by doing some research. After many googling adventures and rabbit holes I found that my machine is a Cavalier CSS-64 model manufactured from 1964-1978. This machine was in a store owned by my great grandmother and is from the 1960's.

Now that I was able to figure out what I had. I needed to know its condition. I started by opening everything up and getting a good look at the rust, mildew, and overall old-ness a coke machine that hasn't been ran in 10 years looks like. I also did some disassembling in this step to get at bigger pieces.

Overall the machine was in pretty good condition compared to what I expected. After some extensive cleaning I was able to get the cooling mechanism to kick on and run which saved me a lot of headaches and made this machine worth fixing in my opinion. Sometime throughout this machines life it had obviously been used for parts to another machine, as many key components inside were missing such as bottle shelves, a light fixture behind some lettering, the coin return handle, and all of the coin mechanisms and bottle release mechanisms. To me, these pieces weren't essential and I continued on anyway.

Step 2: Disassemble

This was the step that I was most scared about. I've never been very good at taking things apart and then putting them back together. I took pictures of most pieces, where they attached and the screws holding everything together to help make it easier on future me. I'd recommend doing that if you don't already have a system in place for keeping organized.

The first door, all of the trim, the bottle door, the refrigeration unit, the bottle rack, most of the rubber seals I could access, and many more smaller pieces all had to come off of the machine. In this step I also started some prepwork, like peeling the wood grain vinyl from the machine and using paint stripper on things which I knew it wouldn't damage.

Step 3: Prepping/Cleaning

This machine was DIRTY. There were spider eggs, bugs, and wasp nests in any exposed areas. Inside, years worth of dust had collected and built up into a thick layer I had to chip off. At some point in this machines life, somebody had spray painted pieces of it brown. Rust was an issue on the bottom of the refrigeration box as well as a few other areas. I realized I had a lot more to do than just give it a quick paint job.

Giving it a good cleaning with paint stripper, goo-gone, dish soap, and whatever other cleaners I could find, I was finally able to start the sanding. I opted to sand the outside of the box and use a thick layer of primer on the machine. Many sections of this machine were too close to seals and components which could be damaged by paint stripper. Pieces which could come off the machine were stripped down to bare metal and then primed with the same primer.

I used some gray spray paint on the inside of the refrigerator section and on pieces that go in there. I chose gray because it wouldn't attract attention through the glass and the paint would help to prevent any future corrosion.

After a few good coats of primer, I opted to paint the entire machine white. This way, the red that I would put on later would have a lighter base and hopefully end up with a brighter look.

Step 4: Painting

For this, I used Rustoleum oil based roll on paints. I chose the brightest red my Home Depot offered for the red, Gloss white for the white sections, and the appropriate primer of the same brand/type. Each can of paint ran about $8-$9 and I used a full can of red, full can of primer, and about 1-3/4 cans of white. I also used some turpentine paint thinner because oil based paints tend to need thinning when rolling on and the appropriate brushes/rollers for oil paints.

I ended up using a can of silver I had from a previous project later to help cover some rust on components visible from the outside but I used a very negligible amount in terms of cost.

Overall, cost to paint the machine was about $50-$60. I chose to keep it simple and roll on oil paints. If you spray paint with cans, with a paint gun, or even use latex paint I'm sure the cost would change so keep that in mind when deciding what to do. I chose oil based paints because they're durable, very forgiving, and they have a great look to them.

Painting began with a layer of white mentioned in the previous step. This provided a great base for my red and I think it helped the overall glow of the red. After marking off the color change with painters tape. I began painting the machine. After many coats and finding a good amount of paint thinner the machine had about 4 layers of paint on it (more or less depending on where it was on the machine). I then painted the doors and front of the machine. Painting overall was the most difficult step, I'd suggest taking your time and working a little at a time. It's very easy to add more paint but difficult to remove paint if you streak it or otherwise damage the finish.

Step 5: Final Paint Layers, Re-assembly.

With this step, I touched up some problem areas and places I missed.

I then started putting the pieces back together and deciding how I wanted the final decals. Re-assembly was pretty straightforward because I had taken pictures and kept everything organized.

Re-assembling the bottle door was the most frustrating part of the machine. A panel of glass (1 of 3) broke while I was disassembling and cleaning it. I later realized it needed to be replaced anyway so I ended up cutting the panel myself and replacing the weather strip foam inside to make up the insulative glass section of the door. Cutting glass is tricky, I'd suggest either buying pre-cut sections of plexiglass online, having someone else do it for you, or not breaking any of the glass to begin with. Either way it was a learning experience and I now know how NOT to cut glass.

Step 6: Adding Bottle Ramps

My machine had been robbed of some key parts including bottle ramps. To fix this I decided to buy a piece of sheet PVC which I could cut ramps out of and set in place. I made them oversized so they could not slide out and drop the bottles.

Sheet PVC is strong enough not to flex while supporting bottles and won't mildew or soak in moisture. It was also easy to come by and cut to shape. The finished bottle ramps were left white and placed in the machine.

Step 7: Finishing Touches!

I've kept all of the small work into this step so the pictures may seem out of order.

This step consisted of:

-cleaning the trim and kick plates, and any exposed metal on the outside of the machine,

- Cleaning the reflective plates behind the Coca-Cola logo, the logo itself, and getting a new light bulb and starter for the light.

-Cleaning and painting little details like the bottle opener. Ordering a new key and lock and first stickers.

-Cleaning the cables inside of the machine to remove any annoying mildew and decay.

-Adding silver to any exposed metal to cover any blemishes.

-Priming the entire underside to help prevent any further corrosion.

-Fixing the plate with the serial number and model on it.

I had some stickers made for me and purchased some stickers online to help complete the machine and those were added over the next few days.

Step 8: Adding Lights

This step is totally optional.

Ironically, I dont drink a lot of coke and bottles are hard to come by and expensive so I prefer just to look at my awesome machine. I suspect that these old cooling systems were not very efficient and in an effort to save some money on my electric bill I added in two LED strips into the machine which I could leave on when the machine is off. They also change color and are remote controlled which I think is pretty cool. These LED strips light up the Coca-Cola logo, coin slot, and bottles within the machine and are routed to follow pre-existing gaps and wire passages so they can be removed at any time without damaging the machine. All of the original lights on the machine work, but they are only on when the machine is running.

Step 9: Finished!

The machine is done! My goal wasn't to restore this machine to near mint. My goal for this machine was to turn this machine, which I had been dragging around with the goal of fixing it for 3 years, into something cool, functional, and unique. I tried to stay true to its roots of being a coke machine by adding logos and stickers to it which fit the brand history. In the future, I may add a coin mechanism and bottle mechanism but for the time being and for convenience I could not be happier with how the machine turned out.

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    21 Discussions

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    UnknownDan

    27 days ago

    What LED strips did you use? I've got the same machine and have been thinking of putting some LEDs in there as well.

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    Tura Street

    6 weeks ago

    This is so cool. My friend would have loved this. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    Teachable

    2 months ago

    When I was a little boy I remember my dad buying me a coke from one of these type machines at an auto repair garage. Good memories.

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    dpulley

    2 months ago on Introduction

    I love this! It takes me back to the early 70's, when I was in elementary school. Every Friday, armed with a dime apiece, our teacher would line us up to walk to the teacher's lounge, where we would each get an ice-cold Coca-Cola. Talk about a treat!!! This is the very same machine we bought our Cokes from, and we thought we were so special!!! Thanx for a great Instructable, and the trip down memory lane.

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    Eh Lie Us!

    3 months ago

    Thanks for posting and providing so much detail. I have a 1977 Cavalier and tried my best to get the inside up and running. The compressor was still good (Thank you!) the bottle dispenser worked well. the only thing gone was the coin mechanism. It's all plastic and something was broken and rattling in side. They told us our future was plastics, right? I ended up rewiring it so all you have to do is press a button and the servo motor moves the dispenser. I use it during our block party during 4th of July. The top 2 racks are always reserved for Coke products but the rest is juice, club soda (we're in California after all) and then beer and more beer. The outside is still wrecked but it has so much darn charm. Great conversation piece. BTW, I love the LED strips.

    One last thing - Where did you get your Diet Coke bottles? I hadn't seen those before.

    2 replies
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    Rykley!Eh Lie Us!

    Reply 3 months ago

    I didn't get any diet coke the bottles in the picture are regular coke, and flavored coke that I got at a local WalMart.

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    Eh Lie Us!Rykley!

    Reply 3 months ago

    Yes, those! I'll cruise the local Wally World to see if they carty those. Thank you.

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    MarkD531

    3 months ago on Introduction

    Your machine looks great. We’ve got three Vendo Coke machines. Just so you know, plastic 16.9oz (.5 liter) bottles will work just fine. We haven’t used our machines for a while now but we mostly kept them loaded with spring water.

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    Rykley!MarkD531

    Reply 3 months ago

    Thanks! I'll have to try that. Right now this is loaded with some bottles cold brew coffees!

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    gm280

    3 months ago

    Nice project. And even though it is not refurbished to factory condition, it is nicely done. You should be proud of your Coke Machine and display it and not hide it from view. Maybe even donate it to some worthy visitor's place where others can enjoy your work. Just a thought.

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    ai4px

    3 months ago

    Could you put a little basket on the side for mini bottles of bourbon? X-) . Looks great!

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    Rykley!ai4px

    Reply 3 months ago

    That sounds like a pretty good idea! Thanks!

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    itsyourmommy

    3 months ago

    Well done, my friend! Minimum expense for max results and further usefulness! BTW, where did you find the PVC sheets? That's a great idea!

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    Rykley!itsyourmommy

    Reply 3 months ago

    The PVC sheets I got from home depot. A worker there suggested them to me when I asked his opinion on replacing the shelves.They're very easy to cut and I'll be using them in many more projects.

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    nealalan

    3 months ago

    This looks so cool! Great job! I think I’d have this loaded with craft beer and be tempted to totally re-logo the machine.

    Leinenkugel has cool graphics and a bunch of different “flavors” of beer. Not to mentioned a 1-of a kind piece.

    Couple questions:
    What made you decide to restore it to Coke instead of replacing the glass with another product? I’m asking since you mentioned not drinking much coke.

    Have you put a kill-a-watt on this? Curious just had much power it uses.

    Did you add any type of breaker to the electrical system? Heard of these old compressors catching fire? Do any research on a new compressor system and if it’s easy to throw in a modern one?

    Did you replace or add any insulation? (Or consider ways of doing it to limit cooling loss?) I know you mentioned not running it often.

    Did you have any work done on the compressor? Have to refill the unit it? Do it yourself?

    Does this unit generate any condensation and have any drain or drip tray or anything like that?

    Thanks for the instructible! Very inspirational!

    1 reply
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    Rykley!nealalan

    Reply 3 months ago

    Thanks! I restored it to coke because that's what it originally was. I had the light display piece that needed some cleaning. Plus I love the look of the red and white.

    I don't know the power usage but the compressor is stock. Other than disassembly, and a lot of cleaning I did no other work to the compressor system. The coolant lines were fully intact and didn't need refilling (They built them well back then!) so I chose to leave them in instead of change the system. I think that there are companies who make modern kits for vintage machines, or you might be able to put in a mini-fridge system in but I knew ahead of time that this would be more of a display piece with occasional uses at parties and gatherings.

    I didn't add any insulation but I did clean the seals and replace the glass panel to hopefully prevent cooling loss. It gets cold quick and seems to hold temperature well as long as the door isn't constantly getting opened. It does generate some condensation and there is a small drip pan underneath the machine that only needed cleaning out to be functional.

    Hope this helped!

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    Phudson38

    3 months ago

    Beautiful job. I have an old 50's Vendo I was planning on doing. Time got away and now I'm just looking for a good home. Would you mind if I included a copy of your instructable to the prospective new parent? Also, do you have any websites or, providers, that were particularly helpful for this project?

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    tomatoskins

    3 months ago

    This is beautiful! Were you able to get the refrigeration system to work?