One of the more memorable scenes in the 1985 film “Back to the Future” was when young Marty McFly, recently transported to the year 1955, saw a full-service gas station for the first time.
He stood in disbelief as uniformed attendants scrambled to service a car that had just pulled up to the pumps.
A similar scene looked just as out of place in Beverly Hills this week: full service taking place for some vintage cars, along with vintage prices for gas.
“People can come in and fill the tank in their classic car for the price of a gallon in the year their car was new. So for example, for 1960 you’re looking at about 30 cents a gallon,” said Jonathan Klinger, marketing manager for Hagerty Insurance, which put on the event.
The whole idea was to celebrate Collector Car Appreciation Day, a day recognized by the U.S. Senate each year. Hagerty Insurance specializes in classic cars, so the event is a perfect one for them to promote.
“It’s the seventh year for it, and it happens on a Friday in July every year. And it’s all about celebrating the cars. This is such an important part of our nation’s culture, history, and heritage, and especially right here in Southern California,” added Klinger.
Jay Davenport brought his 1961 Cadillac from Alhambra, and filled up for 31 cents per gallon, the price when his car was new. The total for his gasoline purchase was $2.48.
Various other cars rolled in during the three-hour event to take advantage of long-ago gas prices. Duane Hinkle came from El Segundo in his 1929 Ford Model A and paid a whopping 20 cents per gallon.
All the while, employees of Hagerty Insurance – dressed for the job like period gas-station attendants – cleaned windshields and offered refreshments.
Fittingly, the retro car event took place at the Googie-style Unocal 76 station at the corner of Santa Monica and Crescent in Beverly Hills. The iconic building with its swooping canopies was built in 1965, and the stand-out design worked as a perfect setting for the celebration of wheels from the past.
“It really comes down to the fact that this is a community,” Klinger said. “It’s a community of people who love these cars, and they have a lot of stories to share.”
Of course, there was one nod to modern-day realities, besides the unleaded fuel that came about after most of the cars were built. The low-priced transactions took place with help from credit-card readers attached to smartphones.