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Choosing a 1950s Classic Soda Machine to Restore

Vendo 81 Coca-Cola Soda Machine

Vendo 81 Coca-Cola Soda Machine

Back when we were in the restoration business the items we restored most were soda machines. The model we restored most often was the Coca-Cola Vendo 81. The reasons that made it our best seller are the same reasons you should consider it if you are planning on spending the time and money to restore an old soda machine.

A little background. The Vendo 81 was manufactured between 1954 and 1959. We are talking about the round top mechanical coin mechanism models here. Vendo used the 81 model number into the sixties but those machines have square tops and electrical coin mechanisms and are not as desirable as the 1950’s machines. The number 81, like most old soda machines, refers to the number of bottles the machine can hold.

Why an 81 ?

  • Size – The Vendo 81 is a relatively small machine measuring 58H x 27W x 16D and weighs in at 286 lb… Compared to the monsters you see these days it is tiny and fits nicely in your home or office.
  • Variety – The Vendo 81 has nine shelves so you can have up to nine different flavors to choose from when you open that glass bottle door. Most early Coke machines vend one size bottle and flavor and that is Coke.
  • Versatility – The shelves on the 81 are adjustable so you can fit different sized bottles including long neck beer bottles. Most early Coke machines vend one size bottle and that is the 6.5 oz. bottle of you guessed it Coke.
  • Esthetics – It is a great looking machine.
Vendo 81 Interior

Vendo 81 Interior

Now if all you drink is Coca-Cola and you want to restore a single selection model such as the Vendo 44 or 39 that would be fine except that Coca-Cola changed the size of the 6.5 oz bottles and they won’t vend in the old machines.

Vendo produced three different 81 models.

  • The 81A which was painted all red and had a smaller version of the Coca-Cola embossing as the next model the 81B.
  • The 81B’s embossing on the front was much bigger and looks much more proportioned. It was painted in the familiar two color scheme White top, about a quarter of the machine, separated with a strip of chrome trim with the lower section in red. Both models have what is referred to as a small coin door.
  • The 81D is the newest model, large embossing on the front, two tone paint scheme but it has what is referred to as a large coin door. This was needed because the coin mechanism was able to give change so it was larger and more complex.
Vendo 81B Coke Machine

Vendo 81B Coke Machine

What happened to the 81C ? I’m not sure. For some reason Vendo skipped over the C.

Vendo 81’s are getting harder to find but not impossible. Look for a good solid machine with no major dents and rust. The money you think you are saving buying a beat up machine you will spend on extra body work and paint. It should be complete also, some parts are impossible to find.

If Coca-Cola is not your thing the 81 is also available in Pepsi, Royal Crown, 7-Up and a generic (non embossed) that was used by Dr. Pepper. These machine were manufactured by VMC. They are virtually the same machine with only slight differences (I’m not sure what the connection was between the two companies). Keep in mind that VMC 81’s are significantly more expensive, with the 7-Up and Royal Crown machines being very rare.

Royal Crown VMC 81 Soda Machine

Royal Crown VMC 81 Soda Machine

7Up VMC 81 Soda Machine

7Up VMC 81 Soda Machine

Pepsi-Cola VMC 81 Soda Machine

Pepsi-Cola VMC 81 Soda Machine

Dr Pepper VMC 81 Soda Machine

Dr Pepper VMC 81 Soda Machine

Do you own, or plan to obtain, a vintage soda machine? We’d love to hear your story.

Last updated: August 29, 2013
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  • Nate Knapp

    They didn’t skip the C. I own one…

  • mikes

    where can I find a vend 81D cheap for my back porch It doesn’t need to be restored just working?

  • Garydinowitz

    I can get you a restored Vendo 81 for $3000


  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XE4XZ5OZNLR3P7GMQ26QOCW5AQ Roy H

          Which Models can you get for $3k restored? and how much extra would shipping be?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GHDRFH27SW2NSHKS5VNKVFIVJA J

    Looking for one a Royal Crown vending machine, any kind, in restorable shape.

  • Cbalderrama76

    Looking for Vendo 81 Dr Pepper machine, restored.

  • John

    Looking for advice and resources on how to restore my Cavalier CS-64=C. It’s been a few years, but the compressor works, door bent a bit (someone tried to pry it open at one time), and want to make sure electrical (does work) will not pose a hazard.  Someone told me not to try and restore if myself, esp. paint, but just wash, wax and use.  Anyone able to help?  JOHN

  • Johnmillikin

    I have a dr pepper 81 works great, original. 4500.00 jack


     I HAVE A CROSS 858 (ILL) 64-88 IF YOU ARE STILL INTERESTED 517-851-8757

  • linda

    I have an antique chest style 7-up machine (takes 5 cents) a bottle – the old glass ones that slide through the rack and come out.  I am selling it if anybody is interested in it. Needs a new electric cord. 208-317-1012 if interested.

  • Carl Hofer

    Can a Vendo 81 vend new 20 ounce bottles?

  • GENE

    I have a 81 b, 1957, with a good working compresser and it looks pretty good also, it was used at OSU to cool beer, I would let it go for $500.00 as I have no place for it any more.

  • john

     any pics do u still have, where are you located

  • Brad

    Hi Gene – If you still have the 81b, give me a call (612-363-5896) as I’m definitely interested.



  • http://www.facebook.com/benjamin.edge1 Benjamin Edge

    Which Vendo Coke machines dispensed the 16-oz glass bottles?

  • http://www.retroplanet.com/ Retro Planet

    Hi, Benjamin!

    The 16 oz bottles were introduced in 1962. By that time all the ’50s style machines (and earlier) were no longer produced. In the ’60s they moved to the box-style machines that had square edges.

    Some say that the 81 can take “some” 16 oz bottles, but I was unable to find out exactly which ones.

    I’m going to give a shout to Keith, too, as he may have more information.

  • Brandon Rogers

    Wondering if this still available. Please contact me at zaxxon216@yahoo.com. I am very interested Thank you


  • Darren

    Anyone have pictures and instructions on how to connect linkage so the 81b will use dimes to vend??? The person I bought this from made the machine so you could just pull the bottles out without using dimes. Coin mech is there but the linkage on door is gone. Please help!!!

  • maine coke 1

    I will pay you well for the 81c. Name your price Call me or text 860-209-1088 Justin

  • Danny

    I am restoring a Vendo 110 and need all the racks for the machine. I am in SC. Let me know what you have. dagdag55@bellsouth.net