The Return of Retro Siphoning

As I read the story on ABC.com yesterday, a wave of nostalgia swept over me: "Experts say rising gas prices spur thefts. Industry experts say gasoline theft cost retailers $237 million last year, and this year may be much worse because of the higher prices."

Ah, memories of the '70s. Memories of a gallon of gasoline approaching the price of a gallon of milk. Memories of my father, who taught me to suck gasoline from the tank of our Datsun 310 through a rubber hose to fuel a summer day's lawn mowing, who taught me to siphon unused gasoline from the lawnmower's gas tank and back into the car's at the end of the mowing season.

And of course, memories of skyrocketing reports of gasoline thefts conducted by the same low-tech method. Back in those days, the most popular accessory in the automobile aftermarket was . lockable gas caps.

It all got me to thinking recently about how an investor might profit from the high price of gasoline at the fuel pumps of today. Not just by investing in ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) , but by buying the makers and retailers of lockable gas caps. For although the ABC.com story concerned itself primarily with "pump and flee" thefts of gasoline from filling stations, it stands to reason that where theft by one method resurges, theft by other tried-and-true methods will soon follow. And if hordes of rubber hose-armed bandits descend upon the "mobile filling stations" of suburbia once again, makers and sellers of lockable gas caps might well enjoy a boost in business.

Not surprisingly, few companies prominently advertise the humble gas cap as among their primary manufactures. But I've found a few that appear to be in the business and might be worth looking at.

Both Dana (NYSE: DCN  ) and Standard Motor Products (NYSE: SMP  ) seem likely suspects and could prosper if lockable gas tanks become the new haute couture of the automotive set. Meanwhile, Tomkins (NYSE: TKS  ) subsidiary Stant is the one manufacturer I'm sure makes the gadgets.

An easier way to play this trend, if it re-emerges, would be to invest in retailers that stock gas caps. Here, the usual suspects should work just fine: Pep Boys (NYSE: PBY  ) , Motley Fool Inside Value pick AutoZone (NYSE: AZO  ) , and Advance Auto Parts (NYSE: AAP  ) are all worth consideration.

Of course, the '70s trend of robbing parked cars of their fuel may prove to have been a historical anomaly, and gas siphoning may remain a lost art. In which case, all of these investing ideas will come to naught.

But one thing I know for certain: Once you've got the suction going, stop sucking or you'll wind up with a mouth full of petrol.

To siphon off more petrol-related Foolishness, click here:

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Fool contributorRich Smithdoes not own shares of any company named above.


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