Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 20%Subscribe NOW
Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith
For any classic car owner, a garage is Heaven on earth. So why are so many just junk room hell with a car stuck in the middle? Make it a New Year resolution to make the most of yours and work smarter, safer – and better!
Too many classic lovers think purely of the car when embarking upon a project. And yet before you even wield a spanner, you must make your working environment as comfortable and safe as possible. That’s right, we’re talking about your garage – that outhouse that you’re so ashamed of every time you open the door!
Sadly, you’re not alone in this respect and yet there’s nothing worse than a draught-ridden, damp lock up to ruin a restoration – or your resolve. A good well planned out garage is a joy to behold and, best of all, you don’t need to spend a fortune to turn yours into a professional looking workshop that Red Bull’s F1 team would be proud of!
Alas, too many of us hate to spend a penny on the place and use every shortcut going. It’s a false economy and you should view any expense as a worthwhile investment for years to come.
Third world war
It’s estimated that less than 25 per cent of motorists use their garages for their proper purpose. Putting the sheer size and girth of a modern to one side, the trouble is that garages are a permanent magnet for junk and spill-overs from the house.
Now, you’re not going to be popular in 2017 but you must reclaim your garage! Anything not car-related ideally must be re-housed, perhaps into a new shed, not only to optimise space, but also prevent accidents or damage by other members of the family using it – so, if possible, out goes the freezer, tumble drier, kid’s bikes or fishing gear… Good luck!
After a good clear out you’ll be amazed at just how much extra space you’ve liberated by being so ruthless and unpopular. If you can’t have it all your own way, special wall brackets, for example, to remove items away from the floor, are the next best thing.
Use natural light to the max. Grey is probably the best colour for the floor with either Brilliant White or Magnolia for the walls and ceiling. Not only does it look clean and smart, it also reflects light plus is easy to keep clean. If you do paint the floor (and this will help keep dust down) only use proper garage floor paint, but if you want the ultimate try out the new floor tiles which are becoming popular. These interlocking PVC tiles are easy to lay, take up and clean plus they keep the warmth in. Typically it costs around £350 for decks out an average single garage and perhaps £650 for a double unit. And they look really great too, unlike some old flowery carpet which will soon deteriorate and look horrid.
Part of the furniture?
Hands up all those who fill their garages with old domestic furniture – such as kitchen cupboards – for storage purposes? That’s just about everybody… Well, don’t waste space by having old ideas and furniture dictate your new look garage! Don’t dream it, do it, starting from a clean piece of paper – or rather floor. Park your car in the centre, choosing the optimum working position. If possible, draw a chalk line around the vehicle making it a ‘no-go’ area. Unless your garage is wider than average, the sides should be left clear.
Your challenge (and believe us, it will be one!) is to use this space to best effect. You may think this next idea is overkill, but a dedicated workshop installer (or even an interior designer) may find novel ways of freeing up a lot of extra hidden space you wouldn’t even think of, and all for a nominal fee. In fact a fresh outlook may liberate so much added room that you’ll think twice about that garage extension you were considering and so save thousands of pounds in return – to spend on lovely tools or even the other half if you must…
Old cast-off office furniture, such as filing cabinets, work a treat while floor-toceiling shelving such as Dexion is extremely versatile and adaptable, but you can go the whole hog and have a fully professional set-up installed from the likes of Dura that really makes you proud of your workshop – if you have any money left over from Christmas, that is! Even if you can’t afford their stunning wares, obtain a copy of the numerous catalogues for some inspiration.
A good sturdy workbench is a must and the centre of any DIY workshop as old furniture, which most of us use, is rarely strong enough or durable enough for hard use. Ideally, a bench should be framed with draws and cupboard space or an open area to store jacks and axle stands. For this reason, proper professional benches are money well spent.
In an ideal world we would all have those lovely SnapOn tool cabinets to look like an F1 mechanics but can cost more than some of the classics we own! A simple five-tray cantilever toolbox suffices, but it’s far better to have a peg-board fixed to the wall with tools neatly laid out in order by the bench like a pro. With each tool in place, use a permanent marker to draw silhouettes around them. At the end of the working day, you can tell exactly which tool is missing at a glance. Alternatively, you can buy a board ready-made for around £40, while fully selfcontained cabinets start from around £120.
New for old
It may seem an extravagance but tearing down the old for a new purpose-built garage is actually quite sensible because it allows you start from scratch as opposed to suffering with a compromise. There are some fantastic modern designs and styles in steel and fibreglass. Check out www. hansonsteelbuildings.co.uk for instance where a typical, good sized ‘double’ costs around £7000 fully erected.
How about a pre-fab? Granted, they don’t boast the benefits of a proper brick out house, but so long as you have the land for a concrete base, then you can buy one as a flat pack for a couple of thousand pounds. Add some light (even an extension lead from the house as and when required will suffice) and you’re away. Bear in mind though that before you even think about constructing a permanent garage, you must consult your local authorities for approval and planning permission. If that’s a non starter, then a carport is one preferred alternative. These are much cheaper than a full-blown lock up (typically starting at around £800-£1000) and provide much needed shelter although you will still be at the mercy of the elements
Another alternative if there’s no room to expand, is to use the garage for car storage and have spacious a shed or workshop build – prices start from £2995 for 10x6 foot shed and £3750 for a 10x8’6” workshop; a fair alternative if you haven’t a garage for whatever reason.
What about a temporary one then? Again, there are some innovative designs on the market that are ideal for short term storage, such as the winter months and they don’t require planning permission either. They start with glorified ‘super tents’ and go all the way to stylish GRP shells, all their own flooring. You can protect your classic for as little as £400 (Hamilton Classics) . Called Auto Pod, it’s a fully-enclosed outdoor shelter made of a lightweight fabric which is both weather and UV resistant. It has a tough PVC floor and there are vents in each corner to allow air to circulate and inhibit condensation. The steel and fibre pole frame is simple to construct, and it has supporting guy lines to offset heavy weather. The large zipped door provides access, and there are also three smaller doors. The size of 7.3m x 3.5m is enough for most classics and while they aren’t really suitable for major repair work make for passable workshops for light maintenance once you add some temporary lighting.
An alternative is a sealed cover, along the lines of a Carcoon, Auto Storm (autopyjama.co.uk) PermaBag or Cair O Port, which not protects your classic from the outside environment but also provides a conditioned atmosphere to ward off temperature and humidity issues.
The absolute minimum is a good car cover where the days of a simple tarpaulin are replaced by tailor-made stretch fabric ‘coats’ which are as much as a style statement where you can have a cover made up to replicate what’s underneath it!
Highs and lows
Once you’ve used a pit, you wonder why and how you ever struggled on your back before! MechMate, displayed at numerous car shows, markets a one-piece fibreglass shell that makes under-car work bliss. Breaking up the concrete and digging out the earth is a real back breaker, but costs nothing although a local builder may not charge much. Just be careful of any electric/gas/water/drains that may be unearthed during the excavation.
If you can’t go down, look up! Specialist axle stands, ramps, lifts and body rollers can do the same job at less cost. We’ve been using trying a body roller, marketed by CJ Autos (01706 367 649) for years, and it works a treat. In fact in certain respects it’s better than a pit or ramp as it allows you to work at normal height; the only problem is the space needed (at least 2.5 metres) to enable the roller (which can be powered) to turn the car on its side. Prices start from just a few hundred quid.
Or how about a hydraulic lift? There are a number of reasonably priced two-post electric lifts that run off domestic 240v mains power and make working underneath a car a doddle. We know of one enthusiast with a high-ceiling garage who installed one to store two classic cars (one up, one down) saving him the cost of building a double garage to accommodate his cars plus has a lift at his disposal. Strongman Tools, of Warcs, markets a two post lift with manual operation for £1550 or £2200 for the electric-powered alternative.
If a lift is a bit too much for you, then consider some of the ‘super’ jacks and ramps that are available from the likes of CJ Autos and Restoration Ramps. There are certain types that you drive on and it raises the entire car by a useful amount for added work space and the next best thing to a proper working pit and lift, like the Strongman ‘Chepstow 2.8 ton mobile scissor lift at £1650. Bear in mind that, you often see second-hand machinery on sale and although none are cheap, all will pay for themselves over the years in saving time, money and toil.
This review has 0 comments - Be the first!
Leave a comment
Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.