Setting up a Garage for Classic Car Owners

Space, Tools, Workbench and more

classic car garage setup and equipment


THE LIMITED SIZE of the average private garage means that once a car is housed, the only place usually left for the workbench is against a wall at the end of the garage. The workbench is the focal point of the motorist's workshop—a surface on which to repair components or to lay down tools during work on the car. It is essential that the bench is well lit—preferably by natural light through a window, but by carefully positioned artificial light if there are no windows.

Workbench Setup & Vice

Workbench and mechanic's vice A good workbench should be sturdy and easy to use. Two designs which fulfil these requirements are illustrated on pp. 24, 25 and 26, with details of their construction. A cheaper alternative is to use a solid door, at least 122 in. thick, covered on one side with in. plywood. Doors of this kind, measuring 6 ft 6 in. long and about 30-36 in. wide, can often be bought at a demolition site. The framework to support a door can be made from soft-wood, although Dexion, a system of metal brackets and girders which can be bolted together, is easy to erect and stronger. The most necessary piece of workbench equipment is a vice; and the best height for the bench is one which brings the top of the vice level with the elbow of the person using it. If the garage floor is concrete, a wooden duckboard will make for warmer feet in winter, and the thickness of the duckboard should be allowed for when planning the height of a bench. Buy the best vice you can afford, making sure that it has jaws at least 4 in. wide. Vices have two kinds of base fittings, fixed or swivelled. A swivel-based vice is more expensive, but it can cope with awkward shapes and sizes of material. Soft jaws—pads of hard fibre can he fitted to the jaws of some vices so I hat an object can he gripped firmly without damage. The pads are inn range 4)I. sites and HIV mounted on steel slip on VIM,

Lighting and socket outlets

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the end of the garage, where they will not put the car's engine compartment in shadow when the bonnet or boot is opened. A wandering-lead light is essential for work thine under the car, or to provide concentrated areas of light in the engine compartment. A useful alternative is a hinged desk lamp which can be angled into almost any position. Provide 13 amp. switched socket outlets near the bench for electrical appliances—the power drill, soldering iron, battery charger and heaters. Check that all sockets are earthed; that cables have the capacity to deal with the equipment used ; and that each appliance is fitted with a fused plug. An extension lead is invaluable for vacuum-cleaning the interior of the car, or for using power tools when the car is out of the garage.

Ventilation and heating

Unless a garage is adequately ventilated, usually by airbricks in the walls, condensation will corrode the inside of the car and damage bodywork and carpets if it is sealed for a long period of time, even over a single winter. An undersump heater which is similar to a small paraffin heater will reduce condensation and keep the engine oil warm enough to make starting easier. Another form of heater, which is fitted inside the car's cooling system and works like an immersion heater, can be plugged into the mains at night. This heater warms the water in the radiator and so simplifies starting in cold weather.

Inspection pit

More common in the 1960s and 70s than today. An inspection pit is ideal for working under a car, but is expensive to build and needs to he properly drained and well lit. It should be just wide enough 10 provide a comfortable working space and at least 60(1 mm. (2 It) longer Ihan the longest car likely to use it. This length is essential to provide a quick means of escape.


Ramps of this length are suitable for most cars. If longer ramps are used, it is difficult to crawl between them from the side of a car and they are heavier to move into position. Treat the ramps with a preservative.

Storage of tools

In a damp garage, tools are best kept in an airtight metal box. They should be cleaned off after use and wiped with an oily rag to protect them from corrosion. With a dry, well-ventilated garage, it is more convenient to leave those tools which are used regularly on a board within easy reach of the bench, or on tool racks fixed to the wall. This makes it easy to check that tools are in their place and not left under the car or on the radiator. A forgotten spanner that falls on to the fan can cause considerable damage to the engine.

Designs for simple tool racks are on p. 26. Shelf space is always valuable in a garage. The Spur shelving used in the small garage illustrated has two 1525 mm. (5 ft) long uprights plugged to the wall, with 125 mm. (5 in.) metal brackets supporting softwood shelves. A small metal cabinet with a series of plastic drawers is useful for storing screws,
nuts and washers.

Metal cabinets are made in various sizes and patterns. The one on the bench in the larger garage is 300 mm. (12 in.) long 160 mm, (6+ in.) high and 145 mm. (5* in.) from front to back. A roll of tissue on a wall bracket near the bench is useful for mopping up spilt fluids and cleaning excess grease off components. A kitchen roll and wall bracket can be bought from most stores.

Fire precautions

If petrol is kept in a private garage, its storage must comply with the regulations laid down by the Home Office. No more than 5 litres (2 gallons) may be kept; they must be kept in a metal container, secure against leakage and breakage, and be marked Petrol. A licence to keep additional quantities of petrol can be obtained on application to the local authority.

There are no restrictions governing the storage of paraffin or the bottle gas used for blowlamps. It is worth keeping a fire extinguisher, besides the one you may have in the car, and a bucket of sand near the door. Keep the floor of the garage free of oil or grease stains. If grease patches develop, use a de-greasing fluid to emulsify the grease. Wash away with water.,

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