As seen in the January/February 2008 issue of Opulence Magazine
To any automotive enthusiast, the garage is a sanctuary, a warm inviting place to escape life’s daily stresses and indulge a passion for all things automotive. To many, it borders on the religious – a private refuge for like-minded souls dedicated to the automobile. I wanted my garage to have a Mercedes three-pointed star at the front and statues at key locations depicting Dr. Porsche and Carl Benz saving the world, but my long suffering wife thought it was a bit much. I settled for sponge painted walls with black and white checkered floor tile.
A variety of organizational solutions are available that will turn a very ordinary space into the Garaj-Mahal of your dreams. Walk into any motor head’s garage, and you will find all manner of classic cars, tools, spare parts, semi-completed projects, and nice-to-have paraphernalia that define the car person. Disorganized, it takes up valuable workspace, impairs efficiency, creates hazards, and looks uncivilized.
Creating your own temple to the automobile will require time, effort, money, and some discipline, but the results will be very rewarding. Who hasn’t tripped over misplaced hand tools or a tangled air hose on the way to the light switch? Clean and orderly is good. Messy and disorganized is bad.
Decide whether it will be a showplace, a workplace, or a combination of the two. It is not uncommon today to see garage spaces with finishes that rival many home interiors. Start by getting everything off of the main floor area and housed in cabinets or under workbenches. You may elect to build your own if you are handy enough and have the time, or you can choose from a variety of manufacturers that offer custom workbench/cabinet combinations.
Heavier tools such as engine hoists, engine stands, and metal shaping tools should be collapsible or located out of the walk areas when not in use. Place welders on roller carts, making them easy to move to and from work locations. Plumb air compressor supply lines at various work stations or to overhead retractable reels so they remain invisible until needed. Electrical sources can be handled in the same manner.
A good quality roller cabinet, available from a variety of sources depending upon budget, can house hand tools and smaller items. Labelling cabinet doors and drawers really speeds things up when there are large lapses between work activities. Consider moving all non-car hobby items out of the garage and into another area, storage shed, or outbuilding of their own. I witnessed a friend of mine destroy an entire box of his wife’s precious Christmas decorations while rebuilding an engine. He would have been 45 years old next month.
Numerous flooring choices are available from basic concrete paint and do-it-yourself epoxy finishes to interlocking heavy-duty floor tiles. Consider smooth floor finishes that facilitate the movement of heavier items on roller castors. Install plenty of good lighting in all areas of the garage. Insulate and heat your automotive oasis to create a comfortable year round work/show space. Choose a heat source unaffected by harsh chemicals or vapors, which are a constant factor in a working garage. They present a fire hazard. Have a good commercial grade fire extinguisher in a prominent location. Keep a broom, dustpan, and garbage receptacle in a convenient location. A decent audio system and refrigerator for your favourite adult beverages are essential items. Comfortable furniture and a television are icing on the cake.
The absolute Holy Grail of any outstanding home garage has to be a good car lift or hoist. Hobbyists working in their home garages normally spend many hours on their backs working underneath their precious rides. A car lift totally erases most of the hardship and inconvenience associated with this physically demanding activity. Go to any gathering of classic car hobbyists, and you immediately notice those who have a hoist in their garage. They will be upright, relaxed, and talking in reverential tones reserved for places of worship about the benefits of having a good car lift. The others will be hunched over from years of working on their backs and weeping about the fact that they don’t have one.
The importance of quality cannot be overstated when considering the purchase of a lift. Remember, you are going to raise your vehicle into the air and leave it there for an unspecified time frame. You don’t want to worry about your four wheeled work of art crashing to the ground and destroying itself or you in the process. It has happened! Safety in design and integrity of construction are paramount considerations.
An innovative local manufacturer, Lift King, produces an excellent product. Lift King uses high-quality steel welded together with precision. There is no evidence of steel pieces being patched in to make up length or badly executed and unsafe welds. The safety stops for each height level are well engineered. Its lifts are powder coated rather than simply painted, so they resist damage and have a long life. Electric motors and hydraulics raise and lower the lift with either 110-volt or 220-volt electrical connections. Simply position and lock the lift at the appropriate height to work comfortably underneath or along the sides of the vehicle. A minimum 10-foot ceiling height is required.
Best of all, Lift King allows you to store more vehicles in the same amount of space by stacking them. Drive one car on the lift, raise it up to full height, then park another one below it. Lifts are installed complete with drip trays and drip tarps to protect against any leaks from the car above. A two-car garage can become a four car; a four car can become an eight car, and so on, without the expense or space considerations of larger buildings. It is the car hobbyist version of a natural high.
Photo courtesy Ross /Lift King
Special thanks to Ross of Lift King for assistance with this article.