Article by Mark Trotta
I have known one or two determined souls that have restored cars in their driveway or under a carport, but it's not very practical nor efficient. You need an enclosed area to restore an old car. Automotive restoration is hard enough to begin with, why make it harder?
A car is comprised of many, many parts: engine, transmission, brakes, fenders, doors, trim, seats, exhaust, tires, wheels, etc. In the perfect world (that none of us live in), a three or four bay shop would be ideal. This would allow plenty of room for a full body-off restoration, a dedicated paint area, and extra space for removed parts (seats/upholstery/etc).
But let's be realistic and work with what we have.
Restoring A Car In A Small Garage
Lots of car enthusiasts have restored cars in a one-car garage. What you lack in floor space, you make up for in creativity. One advantage of a small garage is that it's easier to heat or cool.
Best Size Garage For Old Car Restoration
40 years ago, I started restoring cars in my parent's one-car garage. It was challenging, but I was a determined young man. Today, I have a two-car garage. It's 24' x 24' and it's still too small...
I guess you could say my garage is old school. There's no lifts or rotisseries, just a pair of floor jacks and four jack stands that get the job done. I've been working this way for decades and it's produced some good (and profitable) results.
After tools and a toolbox, a sturdy workbench (or two) is the most important piece of a work shop.
Before you buy a workbench, consider building one yourself. I built mine from lengths of 2"x4" and a piece of 3/4" plywood.
Cutting, grinding, painting, polishing, inflating - a home air compressor makes these chores possible. While shopping for a garage air compressor, try to buy the best one you can afford. Get one that you won't outgrow quickly.
Safety First and Always
When working in your garage workshop, please be safe. Proper protective equipment includes safety glasses with side shields, hearing protection, and gloves. When cutting and grinding metal, wear a face shield.
Wear safety glasses anytime you're drilling or cutting. Many times you will need to feel something with your bare hands. For the rest of the time you should be wearing gloves (there's several different types).
I keep several fire extinguishers around the garage, and there is a small first-aid kit on top of my toolbox. I also keep oil-dry handy - who hasn't spilled oil all over the garage floor at one time or another?
Read: Best Air Tools For Automotive
Read: Best Welder For Automotive Restoration
Before I bought this rolling seat for the garage, I was kneeling or squatting to get into work position. Now I can sit and be comfortable, and take pressure off my knees and lower back.
Read: Rolling Garage Chair Review
There is enough padding in this kneeling pad to cushion a 200+ pound size person. I also use it as a butt pad.
Shop: Mechanics Kneeling Pad
Classic car restoration is very time-consuming. Having the right tools saves you time and sweat. You'll also want to set up your garage as effectively as possible.
Read: Tools Needed For Automotive Restoration
Best Workshop Layout
It's taken me years to set up my garage the way it is today, and it's still not the best that it can be. Why? Because projects and priorities change. By organizing tools and shop equipment the best we can, we can work faster and get that old car back on the road sooner!
Set Up Garage Workshop
Garage Air Compressor Review