Article by Mark Trotta
You need an enclosed area to restore an old car. 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. Old car 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 garage space, you make up for in creativity.
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 (profitable) results.
After tools and a toolbox, a sturdy workbench (or two) is the most important piece of shop equipment. Before you buy a workbench, consider building your own. I built mine from lengths of 2x4's 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, foam ear plugs, 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
There is enough padding in this kneeling pad to cushion a 200+ pound size person (like me). I also use it as a butt pad.
Shop: Mechanics Kneeling Pad
Best Workshop Layout
It's taken me years to set up my garage the way it is today. By organizing tools and shop equipment, you can work faster and get that old car back on the road sooner.