Tools for doing the job
Tools, the right tool for the right job. Makes perfect sense, but sometime you can’t always afford an initial investment in tools. But before you begin a major restoration project there are some tools that you’re going to have to have. And if you’re going to invest in restoring your car you’ll want to
invest in good tools to work with that will last for the long run. So what you’re going to want to look at first is the quality of the tools and even more importantly, is there a replacement policy for the tools you purchase. Sears Craftsman tools are the most widely recommended tools for people who are planning to take up restoration work seriously. These tools come with a lifetime replacement guarantee which is the best on the market. Professional grade tools are nice but they can be expensive and are only sold by dealers, they also may not outlast the less expensive Craftsman tools. With a little luck and some time well spent searching you can locate Craftsman tools at yard sales, flea markets and at shops which may be going out of business and are trying to liquidate their assets. To begin your restoration project you’re going to want to purchase some basic tools to get you started. Keep in mind that some specialty tools such as engine hoists can be rented rather than purchased out right. If you don’t already have some then you’ll need to look into purchasing some basic hand tools including sockets, pry bars, screwdrivers, hammers and assorted pliers. You’re going to need wrenches which should include open and boxed end, adjustable and Allen wrenches. You should also purchase and collection of various punches to complete your initial tool box. Of course you’ll need additional tools and what auto enthusiasts doesn’t love the tools they work with almost as much as the cars they restore. Automotive restoration is a love affair that is almost as old as a love affair with the motorcar itself.
To do restoration work in a serious manner you have to take your tools just as seriously so here are some recommendations for what you’ll need and want in your toolbox. Start with ¼ and 3/8 drive rackets with shallow and deep welled sockets.
The sockets should be in the appropriate sizes to match the vehicle you’re working on so you may want to have sets for both U.S. Standard and Metric. You’ll want a collection of 6-point and 12-point sockets, but bear in mind that while the 12-point sockets are often easier to work with; the 6-point sockets are typically stronger and less likely to round off the edges of the bolt. Additionally, if you’re planning on using air tools remember to use sockets designed to withstand the increased pressure and strength. If you’re just beginning to restore collector cars you may want to start off working with the standard hand tools to help you develop a feel for how much pressure is needed to avoid damaging parts or injuring yourself. Patience and planning in advance are the keys to performing a positive and safe restoration job. Restoration should be a systemic process and professionals recommend that you work with one part at a time. There are several reasons for this advice, if you’re just starting out it’s less of a task to work with one piece at a time and gives you some experience without having an entire car spread out across your workspace. It makes the likelihood of losing parts or forgetting how they go back together less of a risk. Also in the event you have to relocate your project you can easily pack everything up and move. Wrenches are a staple tool for restoring or even simply working on cars so you’ll need to equip your toolbox with a good assortment of these tools. Again as with the sockets you’ll want a collection of wrenches in the proper measurements to fit the vehicle you’re working on. There are various types and style of wrenches available and you should include opened end, boxed end, and numerous gooseneck and specialty wrenches because there will be times when a wrench of some sort will be the only tool you can get into a tight space. Adjustable wrenches of various lengths should also be in your toolbox. Don’t forget to include Allen wrenches as well, remember that Allen wrenches also are crafted in U.S. Standard and Metric so include sets of both in your shop. Slotted head and Phillips screwdrivers are another hand tool you’ll need on a regular basis. Screwdrivers come in several different lengths and widths and you’ll want to purchase an assortment of these tools for your shop. In addition to these standard screwdrivers, you’ll also want to include Torx drivers, which are like screwdrivers but have a star shaped head. They are used on several makes of collector cars manufactured since mid-1980. Special Torx drivers are needed on bolts designed with a tamper proof stud in the middle.
Next you’ll want an assortment of pliers, including Channel locks, Vise Grips and hooked nosed pliers to list a few. These types of pliers are helpful when you have to deal with unusual situations or rounded off bolts. Vise Grips are designed to lock into place which is very useful if you need both hands free. Other types of pliers will include items like side cutters and wire strippers for electrical work.
Included in your standard tool chest should be pry bars for removing and installing parts. These should be actual pry bars that are designed to stand up to the task. Using a long screwdriver rather than a pry bar can cause damage to your collector car or injury to you. Again the right tool for the right job is much more effective and safer. Finally you’ll want to include such items as hacksaws, alignment punches and metal files.
Hand tools are important but they are not the only types of tools you’ll be using in your collector car restoration. To complete your restoration project you’re going to need some additional tools, like an electric drill, floor jacks and sturdy car stands. Along with the drill you’ll want some sharp drill bits and several wire brush attachments, for cleaning small parts. For electrical work you’ll want to include a soldering gun, a roll of
50/50 solder and flux. If you intend to take up restoration full time you may want to consider constructing a sturdy body dolly in the event your projects call for an off frame restoration. These types of dolly can be constructed inexpensively from lumber and can be custom built to fit the collector car you’re working on. Some other optional items you might want to consider include, a dental pick, retractable magnet, face mask or goggles, assorted clamps, a rival gun and rivets. Some very detailed restorers will replace missing or damaged rivets with ones from the original collector car manufacturer when possible. This isn’t meant to be a complete list of the tools you’ll need, additional specialty tools may be required for specific types of jobs like sheet metal work, refinishing and painting and detailed trim work to mention a few. Some of these jobs you may be able to do yourself, other you may have to contract out. In either case, take the time to learn about how these jobs are done if you want to develop your skills to a point where you can accomplish it all yourself.
Finding a home for your project
When you’re working on a restoration project you always want to bear in mind ways to keep your expenses to a minimum, this is especially true when you’re considering where to do the work. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a readily available fully equipped shop already,
which is unlikely, then you’re going to have to carefully consider your options for locating a suitable shop. You want the work to be done safely and in a comfortable environment. You’re going to need enough space to work and store your tools and your car. You’re also going to need a space that is warm and well ventilated so plan out where you’re going to work in advance of starting your project. Another thing you’ll have to consider is noise, because you don’t want to step into a long term project just to discover that your work is causing unwanted problems with your neighbors. So just like selecting the right car to restore you also have to select the right place to do the work. If you’re going to have to spend a great deal of time knocking out dents or doing other tasks which will result in loud noises than you’re better off from the start by selecting a good place to work. Ideally you’ll want an indoor area with plenty of good lighting, adequate heating and cooling, proper ventilation and organized storage space.
As for the size of your work space, it’s best if the enclosed area is at least the size of a two car garage, anything smaller and you’ll be cramped. Depending on how much of the car is going to be disassembled during your restoration project, you may well have an engine over here and a fender over there and so on. You’re not going to do yourself any favors if you don’t have adequate space to do the job properly.
If you don’t have to worry about bothering the neighbors in the middle of the night and you have a two car garage available then you’re well on your way to starting your restoration project. But if that’s not the case you might want to take some time to consider an alternative. If you
have the resources available consider having a steel building constructed on a concrete pad. There are several models of pre-fabricated metal buildings available on the market and you can have them custom built to suit your needs. If you’re going to go to the expense of having a shop built, you may want to consider having an add-on attached for your paint shop. This area will need its own ventilation system and additional lighting. Lighting is very important to the overall task of restoring a collector car. Without a good source of light you might not discover tiny pings, scratches and dents until you have the car out in the light of day. There’s nothing more disheartening to a restorer than to spend so much time and effort working on a collector car only to pull it out of the shop and discover the work isn’t finished. Install florescent shop lights throughout the shop and it’s also a good idea to install some on the walls or near the floor to add lighting for detail body and paint work. Drop lights are another way to provide lighting in your work area, but avoid using trouble lights because they utilize an incandescent light bulb which can burst and ignite if sprayed with gasoline or other combustible fluids. You’ll need plenty of storage space in your shop area. A good way to save money on this is to construct the shelving yourself from lumber scraps. Build the shelves in an otherwise unused part of your shop when possible. Another cost saving idea is to use old kitchen or bathroom cabinets for storage space and work benches. You can often find these at yard sales, flea markets or maybe you have family and friends who are remodeling who simply want to dispose of the old cabinets. Who knows, maybe those neighbors you’re trying to avoid bothering are remodeling. If you’re not in a position to have a shop built you can look into renting work space from local mechanic or body shop. Do you have a friend or neighbor who has a space you can rent or use in exchange for help with one of their projects? Check and see if there is a local car club in your area and if so meet with some of the members. Many car clubs provide classes and workshops on collector car restoration and the members often work with each other on projects. When you consider all the different systems and parts on a single car you’ll quickly
realize that having help is always a bonus. Attention to detail, hard work and patience will pay off in the long run when you’re working on restoring a collector car.