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Car Restoration and Antique Car Collecting Part 5:

Tools and Equipment you man need.
by Vic Donnell

Let’s start with basic mechanic’s tools. These tools will get a lot of use, so they need to be good ones. I like Craftsman because they are good, they are guaranteed for life, and they are easy to find at Sears and at most of the swap meets in our area. There are other quality brands as well. Don’t buy cheap “made in China” tools. These tools will get a lot of hard use so buying cheap means you get to buy the same tools over and over. How much is enough? That depends on how you use them and whether you can keep up with them. I have more than two complete sets of combination wrenches, ¼ inch to 1 1/8 inch plus several micro sets for use in distributors. I also have sets of metric wrenches for fitting odd sizes of fasteners. I have two ½ inch socket sets 3/8 inch to 1 1/8 inch plus two 3/8 inch drive socket sets plus one 1/8 inch drive socket set, plus numerous extra sockets. I have a ¾ drive socket set and two torque wrenches. I have hammers from tack to 4 pound, including claw, ball peen, and dead fall. And I have a bucket full of every kind of screw driver known to man. I break a lot of those. That’s what some of the hammers are good for. I’ve also got two bench vices and lots of vice grips and small vices. They are for holding the stuff you’re going to break. You’ll need a nice roll around tool cabinet for containing these tools and for moving them around the shop. Now you probably have most of this stuff or you wouldn’t be reading this article. So, let me go on to some of the more special stuff.

I have two drill presses and a large supply of drill bits and a drill doctor machine for sharpening bits. I have recently sold a 13x36 inch machine lathe that I used more than once to make or reshape parts. I have a J head Bridgeport milling machine that I can use to break almost anything I try to repair. I have, in fact, fabricated some useful parts for some of my projects. You can break a lot of stuff and still come out cheaper than having a machine shop set up for the project.

The most frequently used tool in my arsenal is my air compressor. If you’re going to paint, you will need an air compressor of at least 2 hp. If you are going to use pneumatic tools like I do, you will need a compressor of at least 5 hp, two stage, with at least a 60 gallon tank.

If you’re going to do sand blasting of big pieces like the entire car or the chassis, you may need a larger storage tank or even a higher horsepower compressor than a 5 hp. I have managed to get by for the last 30 or so years with the 5 hp and 60 gallon tank. I do have to take frequent breaks to allow the compressor to catch up.

For special needs, I have a car lift which is extremely useful. When you get older, you’ll see that it’s a lot easier to raise the car up and down than it is to get up and down to work under the car.

I have a valve grinding station that has been useful over the years for valve maintenance on my cars and several others. I have a special set of gear and wheel pullers by Snap-on. You can’t do brake or bearing work on prewar cars without some of these pullers.

I have a bead blast cabinet for cleanup of small parts. This is probably my second most used tool in the shop.

I have a twenty ton press and a small screened in room on the porch for sand blasting. I have one room ventilated and configured for painting. There’s room for the whole car. I use only paint equipment rated for professional use. If you buy cheap in this equipment, you will never be satisfied with the result.

I’ve got two electric bench grinders with stones and wire wheels plus a buffer for polishing metals.

When I did my last and most complex restoration, I used a rotisserie for the entire car. The need for this tool may become apparent when you get started. Mine is now in the hands of Joe Peter. You can visit his shop to see this tool in operation.

Did I mention the library. I have two sets of lawyer book cases filled with reference books and manuals for early vintage cars.

While this might sound like a lot, I have to tell you that I restored our 31 Auburn in a two car garage in Shady Hollow where there were home owner restrictions in place for what you are allowed to do. That car is our national show car. It has been judged at or near max points in the Antique Automobile Club of America, the Classic Car Club of America, and the Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg Club.