Sunday, July 31, 2016

Abandon hope all who would enter here!
photo source:
Space, the final frontier.  Or most likely space can be the first obstacle. Such as in, "Where can I park my car to work on it?

A while back there was an editorial in Hot Rod magazine that specified a number, maybe 240 square feet, which they defined as the square footage of a single car garage. They went on to say how many hot rods in the past had been built in a single car garage, or car port, side yard, and even a parking space. Well I will grant that many were built in that single car garage, though I din/t know about that parking space. I would guess that lots of cars have been repaired sitting in somebody's driveway. In the old days many more had even been painted out in the driveway. My Dad did that once, with acceptable results.

We work on our cars where we can. Where we have to. Probably the worst place would be in the street in front of our house or apartment. Of course it's one thing to fix an immediate problem, parts replacement or routine maintenance out in the driveway. It's another thing to strip a paint job, pull an engine, or bang out some dents. Who would try to complete a full restoration job while the car sits in the driveway? Well, maybe I should be somewhat embarrassed to admit it but I have.

Let's see oil changes, brake jobs, starter replacements, radiator replacements, fender and hood replacement, wheel rotations and much more. I pulled the motors of a couple of my Rivieras in the driveway. I did some paint prep on my '66 Ford truck and '70 Mustang out in front of the house. And this wasn't done all that long ago. A few posts back you saw pictures of me crawling around under my XJS.

The driveway is that transitional space, although not private, it is on private property. (Dammit! This is my house!) The work is fully on view to your neighbors, who you hope are okay with you rebuilding that old clunker out front. They've gotten used to seeing it sitting in your driveway for long enough, right? I know that they probably would prefer that you did the work in your garage, I'll bet that you would too, if there was ever any room in there for your car. This whole thing is a test of how tolerant your neighbors are. If you are lucky they will just ignore what is going on. So I try to be a good neighbor. I don't make a lot of noise or leave a big mess with spilled oil and car parts piled up alongside my project. I make it a point to take the car off the jackstands at the end of the day and keep the car under a cover when I'm not working on it. In a blue collar neighborhood a lot of guys work on their own cars and you might even have somebody offer help or advice. It's hard for them to complain when they've got a dead car or two sitting in the driveway or alongside the garage. Live and let live.

 Middle class neighborhoods can be a different thing. They have this real concern about driving down property values. And what they call visual blight. Sometimes there are municipal codes that govern just what kind of work you can do to your car at home. These can be pretty Draconian, I know that those in my town are.  You are not allowed to perform maintenance or repair in your driveway that renders your car inoperable for more than twenty four hours. You are prohibited from rebuilding motors even out of sight in your garage. You are absolutely prohibited from painting your car anywhere at or around your residence. I spoke to a kid at the local chain auto store and he told me that his buddy will paint his car in the garage , at night. And you know that once the code enforcement people take a bite out of your ass they will be hanging around  like vultures, circling around waiting to take another mouthful. I remember when I had three Rivieras, two in the drive way and one out front at the curb. That wasn't illegal but I was lucky that I never experienced a problem at the time. As a homeowner I can see the validity to these rules. I don't want someone starting up and running a car rebuilding business next door to me. I also don't want a dirty unkempt front yard with abandoned cars and junk sitting in the driveway, mine or anybody else's. So it is eminently in your best interest to keep on good terms with your neighbors.

If you are lucky enough to have any garage, that's great. If you are lucky enough to have an empty garage you are really blessed. It seems that once you stop parking your cars in the garage it becomes some type of multiple dimension vacuum that sucks every piece of junk that's cluttering up your house into it's packed confines. If you are married with a family then you aware of the constant struggle to keep the garage free of "stuff". Kid's bicycles and toys take up a lot of room, not to mention falling over and scratching your car. All those odd pieces of furniture that are not good enough to use in the house but are too good to throw away end up there. Unused exercise equipment is packed away along with your good intentions. It doesn't take much before you cannot fit even one car in the garage. You  not only need the car to fit  but enough space to work around it. So you leave the car out side and a river of junk continues to fill up the remaining space with the sediment of your household.

What to do? It isn't easy to just throw things away, all this stuff has a claim on it from someone in your family. Most problematic when it belongs to your wife. Perhaps you can sort through the stuff and determine what can go and what will stay. If the weather is good you can move a lot of the stuff into the backyard and gain enough room to do some work on your car. You could rent a storage space for a month or two if you have some specific repairs to complete. Storage spaces can be black holes of expenditure. Out of sight "IS" out of mind. It is surprising how convenient it is to just leave that junk in there and to pay the bill. You won't be the only one. You would be surprised what kind of useless crap people keep paying storage fees on.  And you have just joined that club! While running my parts business I kept my Datsun parts in a 10'x30' storage space for an entire year. I set it up with shelving ,storage racks, and even cobbled up a storage loft. Actually quite a few guys had their businesses based out of those storage spaces. They had their tools and equipment arranged much like I did. There were also storage spaces that just had a pile of junk piled up in the middle. This was during the "last" recession and with all the residential foreclosures and spaces were filling up with furniture and appliances. I really only need my garage to swap out the tranny and do some work to the suspension bushings . My wife has even offered to pay for a couple of months of storage so I can move forward with my project. While I appreciate that and may even take her up on her offer I would rather approach the problem head on and cull threw the detritus.

My great dream is always moving somewhere with enough space to build a dedicated shop. It would be great to have a place that does not have to house my family cars. I am sure that I would then start to collect all kinds of cast off vehicles and parts once I have a space to store them. On the other hand it doesn't look like this could happen in the near future. A better plan is to scale down my efforts to a couple of cars and use the space available to me. I should concentrate my efforts on just one or two projects. I still have to keep the family cars up and running. Really how many cars does a guy need? This brings up a future posting topic, TMDC (Too Many Damn Cars!).

I need to replace the transmission in my XJS. I do not want to do it in the driveway. For one thing I don't think it is really too safe to jack up the car high enough to lower and remove the trans from under the car while on a sloping driveway. I had experienced some slipping problems during my last adventure under the car. I would hate to have the car slip off a jackstand during the operation. I had removed the tranny from my '56 Caddy in my garage and it took an additional four or five inches of blocks under my tallest jackstands to get the car high enough.

It was probably in the same issue of Hot Rod magazine that featured the story of a guy in Pennsylvania  that bought a house out in the boonies that didn't have a garage. There was a dirt side yard and the owner erected a heavy duty tent next to the house and ran a heavy duty extension cord from the house for power and light. He used this tent for several years and built a few cars out there. Later he built a small two car garage and shop to house his hobby. I was very energized by that story. I decided that I wasn't going to wait to have what I wanted. I needed to get started, right now. Luckily I have a ten foot wide side yard off my garage, behind a fence and gate. I could use this space to keep a car off my driveway and out of the street.  I could use one of those temporary garage tents or later build a solid patio cover. That's a plan for the future. I'm cleaning out the side yard right now and starting in on the garage. Darn it, There's quite a bit of work to get done before I even start on the tranny swap. Onward and upward.

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