Once your love affair with muscle cars becomes full blown, it usually doesn't take much time to develop an unhealthy obsession with the tools you need to work on them. First comes the roll-away box full of Snap-Ons, then an air compressor, and the next thing you know, you're assembling engines, welding, and doing bodywork. We even know guys who, in the most severe cases, get withdrawal symptoms once their car is complete! Of course, nothing cures that faster than getting a new project with a completely new set of challenges. Cars change, but the tools don't, so a garage full of the right tools can last a lifetime.
Since you're holding this mag, chances are good that you've already got a nice set of basic tools--so we're not covering old ground here. You're already in the 95th percentile of the mechanically apt, but you can always do more, right? Maybe there's a bent fender you want to tackle, a rollbar you want to fabricate, or a plumbing job you want to try your hand at. There's always a first time for everything, and there's no better time to try it than now, especially with cash being tight. We brainstormed 13 specialty tools that you might like to play with on your next project. Our criteria were that they be outside the realm of standard garage fare, and within reach cost-wise of the hardcore enthusiast. We also like the idea of tools that can be used for a variety of projects, not just one specific operation. Of course, we also sought tools at different price points so everybody can get in on the action. Stop dreamin', and get to work!
Shown in blue powdercoat for...
Shown in blue powdercoat for about $1,500, the Auto Twirler is ultimately a time-saving device that will cut down on time spent working in awkward or painful positions. Your next project will become more enjoyable by an order of magnitude. You may even become inspired to go that extra step!
Spin And Win!
The Auto Twirler
You don't have to be an old geezer to appreciate working on your car at a normal altitude without twisting your back into a pretzel. After all, what fun is working on your car when you're in pain? Kinda defeats the point, don't you think? The Eastwood Company sells this restoration rotisserie called the Auto Twirler, and after seeing the YouTube video of it in action, we're completely sold. This roll-around platform safely holds up to a 3,000-pound car body at work height, and can spin it 360 degrees for welding, rust repair, customizing, or any other heavy job. The Auto Twirler also has heavy-duty reinforced phenolic casters, so you can roll your work around the garage, or out into the driveway. You'll need a garage ceiling that's at least 7 1/2 feet high, and depending on your car, you may also need optional mounting adapters. The good news is that it works on both full-frame bodies and unibodies, and it's made in the USA. The Auto Twirler costs $1,099.99 (Eastwood PN 12171), and can be ordered with a blue powdercoat for another $400 more.
The Millermatic 211 has everything...
The Millermatic 211 has everything the home builder wants in a MIG welder: dual voltage compatibility, idiot-proof voltage control and wire-feed speed, Smooth-Start circuitry, and a list price of just $1,197.
Welding Made Easy
Every serious home builder needs a welder, and no short list of build tools would be complete without one. We had no problem picking one here because when we contacted Miller to put this story together, they told us about a brand-new unit they just introduced that's perfect for the garage. The Millermatic 211 was designed for us: a multi-voltage plug allows this wire-feed MIG welder to be used in either 120V or 230V configurations, so you can use it now (before you upgrade your garage line to 230 volts), and later (once you rewire to 230 volts). The Millermatic 211 also boasts Auto-Set, which takes the guesswork out of setting voltage and wire feed speeds; all you do is set the material thickness and the wire diameter, and the machine automatically calculates the output voltage and wire speed. (You can manually set both if you prefer.) The Millermatic 211 also features Smooth-Start, which prevents those dramatic pop-start pyrotechnics that cause so much slag. The specs: true 210-amp operation, rated output of 150 amps, 30 percent duty cycle, and the ability to weld anything from 24-gauge to 3/8-inch mild steel in a single pass using 230V input power. With the optional Spoolmate 100 Series spool gun, you can even MIG-weld aluminum (we've tried it, and it worked perfect the very first time).
The 780-TL is cost-effective...
The 780-TL is cost-effective at $399, and comes fully assembled. Sometimes called a sand blaster, a media blast cabinet should not use actual sand, but a recyclable abrasive media with less destructive properties.
Abrasive Blast Cabinet
It's amazing to think how many jobs this one tool can do. Once you get an abrasive blast cabinet (sometimes called a sand blaster), you soon find it indispensable for nearly everything that needs cleaning or stripping. Chances are, if it fits inside the cabinet, it'll find its way in there at some point in time. We say "indispensable" because we've been using one regularly during the buildup of our '75 Laguna, for stripping trim prior to painting and powdercoating, and to give bare metal pieces a robust, textured look. TP Tools & Equipment offers the super affordable 780-TL Top Load Abrasive Blast Cabinet (shown, made in the USA by Skat Blast) for $399, but we found it on sale for $329 at press time. The 780-TL has a big 14.5x30-inch door opening, which means even large underhood parts will fit inside. The 780-TL features a fast-feed funnel design that drops abrasives to the bottom for quick, automatic recycling. Other stuff you'll need: a shop vac for recirculating the blast media, and an air compressor to power it. If you've never used a blast cabinet, it's simple: Open the lid, put your part in, close the lid, put your arms into the gloves to operate the gun and hold the part, then pull the trigger. TP says buy one now, and get a free lighting kit!
TP Tools & Equipment
Snap-On sells this Blue Point...
Snap-On sells this Blue Point die grinder (PN AT105) for $114.45. Every home shop with an air compressor should have one. This one features a quarter-inch collet and 22,000-rpm operating speed.
Snap-On Die Grinder
Don't die grinding, get a die grinder! When the question was posed to technical contributor Steve Dulcich, he said without reservation that the most important tool in his shop is his die grinder. Steve does everything from bodywork to engine building, and his Blue Point-brand die grinder from Snap-On gets one hell of a workout. It's another one of those sneaky tools--if you've got one, you're always reaching for it to make your job easier.
Paint It Yourself
Concours HVLP Gun
Two main obstacles to painting your car at home--if you don't count your home owner's association bylaws--are the cost of equipment and the capacity of your air compressor. Eastwood's new line of Concours high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) paint guns deals with both issues while maintaining a high level of pro features found on more expensive equipment. Eastwood sells a lot of high-end paint guns, and one problem that keeps coming up with their DIY customers is line pressure. Most home builders with ordinary compressors just don't have the ability to sustain high enough line pressure over an extended time. Eastwood's gravity-fed Concourse HVLP guns operate flawlessly at just 4 cfm at 29 psi--well within your home compressor's comfort zone. On top of that, prices start at just $159.
Eastwood sells plenty of pro-level...
Eastwood sells plenty of pro-level HVLP paint guns, and they know the features pros like. They also know what home builders complain about, like how their compressors can't run pro guns that need a huge compressor. Eastwood's Concours line is the solution. Prices range from $159 to $249.
Concours HVLP Features:
* Low air consumption, requires 4 cfm at 29 psi
*Excellent atomization and transfer efficiency
*Compatible with waterborne and solvent coatings (primer, base, and clearcoats)
*Needle and nozzle constructed of stainless steel, air cap machined from brass
*Anodized control knobs and air-cap collar
*Needle/nozzle/air caps available in 1.2mm, 1.4mm, and 1.8mm
*Vertical and horizontal fan control
*Compatible with all popular disposable paint cup systems
*600cc plastic and Teflon-coated aluminum cups available
*User friendly; easy to clean and service