Shop Visit: Scott Linn

We moved into our house 25 years ago, and even then the two-car garage was one car short. Our garage has many uses beyond housing cars, too. It stores climbing, caving, mountain rescue and skiing gear. It also serves as a workshop for cars and many other non-car projects. There’s a climbing wall in there as well, which requires leaving a large open area in front of the cars. Even that space is also used at times as a trip staging area for packing as well as for temporary car parts storage.

As for the cars, my 1968 MG Midget has been in the family since 1975, when my father bought it for me to drive. I bought it from him in 1982. My father passed away in late 2004, and I inherited his 1952 MG TD–but we didn’t have room for it. That was when we bought the four-post BendPak lift in 2005.

In 2011, I decided to buy a Lotus Europa Special, one of my favorite cars. I found an almost complete 1973 Europa Special on Craigslist south of LA. I flew down, spent a number of hours working on it to make it more roadworthy, and then drove it back home where I could finish the work it required.

Our 1998 BMW Z3 had been sitting outside for nearly two years while the Lotus was in pieces. We looked at moving, but very large houses seemed to come along with the larger garages. Another lift was a much cheaper alternative, and we made sure this one was easier to load/unload so that my wife could easily run it.

Everyone (including the lift installation folks) comments on how much stuff we have managed to fit into our two-car garage.

Practical Guidance: Scott Linn’s Shop Tips

Have a dedicated digital camera for taking photos during a tear-down. It’s very handy to refer to later, and it won’t matter if it gets dirty/greasy. I have a 3MP Kodak that works really well and has a really good macro mode. Very simple controls are perfect for garage use.

A retired tablet/portable computer connected to the internet is also handy for information searches. It’s amazing the amount of information out there. Once I had a problem, posted to an MG board late at night, and received a reply from England with a solution 15 minutes later.

Get some dum dum tape. It’s a butyl rubber tape often used for window installation or sealing ducts. It’s also great for removing metal shavings from various objects, especially magnetic ones. Put a tiny piece on your finger, and now you can hold that nut even upside down. Put some on the tip of a screwdriver to hold the screw when getting it started. Use it to fill holes in your firewall. Use it anytime you need something to stick to something else, or if you need something sticky to pick up an object.

When taking something apart, I start with magnetic trays. I always have three or four stuck on the front of my lift for easy access. If the item I’m taking apart starts to be complex with many sub-parts, I then pull out the small Ziplocs I’ve saved from various purchases and start filling them up. Label each bag with a marker or just drop a note inside. This saved me when my Lotus’s dash installation got delayed a year and a half.

My wife purchased a tray that holds many sizes of U.S. and metric wrenches–all labeled and organized. If I’m not sure which wrench size I need, or I know I need more than one size, I’ll just pull the tray out of the tool chest to have one copy of almost anything I need–unless I’m working on the TD with Whitworth fasteners. I have a similar tray I inherited from my father that holds my entire set of quarter-inch drive sockets.

I think it was a Classic Motorsports article that said something along the lines of “You can never have enough light.” And I’ll add “especially under a lift.” I bought a number of small, inexpensive under-cabinet fluorescent lights and mounted magnets on the back. These sit under the BendPak lift, always connected, so I can turn them on and move them around if needed. They can also act as a trouble light and can attach under the (metal) hood of a car. Along the same lines, I have many small, portable, magnetic lights to use inside the car and under dashes. While fluorescent or LED trouble lights are great, sometimes you need to eliminate shadows by getting the light way up under the dash. That’s where the little magnetic LED lights come in. Small LED headlamps are great, too. I think that for most interior jobs, I end up using a 3AAA headlamp to augment the light.

For dirty jobs–lots of oil/grease/grunge–use fabric shop towels instead of rags. It helps on the domestic front when the rags aren’t too grungy.

Have a working space reserved for setting aside large parts. Put down a drop sheet so you can slide it around when the parts need to move.

If you’ve ever installed a windshield, you know you have a limited amount of time to lay down a specific-sized bead of urethane. On my first attempt I actually bent my manual caulking gun, so I found a fairly inexpensive pneumatic gun. I’ve already used mine twice and it has worked great.

I originally bought a portable air tank for my lift before I had a small compressor. But I find myself using the tank quite a bit even with the compressor. The air tank is great for use with a BendPak lift because you have air available without starting up the compressor. It’s also useful for refilling tires at the end of a track day, filling neighbors’ tires when you can’t get your compressor close enough, blowing dust off of items, drying tools, etc.

Have a good, heavy vise attached to a sturdy workbench. This has already been covered in previous articles, but it is totally essential. My workbench is my wife’s old desk, and it withstands repeated pounding.

I inherited a small propane torch from my dad and never knew how useful they were until getting one. They can help greatly with getting fasteners unstuck, shrinking metal, soldering, brazing, etc.

Last, have a partner who supports your hobby and hours in the garage–and also likes to drive some of the cars that you work on!

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