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November 2012 Firing Order Editorial

Posted in Features on November 1, 2012
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Of course I’ve always dreamed of having some huge shop, but I don’t really need it. I’ve built, modified, and repaired nearly every 4x4 I have ever owned in the limited space of a typical two-car garage, and in some cases I’ve had to do a lot of the work in a driveway. A two-car garage is not a lot of space when you consider you still need room for tools, bikes, a washing machine, a dryer, lawn mower, boxes, spare parts, and other garage necessities. It seems even smaller when you try to bend tubing, especially the long pieces used in a rollcage or a fullsize truck bumper. There were a few times that I actually had to move a vehicle, boxes, and other items so that the long end of the tubing could swing around during the bending process. Swapping an engine offers challenges that often result in the vehicle siting on the brake rotors for engine hoist and ceiling clearance. Of course I shouldn’t complain; my workspace has generally been larger than many of the garages and shops some of my friends wrench in.

For several years I worked out of my rented house’s two-car garage. From there I churned out some of my favorite 4x4s. At one point I was converting a two-wheel drive truck to a 4x4 at the same time that I was having the engine and tranny rebuilt. This particular 4x4 didn’t fit in the garage well, so there it sat in the driveway with no hood, engine, tranny, or front axle. I worked on it as I had time. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish it before one of my nosey neighbors could narc me out to the city. I ended up having to winch the truck into the garage, where I finished the work. In order to make room I would have to push all my garage junk into the driveway whenever I wanted to work on the truck, which, interestingly enough, was probably more unsightly than a half-stripped truck.

In that same garage I had to literally drag more than a 1,000 pounds of front and rear Rockwell axle across the floor to mock them up under my ’73 J-truck. Once I was done with the truck, there was no way it would roll out of the garage on its 49-inch wheels and tires. The hood was almost the same height as the top of the garage door opening. Several of my neighbors were curious enough to ask how I planned to get it out of the garage. I ended up removing the tires and wheels and rolling it out on wheel casters under the axle hubs.

The garage and lot size were the most important things to us when my brother and I started looking for a house nearly a decade ago. We really didn’t care much about the size of the house because we didn’t have a lot of furniture. However, living in a regular neighborhood would have been a nightmare for us because of potential persnickety neighbors, mostly because our “vehicles” are visually challenged and not exactly the type that raise property values when left at the curb, in the driveway, or parked on the lawn. Between the two of us we could have easily filled all three areas with a total of 11 4x4s, tow rigs, and trailers. The curbs of the entire neighborhood block would have been clogged with our crap. Fortunately (for everyone), we found a small 950-square-foot house on a good-sized lot with a detached garage/shop. I currently have what amounts to a four-car garage, although it only has three small single doors. It’s not quite deep enough to hold a fullsize truck. That doesn’t really matter though, since the garage doors aren’t exactly tall enough to let one in anyway. So here I am with the biggest garage I’ve ever had, and I’m still working on my lifted trucks in the driveway. Actually, scratch that, it’s not a driveway at all, it’s dirt. So yeah, I lay in the dirt regularly to work on my vehicles. I’m sure that right about now you feel so bad for me that you’ve decided to generously contribute to the John Needs a Bigger Garage Fund. No? I read you wrong? Oh well, working in the dirt does actually have at least one advantage. If I accidently spill a little oil or brake fluid, I don’t need to wipe it up. As I’m sure you can imagine, the disadvantages of a dirt driveway are numerous. Try dropping a freshly packed wheel bearing in the sand—that’s fun. Or how about losing tiny fasteners in the dirt? I’ve also had dirt and small rocks get into my impact gun and ruin it. I do have a special creeper with 6-inch wheels that works great in the dirt, though.

For now, my garage houses among other things all my tools and only one of my never-ending 4x4 projects. Unfortunately, it’s the “other things” that are really starting to take up a lot of space. I’m about ready to purge some of them, but it sure would be nice to have a bigger garage so I wouldn’t have to. Although, I guess if I did have a bigger workspace, it would only be a matter of time before I filled that up with other things too.

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