There's value in knowing what's the latest and greatest on the market. There's also value in knowing what happens after you make that purchase. If there's a single equipment category that's routinely called on to go the distance and then some, it's garage and shop tools. A single wrench can potentially outlast several project vehicles, and sometimes can outlast a generation. In the family garage, we're still using grandad's bench vise, and we'd bet you may have a tool or two with a similar history.
To find tools with some history, we poked our noses around a couple of professional shops, and then brought the search to our own doorstep.
S.I. Motorsports was our first stop. Tom McKenzie, S.I.'s owner, first joined the off-road fabrication world as a 14-year-old. Today, Tom's expertise is well-known and well-respected in the world of high-speed desert trucks. That said, we've seen Tom at work on other stuff such as motorhome alignment, tubular Jeep fenders, and electric utility carts. He's got a pretty big bag of tricks.
Truck and Jeep
T&J Performance was our next stop. Owners Mike and Tom Barnett are second-generation off-roaders and employ a crew that does everything from light-bar installations to custom suspension design and fabrication. A visit to T&J Performance usually reveals an ultra-clean vintage CJ, and various YJs, TJs, and JKs. You're sure to see Jeepspeed machines there, too, as T&J Performance is a pioneer in the Jeepspeed series.
At the home garage, Seth Blumer is a recent graduate of automotive technology at Utah Valley University and is an entry-level mechanic. Seth's tool collection isn't as vast as those of established shops, but he's already found some favorites and given them a workout.
Finally, yours truly looked at his own tool collection. Read on to see tools that are tried and proven.