All The Leaves Are Brown

Posted September 27, 2018

Photos by Dean Larson

And the sky is gray, as the lyrics go in California Dreamin’. Even if the trees in your area haven’t turned color yet, they likely will soon as the days get shorter and the weather colder. So another season of car shows has come and gone, which might stir up some wistful feelings.

For replica builders, though, the coming fall and winter months can be a good thing. These seasons mean more time in your garage to work on your next project car. What sort of preparations are you making?

Obviously clearing out a workspace is the first priority. (That reminds me: I need to get my stepson Austin to move out his partially done tuner car, which he hasn’t touched in a year.) The more room the better, and I recommend getting one of those DIY plastic sheds so you have a spot to put all your ice chests, gardening tools and other items you won’t need until next spring. It’s amazing how much space a shed can free up. The one I got from a large wholesaler went together in a weekend, with just a cordless drill and help from an extra pair of hands.

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If you have another vehicle that’s getting in the way like I do, then you can look into a few DIY outdoor storage options for that too. Many wholesalers and building centers sell canopy-style or metal carports that can be constructed quickly and hold up to severe weather. Another interesting option I came across is the CarCapsule, which is an inflatable structure that provides protection while showing off your ride as well. You can also look into renting a storage unit if they permit gasoline-powered vehicles.

Once you’ve cleared out a space in your garage, you also might consider looking up — literally. A lift system not only gets a car off the floor, but also simplifies mechanical work. If you have room and are considering a lift, choose one that has a higher rated capacity than what you think you’ll need. For instance, a lift rated at 9,000 pounds provides an extra margin of safety, even though your vehicle might only weigh 5,000 pounds at most (or perhaps half that, in the case of most Cobra replicas). A four-post lift can also free up a parking space in your garage, provided you have sufficient ceiling height.

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Stocking your garage with all the right tools is a subject in itself, and you should keep your winter projects in mind and tool shop in the fall. If you’re building or tuning an engine in the offseason, consider an engine test-run stand. This setup makes it easier to check and fix leaks, vibration, strange noises, and any other issues, and get the job done right the first time. The fall is also a good time to find deals on other specialty tools like presses, stands and air tools.

As for choosing a project car, that’s a very personal matter, but make sure you’re passionate about it so you stick with it. Whatever your preference, calculate all your costs in detail beforehand, including items that need to be farmed out to a professional (typically prep and paint work). These costs include shipping, fasteners, powder coating, accessories, customizing, wheel alignment and so forth. And then multiply that final number by 1.5, as nobody ever completes a car within the initial budget. You’ll inevitably have some surprises along the way.

These are just a few of many tips for tackling a buildup, and we’d like to hear from your experiences as well. Take some pictures along the way, and let us know how it went: 

Steve Temple -

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