Anyone setting up a car restoration project for the first time would prefer to start with a spacious and modern workshop kitted out with the most current and technologically advanced hand or power tool and item of equipment at their disposal.

Unfortunately, there are just a few that enjoy such a privilege, with budget restrictions playing their part. A considerable number of classic owners have to make do with less than ideal facilities to see them through their project.

Not having access to every tool, on the other hand, can bring out the best in a classic car restorer. Innovativeness, grim determination, and enthusiasm become tools that overcome a lot of obstacles.

The secret is to analyse as early on as possible which items of equipment they absolute need and what they can live without, based on the assumption is that someone beginning a classic car restoration will have some skills at their fingertips and a basic set of hand and power tools to start.

A set of hand tools will not be complete without a set of ring spanners, although they may be obsolete if they don't match the size of nuts used to build the car. For example, if the vehicle being restored was from the UK, it will be held together by imperial sized nuts and bolts while European built cars use the metric scale.

The best option are open or closed ring spanners, both of which have their pluses and minuses.

Combination spanners with a ring at one end and an open-ended wrench at the other is a compromise worth considering. Adding a large and small adjustable spanner for the occasional non-standard nut and bolt that needs to open or closed will complete the spanner set.

When it comes to screwdrivers, a small set of good quality is all that's required. A couple of blade-ended electrical screwdrivers, one with a short shank and one long, will be in constant use, as well as two or three other blade-enders of varying sizes.

Make sure that the larger ones, in particular, are comfortable to hold and offer a firm grip.

 

A decent set of engineer's pliers should be regarded as essential, along with a needle-nosed pair and a medium-sized 'Mole' wrench, which will give a phenomenal grip, more than justifying its inclusion.

Although they should only be used occasionally in exceptional circumstances, a good workshop will have to be equipped with a hammer or two. These should include a small pin hammer, a medium-sized club hammer weighing around 1 pound, and a soft-faced rubber mallet, preferably with interchangeable heads.

Along with the hammers should come a set of assorted size punches, including a centre punch and perhaps a set of cold chisels. Again, these punches should be used sparingly usually to free a part that has seized, and only brute force can loosen it.

No renovation workshop would be complete without a selection of power tools, with the choice ascertained by two factors- the skill levels of the operator and the project budget.

Almost a default is an electric drill, a proven workhorse in any workshop situation, saving both time and physical effort.

An ideal electric drill should have a chuck capable of taking at least a 12.5mm (1/2in) drill bit. Variable speeds are always useful, achieved by either a mechanical gearbox changeover (slow and fast speeds) and an electronic variable speed trigger control.

Rechargeable battery powered tools have undergone a revolution in recent times. No longer powered by nickel-cadmium batteries, power is now provided by lithium-ion batteries and smart chargers mean that the cells retain their charge, have plenty of it, and are fast to recharge.

The major benefit of battery-powered hand tools is simple- they have no power cord. A factor that increases their flexibility tremendously, as the operator is no longer restricted to being close to a power supply.

There are very few absolute essentials required to equip a workshop, although a workbench should always be at the top of any list.

The workbench is a minimum piece of equipment that will always acts as a focal point for any home workshop, meaning that whatever time necessary must be taken to ensure that the bench will be of exactly the right dimension to suit the exact area in the workshop where it will be positioned.

Experienced workshop operators will tell you that that the most durable of workbenches should be fitted with cast-iron legs, preferably with a soft-wood top, ideally around three inches thick, firmly bolted to the legs.

For maximum stability, the workbench should be anchored to the wall, and/or to the floor.

The next essential piece of equipment for the workshop is a fitter's vice, that should be bolted to the workbench.

Vices should be of solid steel and no less than four inches wide.

Considerable care should be taken not to buy a vice whose jaws are serrated. Applying pressure using a clamp with serrated jaws is liable to cause damage to most metals.

With the bench in place, the nextitem on the list of essential workshop equipment should either a floor jack or a set of jack stands- preferably both.

Floor jacks, such a scissor jack or a hydraulic jack, carry out the important function of lifting a vehicle off the floor.

Once the car has been lifted sufficiently high to enable the jack stands to be slid under the car, always on a substantial and stable element of the car preferably the chassis.

Before investing in any jack and tand combination, attention should be taken that they can comfortably hold the weight of the car.

Having access to all of the above tools and equipment is a must and will allow the restorer the ability to tackle a wide variety of jobs without either the expense of having to farm jobs out or time wasted looking to borrow tools from friends and family.

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