Thursday, February 12, 2009

Of Garages and Men

The best laid plans of garages and men often go awry. No, this is not some wierd adaptation of a John Steinbeck novel, but rather a personal prospective of what I call "garage nirvana". Buddha described nirvana as "the highest happiness" as well as "the perfect peace of the state of mind that is free from craving, anger and other afflictive states". I guess that about sums up the feeling I get when I stare into a treasure trove filled garage for the first time. I don't know about you, but I find garages full of automobilia pretty fascinating. Lets take a deeper look at this garage fixation that I have.

The way I see it, garages come in three flavors:

1) The Empty Garage.
This is the garage that is always kept spotless. It's plain, flat white walls stand out like beacons in the night. There has never been a vehicle behind it's doors. The polished cement floors have never seen a drop of anything petroleum based. It's vacant space will usually be home to a spare refrigerator and may even temporarly house a folding, portable game table, but mostly it remains empty. The empty garage is not to be confused with one that has been carpeted and has a TV, couch and games in it, for this is no longer considered a garage, it's a redneck living room.

2) The Faux Garage.
This is the garage that from all external appearances appears like a normal garage. Upon closer inspection, it is discovered that it's really a museum in disguise. The floor will usually be checkered tile or epoxy with a speckled pattern. The inside is cleaner then most hospitals and there is enough lighting to perform surgery. It's considerable interior acreage will be occupied by either a late model Corvette and/or an over restored muscle car that was an impulse purchase at a Barrett-Jackson auction. For all intensive purposes, the vehicles never move, hence the polished oil drip pans resting below them. A tool box may be present but it will be brand new, polished to a shine, and full of tools that will never be used.

3) The Used Garage.
This is the garage that is thoroughly used, both in storage capacity and utility. The owner will know every square inch of it, and there may even be pathways cut through all of it's "storage". There may or may not be room for a vehicle, depending on the owners needs or the quality of paint on said vehicle. It will house lots of cool parts and even cooler memories. Most items will be shelved and labeled. Rodents will fear entering this labyrinth for the simple reason that they might be categorizied and put away. You may even feel more at home in this garage then in your room. Some have even chosen to install a commode just to avoid having to use the one in the house. There will usually be an old refrigerator covered in vintage performance stickers strictly used for soda or beer. The used garage is not to be confused with one that is chuck loaded full of junk, for this is no longer considered a garage, it is simply a storage facility for a pack rat or an oversized trash dumpster owned by a hoarder.

The used garage is my favorite because it is the one that says the most about the owner. It is also the one that is the most fascinating. I remember growing up and venturing out in my dad's garage. The casual observer would have just seen a garage full of useless stuff, but I knew better. As I got to know that garage better and better, I discovered all the treasures that it held. Whatever I needed at the time, it seemed that I could find it in there. Nut? Bolt? Porcelain insulator? It was in there. I found everything from flat head parts to radio tubes. It was this very garage that served as my impetus for selling on eBay.

My Uncles garage was actually his auto body shop and outbuildings that I use to wander through. I spent a few summers there learning how to do body work. Back then it seemed like every week I would buy another car and almost everyone of them needed some form of body repair. He always told me he didn't like working on relative's cars, but he would always show me what to do and how to do it. I'll never forget all the stuff he had crammed in that shop of his. These are some of the items I remember:

A very early GM crate motor - 283 with factory dual quads, literally in a crate.

A GMC blower - I think it was a 6-71 on a vintage intake manifold.

A complete '40 Ford Coupe - It was stuffed in an outbuilding and was supposed to be the recipient of the 283 crate motor.

A NOS '57 Chevy front clip - This was completely assembled with chrome and everything.

A late 60's Barracuda - A complete car stuffed in one of the corners of the shop. I remember it was black with flames. The story was he was holding it for a guy who was in prison...

A really old Ford tow truck (which my cousin managed to get), various hood ornaments hanging around, and tons of other cool stuff.

Garages full of cool stuff is nothing new, but few folks have ventured into this foray of the automobile world. I thought it would be a great idea to do a series of articles on garages and all the neat stuff that some of them contain. I can just imagine how much history is stashed away in some folk's garages. So far I haven't been able to find any site or publications dedicated to the humble garage, so I guess I'll just have to settle for blogging about it here. If there are any fellow garage lovers out there I hope that this article has peaked your "garagosity" or maybe provided a little "garage nirvana" for you.