May 26, 2015 update to the Ford SVT Focus project car

Losing Focus

Our garage was workable, but not pleasant. We constantly lost parts, broke benches, or set things on fire (seriously).
Step one of reorganizing your garage: put everything in a pile in the middle of the floor. You'll sort through it later.
It took four of us to carry the bench around, so we made sure to measure well before putting it in its final place.
What's a garage without a vice? We mounted ours first, in case we needed it for anything.
We had everything in place, but hadn't moved in yet. Now is the time for fine tuning.
First up: lights. You can never have too many, so we hung a few four-footers over our new workspaces.
The cabinets in our garage came from the trash, and for now we're keeping them for lighter items. We couldn't stand to leave them different colors, though, so we painted them all white.
Pegboard is awesome stuff, and we made sure to hang tools we use constantly on it.
After a few nights in the garage, we finally have a real workspace.

Every club needs a clubhouse, every race team needs a shop, and every project car needs a home.

So far, our 2003 Ford SVT Focus has completely eschewed the company shop in favor of something far more, well, average. Most kids in college don’t have unlimited access to a full-fledged restoration shop, so what use is it building this project car like they do? Instead, our little Focus is being worked on in a one-car garage with fairly basic tools.

As the projects mounted, though, things started to fall apart. We cobbled our workshop together from yardsale finds, hand-me-downs, and stuff pulled out of the trash. Yes, it worked. But it was fairly miserable to accomplish anything in. The straw that broke the camel’s back came when our work bench, a carpenter’s bench built by Suddards a few generations ago, shed a board halfway-through a welding project.

It was time to take a break from working on our car, and work on our workspace. At the very least, we needed a new bench, but we also wanted to get rid of the rest of our rickety tool-storage arrangements. A toolbox can only lock you out of the ratchet drawer at midnight so many times before you get too frustrated to use it any more.

We faced a delimma: buy a pre-assembled workbench, or build our own. We went to Lowe’s to do some research, but weren’t impressed. Building a workbench sounded great in theory, but then we faced the music: working full time and carrying a full course load really doesn’t leave a lot of extra time for carpentry, and we’re terrible carpenters (sorry, dad). Plus, we knew that building our own benches wouldn’t let us squeeze as much into our tiny workspace, as there was no way we were capable of building drawers.

Having drained all hope in the lumber aisle, we headed towards the garage organization section. Things weren’t too bright here, either. We were interested in something like this, but $1800 seemed like a lot of money for something that seemed to be aimed squarely at retired people who like to pot plants in their shed. It just wasn’t sturdy enough to rebuild a transmission on or subject to years of abuse.

We left Lowe’s dejected, then went home to pack for the PRI Show. A few days later, we found our answer on the show floor. A new company, Fantasy Garage, had exactly what we needed on display. A full-sized workbench that seemed to be built like a tank, and is actually strong enough to park a car on (they showed us the design criteria). Alongside it were absurdly well-built rolling carts, one of which had a bluetooth speaker up top.

And standing next to the workbench were car people. Like, actual people who work on cars. Enthusiasts. And that showed in the company’s design. Electrical outlets were everywhere we needed them, and the drawers have electrical outlets in them for laptop charging. The wheels weren’t cheap and tiny. Almost everything is welded together. The drawers are big enough for a rack of sockets to fit without hitting. The wood wasn’t 1/4” thin. The hutch is sized so something long like a torque wrench has a little passthrough and will fit. There was even a paper towel holder.

The price for the workbench, hutch, and two carts? $2047. A little more than what we’d seen at Lowe’s, but within reason. Why buy an expensive setup like this for your garage? Because working on things you’ve pulled out of the trash is miserable, and buying things over and over again gets expensive in the long run. They were offering 10% off and free shipping on anything ordered at the show, so we walked up with our wallets in hand.

Does our credit card even have that high of a limit? Luckily, we didn’t have to find out. Turns out those car people we were talking about read GRM, and they offered to send us a display model for free. In return, we told them we’d share our honest opinions with our readers.

It’s been a few weeks and a few projects, and so far we have nothing but nice things to say. Now that our workspace is, well, workable, it’s time to get back to our Focus. If we’ve done this correctly, we won’t be thinking much about the garage itself for years to come.

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Comments

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Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
5/26/15 5:52 p.m.

That's a cool bench, but for $2K? We build race cars for less than that..

Junkyard_Dog
Junkyard_Dog SuperDork
5/26/15 6:27 p.m.

That bench only has a wood top, the rest is metal. Forget carpentry, you should have broken out the welder! I'm very dissapointed in you

turboswede
turboswede MegaDork
5/26/15 6:52 p.m.

Looks like the setup that Costco sells occasionally. Decent solution if you're looking to kill it with money (which is not a bad thing, really).

Not sure its much better than the bench I built out of a couple of Gorilla racks and some chunks of 3/4" melamine backed fiberboard. With the exception of the drawers, which honestly is why God created toolboxes and parts bins, I'm not sure I'd find it a worthwhile expenditure.

Had HomeDepot rip the wood for me and I screwed and glued it together and bolted it to the racks.

Bolted a cheap HarborFreight vice to one corner.

Added shelves and a keyboard drawer to control the garage PC.

Wall-mounted the monitor so I can stream races and/or look up information about what I'm working on while in the garage.

Bought a cheap little rolling cabinet and built a rotating tool stand for the grinder, sander and table top drill press.

Slotted the cheap toolboxes next to the tool stand and I've got an ok corner to work out of. Used it to rebuild my 924 (that was IHROTM not long ago) and maintain my 951S and now my 740iL.

Probably took a couple of weekends with some time spent during the week noodling things to figure out where to put things and how.

Junkyard_Dog
Junkyard_Dog SuperDork
5/26/15 7:14 p.m.

FWIW while I sell insanely expensive tools and boxes for a living my garage work bench is made from the oiliest real 2X4s I've ever seen. Pretty sure it was built when the garage was new in 1959 and it'll probably still be there in 2059. I'll get a picture this weekend when I clean all the crap off it.

Giant Purple Snorklewacker
Giant Purple Snorklewacker MegaDork
5/26/15 8:07 p.m.

My bench is made from 2x4s, double layer plywood, 20 ga sheetmetal and deck screws. It is strong enough to hold a lathe fly cutting tool steel w/o shaking. It cost probably right around $250 to make because it's 24' long and 4x8 sheets of 20 ga steel were $34 each at the time. It exactly fits the space because I built it to fit.

Maybe you should buy a circular saw and save the fancy pants furniture for when you need a showroom?

Raze
Raze UltraDork
5/26/15 10:21 p.m.

For that amount of money you could buy a better combo of chests, carts, tables from Costco or HF and pegboard and cabinets from Home Depot or Lowes...or do what most of us do...build it better...cheaper...to truly maximize space and versatility...

Basil Exposition
Basil Exposition Dork
5/26/15 10:50 p.m.

But you didn't really spend that kind of money, did you? You got it for free. I'd take it for free, as well, but I'm not interested in paying $2k for it. For less than that, I built a huge workbench out of 2x4s and plywood with a melamine floating top that can be replaced. I've had several engines and transmissions on it with no problem. And for the remaining $1700 in that number I also got 12 cabinets, including four large floor cabinets, four wall cabinets and four base cabinets. Yes, they are made out of coated particle board and not steel, but damned if I can tell that they are any less useful for it. I'd post some pictures, but it is late, and I'm tired, and I can't face going through that host then post procedure.

nocones
nocones SuperDork
5/26/15 11:42 p.m.
turboswede wrote: Bought a cheap little rolling cabinet and built a rotating tool stand for the grinder, sander and table top drill press.

I DEMAND a build thread on that rotating tool setup. Your like a wizard.

Mitchell
Mitchell UltraDork
5/27/15 1:09 a.m.

You guys built your benches with store bought wood and welders? Ametuers. When I wanted a workbench, I planted a tree and waited 7 years. Built a forge and a 1000 ton press.

einy
einy New Reader
5/28/15 10:54 a.m.
Mitchell wrote: You guys built your benches with store bought wood and welders? Ametuers. When I wanted a workbench, I planted a tree and waited 7 years. Built a forge and a 1000 ton press.

You forgot to mention mining the ore, and smelting the metal ...

rcutclif
rcutclif Dork
5/28/15 11:01 a.m.
nocones wrote:
turboswede wrote: Bought a cheap little rolling cabinet and built a rotating tool stand for the grinder, sander and table top drill press.

I DEMAND a build thread on that rotating tool setup. Your like a wizard.

I can't +1 this comment more than once. But I would... Awesome idea!!!

Also, is that turbo up on the top shelf almost as big as one of the cooling fans near it??

NordicSaab
NordicSaab Reader
5/28/15 11:15 a.m.
rcutclif wrote: Also, is that turbo up on the top shelf almost as big as one of the cooling fans near it??

Turbocharger looks like a Holset, so yes... it's big.

In regard to the work bench shown, I could not image spending $2000 on a bench like the one shown.

I have a 2ftx6ft work bench on castors made of 1" thick plywood and 2x4's. The bench weighs realistically 150lbs and takes more abuse than any garage fixture deserves. total cost to build was about $150 and 4 hours of labor. The great part about the bench is if I destroy the top surface (incredibly unlikely) I can just unscrew the wood top, cut a new one to size and off I go...

$2000 can buy a lot of tools not easily replaced by a big chunk of wood

captdownshift
captdownshift SuperDork
5/28/15 12:25 p.m.

You guys realize how difficult it is to build a workshop table and cabinets with one arm right? However for years the internet has taught us that we can do things with just one arm, in this case shop for high end workshop tables and cabinets. Which can be used in a garage, basement, hauler or as props in a photo studio for photos to be placed onto the internet, leading to more functioning with a single free arm.

Vigo
Vigo PowerDork
5/28/15 7:14 p.m.

I dont understand spending any real amount of money on a bench topped by wood. Out of all the benches i ever worked on in any shop or school, the very few that were wood on top were the ones i hated working on.

JThw8
JThw8 PowerDork
5/28/15 7:36 p.m.

Bad photo but that 6 foot all steel bench with storage, its 3 foot little brother (not shown in photo) and the tall steel cabinet next to it were $25 for all 3 on govdeals.com :) Old shop benches from schools are cheap and solid

Giant Purple Snorklewacker
Giant Purple Snorklewacker MegaDork
5/28/15 7:46 p.m.
NordicSaab wrote: $2000 can buy a lot of tools not easily replaced by a big chunk of wood

$2000 can buy you a Bridgeport with tooling.

$2000 can buy you a pristine '93 Nighthawk 750.

$2000 could get me to fly to a one armed man's house and build him a better bench than that and there would still be enough left over to get take-out.

But, ya know... if someone was giving it to me for free if I pimped it a little in my magazine and on my website I'd take it. Although... if people were giving me expensive E36 M3 for doing this sort of thing and I was in charge ... I would use a different name or make JG start the thread.

yamaha
yamaha MegaDork
5/28/15 9:53 p.m.

If you're building a workbench with a wood top, the answer is used bowling alley sections for that top.....its epicly awesome.

Advan046
Advan046 SuperDork
5/30/15 8:14 p.m.

I think to justify this level of expense for a work space you will have to wow us with details on the premium touches.

Are the drawers really that awesome?

Wheels roll that smooth? Over cracks?

Is the wood top some precise flatness?

Doors have soft edges that won't scratch or cut you, drawers too?

These things take it from GRM level stuff people are posting about that we love to IMSA level we would enjoy but know we would never spend the money on.

Basically what justifies $2k?

aussiesmg
aussiesmg MegaDork
5/31/15 7:35 a.m.

My workbenches are a combination of discarded industrial units from a old automaker factory that closed and two I built myself out of wood, one of which is 48" x 144". Hint I do recommend that you consider that width as, while it can become difficult to reach items against the wall, it does fit a whole hood, trunk, etc on it with ease. Legs are 4x4 and it has 6 of them.

It could support a car if needed.

One we built is a 36" squared table, about 24" high with larger pneumatic wheel on it, easy to roll around a diff, trans, etc, great tool caddy and it currently has an RX3 shell sitting on it.

93gsxturbo
93gsxturbo Dork
5/31/15 10:04 a.m.

Are these toolboxes made overseas or in America? If they are not made in America - shame on you. Plenty of American made boxes from the big 3 (Snap-On, Mac, Matco), and its something with an actual pedigree and resale value.

iadr
iadr HalfDork
5/31/15 10:29 a.m.

Hilariously bad photo-chop on the dog, the window, and I believe the wheel. Weird photo all around.
Anyway, I thought I'd hot link the thing b/c no one else had.

Yeah, I build a bench with 2x4's, 4x4's & a replaceable inset/drop-in plywood top (that interchanges with a heavy industrial mesh&under-pan inset with a large ground bolt on it to convert the table to a Tig-weld table. When I was making 7.35/hr. And it was outside, in Canada for several years, and then in storage for a year or two when the bank took the house I was renting, and gave me (the renter) 21 days to "vamoose".

That Lazy Susan thing locks in place, does it Turboswede? Other wise I'm kind of iffy on it.

No doubt this has interest to the general reader (look at the popularity of Garage Journal, where I am not a member, but occasionally browse), but agree it seems a little "bought not built" for the forum crew.

As far as 48" deep benches, sure if you have the room, or I eventually do, that's what they will be, partly because the back...ahem 30" will be... ahem in use. So that leaves 18".

The one armed thing is a sly reference to forum-addiction, not an actual physical condition shared by a poster, correct?

HiTempguy
HiTempguy UberDork
5/31/15 11:30 a.m.

I think the one armed thing is more "why spend 8 hours of your time building a bench when, with only the use of one arm, a mouse, and $2k you can buy one instantly"

I earn good money. Not $2k garage bench money.

iadr
iadr HalfDork
5/31/15 11:50 a.m.

And that's US dollars... ;)

Yeah. and I'm pretty sure it didn't take 8 hrs to build mine...well including the TIG top, yes- OK it did.

etifosi
etifosi Dork
5/31/15 12:23 p.m.

Is there a new $2015 challenge category for work benches?

mazdeuce
mazdeuce PowerDork
5/31/15 12:26 p.m.

All of you realize we have different wants and needs, right? I'd be very surprised if Tom didn't realize that he could knock together a bench with 2x4's. What he has now is certainly aesthetically nice. If part of your job involves taking pictures of stuff on a workench, that sort of thing might be pretty important. Tom is also young enough that moving is a certainty. It will take some friends and beer, but that very very nice workbench can move from house to house with him instead of having to rebuild something every time his address changes.
And lastly, there are more than a few people who want to purchase a solution to whom $2k isn't a big deal, and Tom just let them know about another option.

LopRacer
LopRacer Dork
5/31/15 12:32 p.m.

That's a nice bench, I admit it's nicer than the clearance unit bench I got from Sears when they cleared out the back room. Then again there is a $1925 difference. I would rock those benches if they appeared in my garage, and I understand needing a good place to work as much as the next guy or gal. I think the hang up many of us have is that we are bargain hunters and we like to tweak stuff to meet our needs and fit our spaces too much to buy off the rack so to speak. If I spend that kind of money I want it to be air conditioned or something.

Swank Force One
Swank Force One MegaDork
5/31/15 12:34 p.m.
93gsxturbo wrote: Are these toolboxes made overseas or in America? If they are not made in America - shame on you. Plenty of American made boxes from the big 3 (Snap-On, Mac, Matco), and its something with an actual pedigree and resale value.

*eyeroll

Please tell me you weren't serious with this stupid worn out and off topic jingoistic rhetoric. Right? Right? This was a joke?

Junkyard_Dog
Junkyard_Dog SuperDork
5/31/15 12:45 p.m.
Swank Force One wrote:
93gsxturbo wrote: Are these toolboxes made overseas or in America? If they are not made in America - shame on you. Plenty of American made boxes from the big 3 (Snap-On, Mac, Matco), and its something with an actual pedigree and resale value.

*eyeroll

Please tell me you weren't serious with this stupid worn out and off topic jingoistic rhetoric. Right? Right? This was a joke?

Especially with some Snap-Ons made in Canada.

HiTempguy
HiTempguy UberDork
5/31/15 1:25 p.m.
mazdeuce wrote: All of you realize we have different wants and needs, right?

I can buy the argument of things like "grassroots means different things to different people" but I'm just flat-out sorry, there is simple NOTHING grassroots about this purchase. Grassroots is an ideology, this bench isn't a "good deal" in any sense of the words.

Is it nice? Yes. Is it useful? Yes. If you show up to a road race in a brand new Bentley, you ain't berkeleying grassroots and don't try to blow smoke up my ass that you are.

mazdeuce
mazdeuce PowerDork
5/31/15 3:26 p.m.

In reply to HiTempguy:

Not sure if indicates intentional silliness or not, but you can't really think I'm 10 times more grassroots if I show up in my Civic rather than my CTS-V? And surely you don't think a guy with a $200 bench is somehow more grassroots than Tom because of his workbench?
We've had this discussion before, but being cheap doesn't make you grassroots any more than being poor makes you closer to god. You're one of us because you play with cars, not because of the $$$ you use when doing it.

HiTempguy
HiTempguy UberDork
5/31/15 6:41 p.m.

At the end of the day, a line gets drawn. Sure, your ctsv, a screamin deal/bang for the buck; grassroots. If you showed up in a bentley? Or brand new bmw m5? Nope!

Somebody racing in a professional series using their own money, some sponsorship, and a whole bunch of volunteer/extra unpaid work? Grassroots.

$2k workbenches? Oh hell naw. Somedays Hot Rod is more grassroots than GRM :p

I especially hate spin on stories. Say you got the stuff for free, but dont ever spin it that you (the kid in college with an old fosuc) is going to drop $2k on a workbench. Its insulting to us. And while I applaud the parents ability to (assuming) provide these things for their kids...

In fact, after reading the article again, it screams upper middle class bullE36 M3. I'm actually a little pissed. I was never in a poor family by any stretch of the imagination growing up, but it would be the f'in day I had enough scratch to drop $2k on a workbench or my parents bankrolled it. And I worked a part time job throughout high school and flipped cars on the side (much more.profitable).

This isn't about how well off the Suddards are, I am more than tickled they busted ass for decades to get where they are. Spinning that into full-time college/working student buys a $2k workbench though...

No reasonably sane person is spending $2k on a bench unless its a gift. A gift I would absolutely take. But dont pass it off like us joe schmoes should be looking at this.

As for the whole "there are lots of people this caters to", uh, no, there isn't (percentage wise). It is a very niche product for people fairly well off (or their priorities straight, I suppose).

Anywho. This article just rubs me the wrong way. I've built amazing benches before, and they dont have to be that expensive. Simple as that. And I'm spent!

Edit- Nope, I am back. Yes, someone is more grassroots than someone else if they do the same/more with less. So yea, the guy with the $200 bench IS more grassroots. Just like the guy who does the same engine swap with only an engine hoist and not a lift.

mazdeuce
mazdeuce PowerDork
5/31/15 7:23 p.m.

In reply to HiTempguy:

Ok.

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