Firebird Restoration Tools: Harbor Freight vs. the Competition – Pt. 1

While I’ve been posting the progress of the ’67 Firebird’s restoration these past weeks, it occurred to me some of you might be thinking, “Well, so what? That’s what tools are for.” This is true. But the proposition that Harbor Freight’s  tools are rugged, reliable and capable is beside the point. The purpose of this exercise (besides showing you a sexy car) is to demonstrate how someone can execute something as meaningful and professional as restore a classic car while spending a lot less money– or getting a lot more value for the money– for the tools to do it. That’s a pretty big deal.

So to better illustrate the point, I’ll compare the prices of the tools used on the project with similar (if not exact) products the competitors advertise. The competitors I chose were Craftsman, Northern Tool, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Grainger. It should be noted that exact matches weren’t always found, so I substituted the closest comparison available. I don’t think this compromises the test, however, because we’re only talking about differences in size and shape, not function.

In the first segment, we’ll be looking at the Harbor Freight tools used in the vehicle’s disassembly video:

 

This solidly-built, steel tool cart is the perfect rolling workstation for wrenchers, able to hold 700 lbs of tools and easily roll around the garage.  Standing at over 41″ high and 37″ wide, there’s tons of space, and with 5 drawers, a bottom shelf, a covered tray on top, side slots and more, it will keep you fully armed at your spot without having to go “fetch” a tool.

  • Craftsman – 3-Drawer GRIPLATCH Utility Cart – $349.99
  • Northern Tool Excel – 5-Drawer Rolling Metal Tool Cart  – $399.99
  • Home Depot – Excel 600 lb. 4-Drawer Steel Tool Cart – $369.99
  • Lowe’s – Task Force 400 lb. 6-Drawer Steel Tool Chest – $189.00
  • Grainger – Westward 250 lb. 4-Drawer Utility Cart – $572.50

The huge, industrial-quality tool set contains a comprehensive collection of the most used automotive and mechanic’s tools, including adjustable wrenches, ratchets, breaker bars, pliers, sockets in SAE and metric, extensions and universal joint adapters. This treasure trove of tools is built to last!

  • Craftsman – 309-pc. Mechanics Tool Set – $249.99
  • Northern Tool – 305-pc. Mechanics Tool Set – $299.99
  • Home Depot – Husky 264-pc. Mechanics Tool Set – $198.00
  • Lowe’s – Kobalt 227-pc. Mechanics Tool Set – $199.98
  • Grainger – Craftsman Industrial 273-pc. Mechanics Tool Set – $985.00

 

This little 2-1/2 lb. air ratchet delivers up to 50 lbs. of torque! The slim design allows mechanics get to fasteners in cramped and hard-to-reach spots that standard impact wrenches can’t hope to go! Features easy reversible action.
  • Craftsman – 3/8″ Ratchet Wrench – $34.99
  • Northern Tool – Northern Industrial 3/8″ Air Ratchet Wrench – $29.99
  • Home Depot – Campbell Hausfeld 3/8″ Air Ratchet Wrench – $32.68
  • Lowe’s – Campbell Hausfeld 3/8″ Air Ratchet Wrench – $48.38
  • Grainger – Westward 3/8″ Air Ratchet Wrench – $79.00

 

Central Pneumatic 1/4" Mini Air Ratchet
This thing fits everywhere! Only 5″ long, the compact 1/4″‘ air ratchet wrench is ideal for tight work spaces like under dashboards or in engine bays. Designed to work with all 1/4” drive sockets, this rugged air tool has a die-cast aluminum body and a black oxide-coated head that resists corrosion. It’s got just the right amount of torque for tightening small bolts.
  • Craftsman – 1/4″ Mini Air Ratchet – $49.99
  • Northern Tool – AirCat Mini 1/4″ Air Ratchet – $99.99
  • Home Depot – Black Bull 1/4″ Air Ratchet – $21.97
  • Lowe’s – N/A
  • Grainger – Westward 1/4″ Air Ratchet – $69.75

So as you can see, when you buy at Harbor Freight Tools, you really are getting the best of both worlds– great tools at ridiculously low prices!

Join us next week when we’ll review the tools employed to remove the engine!

’67 Firebird Restoration Project: Part 7 – Painting the Car

After all the hours, all the work, all the details– not to mention the social hari kari– it does the heart good to see the fruits of the labor coming together.

We’re now at the seventh installment of the Harbor Freight Tools 1967 Firebird Restoration Project.

Recapping — HFT invited former Rod & Custom editor, Jeff Tann, to restore a First Generation Firebird using only products from Harbor Freight Tools. The car is all original with a 400/325-hp V8 engine, so he’s approaching the project from scratch.

Now in Part 7, Jeff has advanced to the painting stage. The primer is already on, so our designated restoration artisan turns to the Central Pneumatic 2-pc. Professional Automotive HVLP Spray Gun Kit, along with a 33 Oz. Gravity Feed Paint Cup to spray two coats of red paint and three coats of clear. After which, he color-sanded the body with dish soap & water,  1200 Grit Sandpaper, using a 4-7/8″ Soft Rubber Sanding Block to knock off the “orange peel.” Following this, Jeff buffed, using a Chicago Electric 7″ Electronic Polisher/Sander With Digital Display, and then with the waxing, delivered the classic car to an incredible mirror gloss finish!

Whatever your labor of love, if it has to do with tools, Harbor Freight Tools has got what you need– and sends you home with extra cash in your pocket!

Stay in touch: There’s still more to come!

The Multitasking Multifunction Tool

It was a really dumb procrastination. A broomstick, cut to be a patio sliding door jamb as an added security– except it was about 1/2″ too long, and for the longest time, just propped up at an angle. It was an eye sore, classic jerry-rigging in the spirit of the copper penny and chewing gum. I told my wife for weeks that I’d take care of it, but the thought of sawing that little stub off the end sounded like such a royal pain, I kept putting it off.

Of course I knew about the Chicago Electric multi-function tools. They’re some of Harbor freight Tools’ bestsellers and favorites in the toolhead community. It’s just another thing I was putting off– going out to get the tool. Ha!

There are different models to choose from, all with the same professional-quality performance:

Why buy several power tools when one incredible tool can tackle so many jobs by itself? The corded Chicago Electric Multifunction Single-Speed Power Tool is the basic weapon of choice for all the small-to-midsize cutting, scraping, sanding and sawing projects on your to-do list.  This professional quality, yet very affordable, multifunction tool powers at 21,000 oscillations per minute, putting to put some real muscle into the tough jobs. The multi-tool easily cuts through cable, air ducts, downspouts, plasterboard and pipes… sands down cement, concrete, stone, plaster, tile adhesive, paint and wood . . . it can even saw through wood up to 2″ thick! It’s the “go-to” tool for remodeling and repair jobs, as well as hobbies, tile, car repairs, even scraping freshly painted windows or old floor coverings!

 

For a little more money, you can get the same versatile tool with variable speeds– raging from 10,000 to 20,000 oscillations per minute– and including 4 multi-function attachments! The Chicago Electric Multifunction Power Tool, Variable Speed Oscillating features the same rugged die cast aluminum gear housing and sealed bearings, and with the variable power and included attachments, it becomes even more power tools-in-one!

 

Going forward, we move on to the Chicago Electric Cordless Oscillating Multifunction Tool. If there isn’t a convenient plug around, or you just like the freedom of a cordless tool, this is the ticket. With speeds up to 15,000 oscillations per minute, this cordless tool is fast and tough enough to handle the difficult jobs as well as fine detail work. Like the others, it can cut through plastic, cable, air ducts, downspouts, plasterboard and pipes. Its unique spindle and blade arbor design positively locks the blade in 7 forward positions for added versatility. Attach the sanding pad and sand down cement, concrete, stone, plaster, wood, tile adhesive and paint. This cordless multifunction tool is ideal tool for home remodeling, auto repair and a whole lot of other jobs! Be sure to get a second battery you don’t find yourself with downtime in the middle of a project.

 

 

Finally, we come to the Central Pneumatic Variable Speed Multifunction Air Model. Whether it’s a tough job or detailed work, the variable speed multifunction air tool provides the solution. A great, little tool for the hard-to-get-into areas, it’s ideal for cutting cabinets, underdoor frames, ABS pipe, for Terrazzo restoration & more. The multiple attachments make it easy to cut wood 3/8″ deep… plastic, wallboard and more, scrape away linoleum, laminate and adhesives, remove grout, sand wood or metal– the list goes on! The unique spindle and blade arbor design positively locks in 7 forward positions for added versatility. At 90 psi air pressure, it powers up to speeds of 17,000 OPM!

Whatever style you choose, you’ll find your Chicago Electric multifunction tool to be an invaluable addition to your DIY arsenal. Also, be sure to check out the collection of available attachments to accommodate any and all your mutlitool needs.

Air Supremacy

Car Craft Tackles the Central Pneumatic Air Compressor

Air tools are convenient time-savers, and can be fun when performing tasks like whizzing off lug nuts with an impact wrench. But, when doing bodywork, it’s not just convenient to have an air compressor on hand, it’s essential.

In the November 2012 issue of Car Craft, John McGann shared how, while working on a past project, his team’s home air compressor couldn’t keep up the air demands of their spray gun.

“We could spray for about a minute before the air pressure began to drop, and when that happens, the spray pattern changes and becomes inconsistent, and we’d have to stop and wait for the compressor to charge back up. When spraying a solid color enamel, painting the car panel-by-panel is possible, but metallics and pearls need to cover the car all in one coat. If not, the pattern of the effects will vary from one panel to the other.”

John concluded that, to do the job right, get the biggest air compressor you can afford.

“Compressor horsepower ratings and tank volume are good selling points, but the real spec to be concerned with is the CFM rating. This rating refers to the volume of air the compressor can deliver at a given pressure, usually 90 psi.”

Although the compressor he was using had a 9 CFM rating, it wasn’t able to maintain enough air volume and pressure to power a sander or grinder for more than 30 seconds. Because it couldn’t keep up, the pressure dropped to around 60 psi and the motor continuously kept running. Consequently, moisture from the air got into the tank and water began to spray out of the air line.

“You don’t have to know a thing about painting cars to know that water in the paint will will ruin the paint job.”

After careful research, the team decided upon the Central Pneumatic 5 Horsepower, 60 Gallon, 165 PSI Two Stage Air Compressor (the manufacturer recently changed its name from U.S. General). With a 15.8 CFM rating at 90 psi, this reliable two-piston compressor’s got capacity to spare for a pro auto paint job, where the spray gun (the most demanding air tool) usually requires 12 CFM at 45 psi for proper performance.

The Car Craft team also installed a Central Pneumatic Industrial Air Filter Regulator, which manages air pressure and separates foreign matter and water, maintaining a steady 90 psi of dry, clean air, as well as Central Pneumatic 3′ Lead Air Hose, capable of 200 psi working pressure.

Now the latest of a long list of car enthusiast magazines, Car Craft affirms the value and performance of the products at Harbor Freight Tools.

 

’67 Firebird Restoration Project: Part 4 – Strip & Prime!

Welcome to the fourth installment of the Harbor Freight Tools 1967 Firebird Restoration Project.

As we shared earlier, HFT invited Jeff Tann– car enthusiast and former Rod & Custom editor — to fully restore a legendary First Generation Firebird using only products from Harbor Freight Tools. The car is all original, with a 400/325-hp V8 engine, so he’s basically tackling the project “from scratch.”

In Part 1, we were given a tour of the original vehicle, inside and out, and presented Jeff’s challenge. In Part 2, we followed the body-dismantling process and introduced the U.S. General 700 lb. Capacity 5-Drawer Rolling Tool Cart, which housed the Pittsburgh Professional 301-Piece Mechanic’s Tool Kit. Also in this segment, we saw how Jeff made quick business of the job with a Central Pneumatic 3/8″ Professional Air Ratchet and 1/4″ Mini Air Ratchet Wrench. In Part 3, Jeff lifted the engine using  a 1-Ton Capacity Foldable Shop Crane and then removed the tranny from it with a Central Pneumatic 1/2″ Twin Hammer Air Impact Wrench before he mounted it on the Central Machinery 1000 Lb. Engine Stand, and proceeded to take it apart.

Part 4 takes us to the exciting first step of transformation– sanding and priming the car. For the stripping, Jeff used a Central Pneumatic 6″ Dual Action Air Sander and the Jitterbug Orbital Air Sander.  That done, he then laid down the primer like a rock star, using the efficient, low-price Central Pneumatic Professional HVLP Gravity Feed Spray Gun.

You might be asking, why is Harbor Freight doing this? Because they can! It’s their way of saying they have everything you need to complete this job– and do it like pro– for a fraction of the cost other tool stores would charge you!

So, keep watching. There’s lots more ahead!

 

Seismic Power In Your Hands

If you spend any time doing car repairs, restorations, mods or tire changes, you know by now that doing the work without air tools is like carrying an armoire upstairs by yourself. Sure, you’re man enough to do it (probably), but why? Get the pneumatic tools, Hercules– and the first one you should go pick up is the Central Pneumatic Earthquake 1/2” Air Impact Wrench at Harbor Freight.

As mentioned in Mopar Muscle, Hot Bike, Street Chopper and Baggers magazines, this pro-class impact wrench delivers more power with better weight distribution, lighter materials and a more compact housing. Its premium-grade components give this tool a longer lifespan, less vibration and a much lower price than the competition. What’s more, it’s the most powerful wrench in its class!

Visit Harbor Freight Tools for this and other powerful, quality Earthquake air tools and gear up your garage for any tough job that comes along.

The HFT ’67 Firebird Restoration Project: Part 2 – Disassembly!

Welcome to the second installment of the Harbor Freight Tools 1967 Firebird Restoration Project. As previously noted, HFT invited Jeff Tann– car enthusiast and former Rod & Custom editor–to fully restore the legendary muscle car using only low-priced tools sold at Harbor Freight. The car is all original, with a 400/325-hp V8 engine, so he’s basically tackling the project “from scratch.”

In Part 1, we were introduced to the vehicle, inside and out, and presented Jeff’s challenge. In this segment we watch the dismantling process. As Dr. Albert Hirsch had to break down David Webb before he could build Jason Bourne, so Jeff has to take apart the old, battle-weary Firebird before he can build… a classic, hotter Firebird!

To get the ball rolling, his garage was equipped with a U.S. General 700 lb. Capacity 5-Drawer Rolling Tool Cart, which was stocked with a Pittsburgh Professional 301-Piece Mechanic’s Tool Kit. Also used in this segment, the Central Pneumatic 3/8″ Professional Air Ratchet and 1/4″ Mini Air Ratchet Wrench.

During the display, it was suggested that you should keep the bolts, nuts, washers, etc., for each portion together in ziplock bags– and who doesn’t have a horror story that supports that?

Stay tuned… the best stuff’s still ahead!

Rod & Custom “Kustomizers” Employ the HF Cut-Off Tool

Cutting 2 inches from the door’s edge with the Central Pneumatic cutoff tool.

Ardent car customizers are extreme when it comes to modifying their rods– and there’s no custom work more complicated and drastic than sectioning.

In the November 2012 issue of Rod & Custom, the “kustomizers” at Star Kustom Shop go all-guns with sectioning a ’51 Chevy hardtop-turned-roadster.

“The owner of the car is after a section that doesn’t just downsize the car and keep factory proportions, Instead, he’s after something that will downplay the bulkiness of the body while accentuating other features. What we came up with is a section that will do just that.”

Without giving anything away, let me just say this baby took a LOT of amazing work– and one of the “stars” in the sectioning process was the Central Pneumatic 3″ High Speed Cut-Off Tool.

The little, mighty cut-off tool reaches a max speed of 18,000 RPM and, besides car bodies, can rip through heavy straps, exhaust systems and sheet metal. One customer told us:

“I bought this to remove rusted bolts on my boat trailer from launching in salt water. This thing is ARE YOU KIDDING PERFECT!! I had 6 bolts cut off in mins. I used 80 pounds of air, with a 20-gallon tank, and it worked perfect. VERY IMPRESSED!” (caps included)

Another added:

“I bought this a few years ago to work on getting an exhaust system apart. Like a hot knife through butter.”

Pick yourself up a copy of the November Rod & Custom and check out the article, entitled, “Weight Watchers.” It’s filled with great detail and multiple photos to follow the sectioning process. And while you’re at it, get your cutoff tool at Harbor Freight– at only $9.99 it’ll be one of the best investments in your garage!

Car Restoration Tools Every Garage Needs

It’s funny how, as you get older, you start doing all the cool stuff you wanted to do when you were a punk teenager. Back in the 70’s we were all car crazy, and many’s the time I envied the guys in the neighborhood who were out on their front lawns, working on their Dodge Challengers or GTO “Goats”—

—not just because they HAD them (which would have been enough), but because they could actually work on them. Somehow, they managed to have the tools and supplies it took to keep their wheels “cherry.” Nowadays, though, when you hear (and feel) a carb-powered 426 Hemi thundering down the road, it’s a geezer you’re more likely to see behind the wheel than a punk. And chances are that geezer is one of us.

Classic car restoration is more popular than ever, and with the help of online parts stores, chat forums and YouTube videos, guys who thought they’d never get to rebuild their favorite classic rides are now living in their garages (and on their lawns), doing just that.

If you’ve decided to restore a vehicle yourself, I salute you. Not only will you save thousands of dollars, you’ll be embarking on a long, challenging– even therapeutic– journey that will reap dividends for years to come. But before we start doing that victory lap to “We Are the Champions,” let me suggest some basic tools you’ll want right out of the gate to make the dream a reality (unless, of course, you like repeatedly going back & forth to the store when you’re in the middle of something):

The Must-Have Tool

The Air Compressor will quickly become your best friend over the course of your restoration. It’s the first thing you’ll need to get for your arsenal. Between the Die Grinder, Paint Sprayer and Impact Wrench, you’re going to get a lot of use out of it and, believe me, you’ll thank yourself every time you’ve got a big chore that you don’t have to do manually. It needs to have a decent enough CFM—at least 5-6 CFM per minute at 90 psi– so that the long bursts of sanding, buffing or cutting won’t wear too hard on the compressor. You could get the job done with a 29-Gallon Tank Unit, but if you can swing it, go for a 60-Gallon Compressor, with power to spare. By the way, the Die Grinder is great for polishing the inside of the head ports, cleaning up metal and using with a cut-off wheel to repair panels.

Engine Work

A Compression Tester will help diagnose vital motor issues, such as worn piston rings, burnt valves and bad head gaskets.  This is a great first tool to use when you get your new project car home. You can even take it with you to test a car before you buy it!

While it’s not vital for the project, you may want to consider picking up a “cherry-picker” Engine Hoist, especially if you’re planning to restore more than one vehicle. A good 2-Ton Shop Crane should be sufficient, and will more than pay for itself in the long run.

Most likely, you should have the cylinders re-bored. A cylinder bore gauge is needed to check for taper, out-of-round and oversize on the cylinders if you are rebuilding the motor yourself. Any critical wear on the cylinder can be reached with this gauge. An Engine Cylinder Hone will de-glaze the cylinder walls and give them a nice, smooth finish.

Next, you’ll want a valve spring compressor to remove the valves for a rebuild. Also a cheap valve lapping tool, with grinding compound, helps reseat the valves.

Piston Ring Pliers will help you remove and replace the rings on the pistons without breaking them. A Piston Ring Compressor is needed for the installation of the pistons. Also, a piston groove cleaner will remove the carbon crud from the piston grooves.

A Dial Indicator is used to measure run-out on things like the flywheel, and endplay on the crankshaft. While there are various types of mounts, including magnetic base and screw mounts, I recommend the clamping mount because it’s faster and easier to work with.

Next, a Stud Puller is a must for removing stripped, rusted and otherwise stubborn head studs, as well as exhaust & intake manifold studs.

Another tool you cannot live without is the Torque Wrench—two, actually. Get both a 1/2″ drive and 3/8″ drive for your tool cabinet. These are essential to torque all your bolts to factory specs.

Have a complete Tap and Die Set on hand, preferably with both SAE & metric. You’ll find this invaluable for cleaning up old bolts and restoring rusted holes.

A good Digital Micrometer is needed to precisely measure anything.

Body Work

MIG Welder. You won’t get through a restoration job without it. Why a MIG welder, as opposed to another type? Well, for starters, if you’re new to this kind of project, the MIG is the easiest to learn. Also, they work with the most common types of metals, overhead welding is easier, and the MIG welder works fast.

You’ll also want a Hammer & Dolly Set, otherwise known as a “Body & Fender Set.” These tools go a long way in repairing and straightening steel panels, and all-around custom fab work. This one, made by Pittsburgh, probably has the best price you’re going to find, and one look at the customer reviews should convince you there’s no need to keep looking.

A Step Drill is essential to make quick, clean work out of drilling large diameter holes for auto-body jobs such as installing chrome trim, and for firewall holes.

A Spot Weld Cutter works great in restoration projects and does just what its name implies. Also, a Plumber’s Torch is great for softening and shaping metal.

As you work on your project, you’ll find a Bench Grinder and Drill Press are extremely helpful in the auto restoration process.  Plus, a Wire Wheel on the grinder is a must and makes cleaning up parts quick and simple.

Additional Work

Make sure you include various Brake Tools, a Tubing Bender and brake flare tool.

Finally, get a Creeper, Paint Stripper, Transmission Jack, Dent Repair Kit, and a Comprehensive Mechanics Tool Kit, and you’ll be equipped to tackle most everything involved in your car restoration, as well as many other future projects. Of course, you’ll inevitably be needing cleaners, sealants, lubricants and the odd part along the way, but consider yourself the proud owner of an equipped auto restoration garage.

Now, get out there and make that Vega Funny Car a reality!