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.

Hot on the Press

The Central Hydraulics 20-Ton Shop Press is a sweet addition to both the home shop and professional auto garage– and one of the best investments you can make if you restore, rebuild or all-around wrench on cars and trucks. It can press bearings and U-joints on and off like butter, come in handy for doing gear installs, press axles out of rims, and bushings from axles (to name just a few applications). If you work on cars or trucks occasionally, as I do, the money is well invested.

The 20-ton shop press can also be used for electric motor and armature repair, installation and removal of pressure-fitted parts and bending or straightening metal.

And not the least of it, it looks great in the garage and fits in easily!

But, as I like to tell people with any of the Harbor Freight Tools products, don’t take my word for it. Check out the customer reviews– they can sometimes give far more insight than a blog article. Here are a couple testimonials I plucked from the product page:

“This thing is awesome. It took about 3 minutes to set up, because it’s all welded together already. I was toying around with it moments later. I also bought the bushing/bearing set (#68971, ~$17.99), as well as the front wheel drive lock-nut socket set (#66988, ~$55) and press dies. In the first 30 minutes I owned it, I had pressed out 4 bushings for a car that would’ve cost me at least $60 from a shop. That following weekend, I did 2 complete suspension overhauls, pressing out/in 10 more bushings without breaking a sweat. This machine is a workhorse, and getting to know it and use it properly is tricky, but very easy. You just have to go slow. I would also highly recommend only using this with 2 people. This thing was a great value. It was on sale when I bought it, plus 20% off made it under $160. I paid it off in the money I saved in just the first weekend, not to mention how handy it was to fix a screwdriver I bent, just because I could! If you’re any kind of an automotive/tool guy, this is one to add to your collection. The possibilities are endless.”  John the Car Guy – Portland, OR

“I bought this press in the late 80’s and it still works as good as it did when new… I have straightened motorcycle forks, ATV rear axles, and have done motorcycle crankshaft work. The list goes on and on. Worth every penny!”  Brian F.

Apply tremendous pressure on parts, metals and machinery with just a little effort, for all sorts of applications. It won’t take long for the Central Pneumatic 20-ton shop press to pay for itself over and over, again.

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 5 – The Underbody

Welcome to the fifth 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.

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 took 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.  He then laid down the primer like a rock star, using the Central Pneumatic Professional HVLP Gravity Feed Spray Gun.

We now come to Part 5, which involves the pressure-washing, sandblasting and undercoating of the Firebird. Using a Pacific Hydrostar 4 HP 2000 PSI Gas Pressure Washer and a generous amount of heavy-duty degreaser, he heavily coated the underbody to break down over 45 years of grease, oil and dirt, and then washed it off with water using a high-pressure nozzle. Once the underbody was scrubbed clean, he sandblasted the rust spots with a Central Pneumatic Portable Abrasive Blaster Kit, using highly effective Medium Grade Armex Soda Blast Media, and as a finishing touch, covered the surface with Rustoleum Professional Undercoating Spray.

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!

Keep watching. There’s still a lot more ahead!

’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!

 

’67 Firebird Restoration Project: Part 3 – Engine Removal!

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

For first-time readers: HFT invited Jeff Tann— car enthusiast and former Rod & Custom editor — to fully restore the legendary muscle car using only discount tools from 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 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.

This time we follow Jeff as he lifts the engine, using a 2-Ton Capacity Foldable Shop Crane. It’s probably the first time the 45-year-old engine’s been taken out since it was on the assembly line, so it’s not gonna be pretty. Jeff then removes the tranny from the engine with a Central Pneumatic 1/2″ Twin Hammer Air Impact Wrench before he mounts it on the Central Machinery 1000 Lb. Engine Stand, and proceeds to take it apart.

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!