restoring chevy heatHave you heard the phrase, "shade tree mechanic?" There's a very simple yet excellent reason for it. The shade tree usually provided the mechanic with a strong branch overhead that could be used to hoist the engine out of the front of the car. It also provided a great deal of shade under which the mechanic and the vehicle stayed cool via wafting breezes and out of direct sunlight. Few of us can afford the luxury of an air conditioned garage. Those of us who do have garages (those that aren't packed to the gills with household goods and other cast offs) find that it still gets pretty hot out there, even with the big door open, due to the lack of windows or other ventilation. Let's face it: big shade trees are our friends. If you lack an air conditioned garage, space for your restoration project within the existing garage, and/or a substantial shade tree in the yard, here are a couple of ideas you might consider implementing that won't cost an arm and a leg.

  1. Construct a sunshade from the largest, light-colored tarp you can afford or find. Head for the nearest big box hardware store to purchase long pieces of electrical conduit and rebar from which to construct a "frame" to which you can tie the tarp overhead. Pound the rebar into the ground at four corners (the length and width of the tarp), slip the long electrical conduit over the rebar, and use zip ties to affix the tarp to each pole. This is only a temporary fixture and you should expect the tarp to blow away in a storm but it will shade you from direct sunlight and keep you dry in a light rain.
  2. For about $200, you could purchase a backyard shelter that is light weight and easy to assemble on the fly. These work somewhat like a huge umbrella but the corner poles can be affixed to stakes in the ground (like a tent) to prevent it from flying away in strong breeze. This can be taken down and easily stored through the winter. It can also be used for other purposes such as backyard lawn parties in case you need to justify the cost to your better half.

Mechanic Classic Chevy Heat If you have a sufficient garage for working on your restoration project, consider these ideas:

  1. Add a dual heat/AC unit to an existing window. Frigidaire makes an 11,000-BTU, 570-square-foot (115-Volt) window air conditioner with heater that you can purchase at the local big box hardware store for about $600. It installs in the window (or wall opening that you create) and looks and operates just like a regular window AC. It comes with a remote control so you don't have to climb up on a stool to operate the unit, should you place it high up on the wall.
  2. Purchase a dehumidifier to take the humidity out of the air in your garage. Dry air feels cooler. You'll need to purchase a space heater separately for wintertime use, if your garage isn't already heated.
  3. By all means, insulate the garage door(s) to prevent cool air from escaping in summer and keep the warm air in in winter. Nothing spells "expensive" more than heating and cooling the great outdoors.
  4. Moving air also cools off a room pretty quickly. The least expensive way to cool the garage in summer is with a pair of box fans. Strategically placing box fans diagonally in the garage can help you stay cooler (provided you leave the overhead door open) than if there was no moving air at all. Be sure to stay hydrated if this is the option you choose.
  5. As a bonus, pick up a couple packages of interlocking reversible floor mats from Sam's Club or Costco. These will not only prevent fatigue in your feet, legs, and back, but will provide a buffer between your feet and the concrete floor, keeping those tootsies cool in the summer, warm in winter.

Once your cooler-maker is setup, turn on the radio, organize your toolbox, bring out the ice chest complete with drinks, setup a lawn chair for one of your friends nearby and get busy enjoying your car restoration in the heat.