2 May 2007

Gunner’s Great Garages 4: The Gathering Place

I like to think of my garage as, first and foremost, a place where people I know can come together to work on their cars. Actually, I call it the “shop,” not the garage, which underscores its main purpose. The busier it is with my friends doing work to make their cars run better, run safer or just “funner,” the better.
You might ask why I have this attitude, as the norm seems to be nice garages are for preserving and perhaps working on the owner's cars and that's about it. The answer is pretty simple: Folks in the car hobby have been incredibly generous over the years with their time, knowledge, and parts. My cars would not be nearly as enjoyable without the many contributions of countless people.
So, when my financial circumstances permitted me to build this shop, which is beyond what I ever imagined as a kid, it was my way of giving back to the community and helping other people enjoy their cars as much as I have enjoyed mine. Also, the fact that I I've been fortunate financially is an amazing blessing that I don't want to ever take for granted. Having the shop be used for honest work on a regular basis "keeps it real" and constantly reminds me of what's most important: People helping each other.
Speaking of people helping each other, I host a tune-up day each fall for my car club. It's a great opportunity for people to learn about their cars, make them run better, and to make new friends. It's also a good recruitment tool for our club. When prospective new members see how willing people are to pitch in and help work on each other's cars, any hesitation about becoming a member melts away. I highly recommend anyone with a facility like mine to host a tune-up day, clinic, or something similar. It's great fun!
As you can tell from the photo, Corvairs are my passion. Because the car has always been a little different, Corvair owners have had to be self-reliant for repairs and parts for many years. As a result, the Corvair owner's culture has always been very hands-on and can-do. I really enjoy this aspect of the Corvair hobby, especially since it is very different from my "day job" in the computer industry, where most things are virtual, rarely tangible and tactile.
I got bit by the Corvair bug early. I grew up in a small town in Indiana and knew that I wanted to drive something a little different from the get-go. I was fortunate that the co-owner of the one local service station had been a factory trained Corvair mechanic back when he worked in the "big city" and still had a fondness for them. He loaned me his copy of The Corvair Decade and the love affair began. My first Corvair was a ’62 Monza coupe that needed a lot of work – that was in 1983.
Today, I have a ’66 Corvair 500 coupe that has many upgrades and additions (including a 190 CID custom street performance engine), a ’64 Corvair Rampside pickup that was made the last day of production (and could very well be the last one made), a ’66 Corvair Corsa convertible that has many factory-correct options added, and a ’66 Canadian-built Corvair Corsa turbo convertible. The latter has been quite an experience for me, as I'm not the traditional trailer queen/show car type of guy. Because this car is quite rare (one of 10 known to still exist) and has been restored to factory stock condition, I really think of myself as its caretaker. But that's another story... You can read about all of these cars, and my passion for Corvair history, on my website, www.corvairkid.com.
The shop is 30' deep by 60' wide. Most of the area is configured as one big work area. Gasp, yes, there are lots of stains on the floor. It's a SHOP, not a MUSEUM, after all! One stall is separated by a full wall and it has a snap-together floor over the concrete. That's where the show car lives, as well as reference books and a small lounge area.
The shape and exterior finish of the shop were designed to stay in character with our house, as requested by my wife. (Yes, the house has a rounded roof too.) The one truly decadent thing I did during construction was to install radiant floor heat. The system was already in place for our house so it wasn't that big of a deal, and the comfort gained for those long winter work days is nearly immeasurable. Concrete floors are always hard--there's no good reason for them to be cold too!
– Kent Sullivan

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