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Since before retiring, I have intended to build a shop in my backyard. I spent many hours on two architectural design programs, planning the shop. Being on the outside of a curve in the street, my lot is pie shaped and a little over one third of an acre and an oversize back yard. That is enough room for a shop of about a 1000 square feet and still be within the code restrictions. I finally settled on a design and found what seemed to be a reliable contractor, a soon to be retiring police officer, to quote on building it. After many discussions on what could and could not be done, he quoted $70,000 for a shell of a building with no plumbing and only minimal electrical service. I think it might have been beyond his experience and that quote was just an easy way for him to back out. Since my return on this shop is projected to be essentially zero, this was impractical.

After several months, I redesigned everything and located another contractor who quoted $8,000 to construct what amounted to a steel pole barn on a concrete slab. The code requires a masonry building so steel siding was not acceptable. I was to finish the walls in more-or-less standard wood construction. The plan was to use simulated rock veneer panels for finish. My estimated total cost then was $24,000, still too much but I was willing to do it anyway.

With a firm plan in hand, I contacted our building and code inspector for guidance on proceeding. I have worked with him before with good results. He asked to see the plot staked out on site. After reviewing that, my plans and the materials I intended to use, he verbally approved everything. The next step was to get the proper building permits and proceed. A shop seemed finally within reach. These are renderings of the proposed shop, attached to the existing house, produced by the architectural program.
West View East View

The roofed opening between the house and shop are the breezeway that makes it a single structure.

Things were not to be so simple, however. On returning to his office, he looked into the codes once more and found a couple of obscure clauses the appeared to stiffle my plans. Our local code requires any addition to be attached to the house and the whole thing must be at least 60 per cent masonry. It seems that the code defines masonry as individual pieces, hand set in mortar. Individual pieces of simulated stone would be acceptable but my panels are not. The cost to add the additional footings and hire brick layers made the cost of the building unacceptable.

Over the next year, I searched for a suitable place to rent without much luck. There just are few places available in a size and rent that I could afford. I did have a couple of interested potential partners but they did not seem in any rush to find a place. Garage Garage

Suddenly, the situation was to change. Judy's Oldsmobile was destroyed by the hail storm in May of 2010. We finally replaced it with a Saab in early November and she insisted that it be kept in the garage. This shows what my garage looked like at the time. Yes, that is the Sprite stored above the Prefect. The collector car insurance for the Volkswagen and Prefect also required that they be garaged when not in use. There was obviously no room for the Saab. I made temporary arrangements with a friend to store the Volkswagen until I could find a more permanent solution.

Finally, for some reason unknown to me, those partners both decided to make a move. With that encouragement, I was able to locate a suitable shop with rent a little more than half what those self-storage places usually charge per square foot. My share of that seemed acceptable.

The new place is about three miles from home, usually about ten minutes drive. Not as convenient as my back yard but still not too bad. The good part is I spend a little less than 10% yearly of what building would have cost. Add in the cost of money, the increase in property taxes, utilities and maintenance and this quickly becomes a better deal financially.

We have 2000 square feet, including a small office, storage room and restroom that have both heat and air. It has gas, water and 200 amp, 3 phase electricity all under 12 foot ceilings. All things considered, this is way more than I could have done in my back yard. The following are photos of the place. Some of the cars are fairly permanent and some come and go.

Lounge Store Room

This is our front room or lounge with beer keg and flat screen television. The door on the right is the restroom. The other, more cluttered room, is the store room. It is mostly spare parts and other replacements.
Sprite Motor

This is the motor for my Sprite, overhauled, painted and ready for a car to put it into. It has since been moved under the large industrial shelf unit for better safekeeping. The faded red A series motor is still there, still on the test stand and is for sale although I have not advertised it yet.
Work Bench Tools Welders

These shots are in the general work area. On the left is the work bench with cabinet below full of tools. On the right is another tool cabinet, a stick welder and torch.
North Wall North Wall North Wall Guard Dog These photos are of the north wall taken from where you first enter the shop area. The three different configurations show what I meant about some of the toys being transient. The MGB, the MINI, the 914-6 and the Vespa all have the same owner. The MG was sold and left a few months ago. The Porsche is sold to a buyer in France but has not left yet. The MINI went home, probably to make room for the Porsche. The Volkswagen is Judy's and the white 450SE in the far corner is mine. The pretty red 560SL belongs to my other partner. At this time, the Porsche and my Mercedes are not driveable. And this little furry critter is our guard dog. Don't be fooled, she is very big for her size. The Volkswagen is discussed here.
MGB Roadster MGB Sprite


The MGB in the work area belongs to the owner of the 560SL. He is building it to be a rally car. The Austin Healey Sprite in the background is mine. It is waiting for a lot of work. More on it can be found here.
Porsche MG TR3
I have not seen actual concours results but I suspect the yellow Porsche is very nearly a 100 point car. The Midget and TR3, on the other hand, are definately projects. The TR3 was purchased for the purpose of selling on. Its previous owner had started a full frame off restoration several years ago but lost interest in the project. It is a nearly complete car, lacking a full interior and needing some paint repairs before reassembly. The Midget will probably be sold at some point. It was purchased from a mutual friend who never should have bought it in the first place, having no idea how to finish putting it together. It is a rubber bumper car that has been converted to chrome but the conversion leaves something to be desired.

Well, that's all for now but as new cars or other toys show up, I will try to keep the page up-to-date.