Gift for car fixer-upper?


I’m hoping someone out there may have some suggestions for me. I’m trying to think of a good gift for my father-in-law for his 70th birthday. He is very blessed with good health and loving family and has few wants and needs.

He has always enjoyed working on and fixing up old cars and has restored an old MG, a WWII army jeep and many others vehicles. At the same time, he prides himself on using the simplest, least expensive tool to do this and often peruses flea markets to find bargains on tools.

I was thinking that I would love to buy him a really nice tool (or power implement) one that he would never buy for himself but one that could really assist him in continuing to restore his old cars in retirement.

Can anyone think of something that may fit this description?

Anne G.

A new cordless re-chargeable LED type light (around 50-60 LEDs or so) would make a nice gift. Nothing is worse than not being able to see what your working on. And not having a cord or a light bulb to worry about is a bonus.

Those cordless LEDs are great. They are much handier and safer than any 110v service lamp with a cord. And if the summers are hot there a very good fan can make it possible to work all day in reasonable comfort when the temperature exceeds 90*. The good ones are large and heavy and move a lot of air. The ones on stands don’t seem to do much. I have a 36’ belt driven model that will sweep oil dry across the floor.

A small dollar gift to add to that is a magnetic wrist band…even for the home DIYer…to hold the nuts and bolts right there at his finger tips.

It’s tough to guess without knowing what he already has, but if he gets deep into restoration an infrared thermometer or a borescope would be a nice gift. Both can be gotten at the local parts store.

But I’d also like to suggest seeking out cast metal scale models of some of the vehicles he’s restored. They make great gifts for car guys. An internet search or even a trip to a hobby shop should prove productive.

Here’s a shopping/learning idea for you to use.
Go to your nearby auto parts stores and get their tool sales flyers/brochures.
Go to Sears and get the Craftsman tool catalog.
Lay these out at home so he can peruse them and lay the ‘‘wish I had’’ bombs for anyone listening.

Heck, you can even tell him straight out that you’re shopping from those catalogs and would like his input.

Air compressor outfit; make sure that it is a quiet design as there are some noisy ones out there. He can use it for cleaning parts and to keep tire pressures up. Later you can buy him an air operated impact wrench; he will have some fun with that. Get him a quality tire pressure gauge for about $15. Harbor Freight or a farm supply type store such as Fleet Farm, Farm and Fleet or Bomgaars has some of this stuff.

I would recommend an electric 1/2 inch impact wrench. Easy to use and affordable without all the hassles of an airtank and hoses. It will disassemble most engines in no time at all. It’s now my favorite tool.

Maybe one of those racheting screwdrivers that have a setup to remove stripped bolts/screws.
Full on tool set from Craftsman,
portable air compressor to inflate his tires(usually comes with attachments for bicycles too),
tool box for all his tools,
pair of Mechanix gloves so he isn’t scraping his knuckles on everything as he works,
magnetic bowl to store his screws and other parts in while he’s working(similar to ken’s suggestion, but larger)
large fan or portable heater for the garage(gotta be comfortable while you work, afterall)

browse this site and see if anything catches your(or his) eye:

I think the first step would be a visit to his garage to see what he has already. This would give us more insight into what is needed.

Yeah the led might be nice-I’d like one myself but maybe a radio/cd player instead of tools. It was about 50 years ago but I still remember the crestfallen look on my friend’s face when his dad went to try out the grinder he bought him for his birthday. His dad was quite a tool man and the grinder just didn’t pass muster for him. He didn’t throw it in the trash that night but shortly after that. Sounds like this guy might be cut from a similar cloth.

A gift card for Sears or K-Mart.

While lots of mechanics are tool nuts, your FIL is different, a minimalist. I’d have trouble getting him something. The Sears gift card for Craftsman tools would be good. Or just ask him.

Since he appears to be real do it from scratch kind of guy and involved with old stuff what about a Dremel tool kit? The Dremel is one of the handiest tools I’ve ever owned and I flat can’t survive without one. The one I have now is the 5th one I’ve owned with the prior 4 eventually wearing clean out from use.

Another suggestion (if he uses air tools) might be a 1/4" drive air ratchet and a set of 1/4" drive sockets/extensions, etc. For most day to day repairs of things that use smaller fasteners that little ratchet is invaluable for getting into those tight spaces. I have a 6 foot accessory hose that is small diameter, has a swivel fitting on it, and it can sure speed things up; even on underdash and interior work.

I was give an LED headlamp, a flashlight sort of thing that straps around your head with the light on your forehead above the bridge of your nose. They sell them in outdoors stores for backpackers. It throws a lot of light and you don’t have to hold it, so you can work with 2 hands. Also the light comes from close to your eyes, so shadows are not a problem. I use it a lot.


Perhaps not Sears/K-mart. It looks like there might be a bankruptcy in the works. Sears has already made the announcement.

I would like to expand on the radio idea.When I work in my garage I now have my satellite radio on. As a car guy I like to listen to the old radio shows. You see they play car adds from the 40’s and 50’s. Besides it is fun to be working a old car and listen to old radio shows like the Green Hornet, Gun Smoke or Bob Hope. Buy him a radio and a years sub.