As anyone who has been involved in any form of motorsport knows it is very expensive. The standing joke is that ‘It is easy to make a small fortune in motor racing. You just start with a big one’, is only too true. However, the one place the costs have come down by a tremendous amount is in tools. The cost of both hand tools and actual shop equipment is just a fraction of what they used to cost back in the 60’s and 70’s. The prices started to drop in the 80’s and have continued to do so.
My hand tools purchased in the 60’s and 70’s (with some added in the 80’s) including my tool box and lower box probably cost me close to $10,000. Back then a good ratchet would cost $35 to $60. I have 5. My click torque wrench was about $120. I have both SAE and Metric sockets in 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 drive. Both 6 and 12 point. I prefer 6 point but some aircraft bolts require 12. Also both metric and allen head sockets plus keys. All top quality. Costs anywhere from $5 to $30 each. Aviation shears cost back then close to $30 and I have left, right and straight. My assorted circlip pliers cost from $40 to $60. Add in hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, files, rivit guns, vice grips, taps, dies, Verniers, Mics, dial gauges, drill bits and specialty tools and it soon adds up.
Today to replace all that you could probably do it for under a $1,000 getting, as an example, Canadian Tire’s Mastercraft line with a lifetime guarantee. Maybe not the Mics and Dial gauges. Admittedly most of my tools are Snap On, top line Gray or Craftsman. Even bigger drops in price have come in what would be considered shop equipment. A racer today could equip race shop with almost anything needed for under 4 or 5 thousand dollars. When we built up Judy’s shop it took several years. We bought some used equipment and built some.
I first started crewing for Judy when she was in the Honda BF Goodrich series and what little work was done on the car was in the driveway of her parent’s house. Then she bought her Xpit F4 car for 1980. It was the first F4 Xpit, built in 72 and had a Honda CB750 in boxes. The entire car was in pieces. Her parent’s one car garage became her first race shop. The house had been built immediately post WW2 and the garage was narrow. To get past the car when we had it up on jack stands we had to have the wheels off to get past it. We built a wood 3 foot bench at the back of the garage and bought a vice for about $50. That, 6 jack stands and a full size garage jack were the shop equipment. What heat we had was from a 1500 watt electric heater. It could take the chill off but that was all as most of the heat ended up in the peaked roof.