Space…”The Final Frontier” For Mustang Enthusiasts

Space…”The Final Frontier” For Mustang Enthusiasts

The Pony Express

by Karl McClellan

I believe the problem I am about to share with you is one many of us in the “Mustang” hobby have had to face………not enough space for our prized possessions…..especially if you are blessed to be able to add to your collection.

For me, this problem started many, many years ago when we purchased our first home with a garage…..a one car garage to be exact. My dear wife Darlene has been an amazing supporter of my hobby for years and understands the importance of keeping “special” cars out of the weather. However a principle we have lived with successfully for 37 years of marriage is that “The Mrs.”, who deals with the kids, getting the groceries (the vast majority of the time), needs to be able to come and go whenever she needs to with the security of being able to enter/exit her car securely out of the weather so she always has a spot inside the garage. So when we first got this house with a one car garage….. she got it! Now at the time the good news was there was still room to store my 1965 K-Code Mustang Fastback at my parents’ home.

We finally reached a time back in 1993 to add a second bay to our garage………..and brought our ’65 Mustang home and thought my problem was solved (for the time being….)! Well fast forward to 2013………….our kids are out of college and we started talking about my “bucket list”……….I had always wanted a Shelby and maybe now we can get one? Darlene agreed with one condition since she doesn’t drive stick shift due to a back problem she said “as long as it is an automatic so I can drive it too…..I’m in”! There is a good story (probably for another article) about the search for our Shelby but suffice to say we found a 2007 GT with an automatic being sold by a collector from Long Island New York and decided to buy it. Then facing the big question…..well where is that going to live? We had an interim solution when my brother Art, who at the time had an open bay in his 2 car garage, said we could store it there! Great!! So in July of 2013 the Shelby GT joined our family………….

Life was good though a little extra effort was required since the Shelby did not “live” with us but it was workable!! Then after about a year things changed for my brother and he was going to need his garage space back…….completely understandable. Darlene asked “Well now what? Are we going to sell one of the cars”? Heck NO!!!! I gave her the solution…….”WE WILL GO UP!!!!”…….and she thought I was crazy (which has happened numerous times over our 37 years) but I went on to explain that I believed we could modify our garage and install a lift so that our “special” cars could both live in one bay…one on top of the other! Being a mechanical engineer by trade, I was now on a mission to see if the lift idea was really feasible. I spent many hours researching various lift manufactures, comparing the foot prints, dimensions of the cars + the height required to fit a lift and determined it was possible but the garage ceiling and door track/opener both had to be modified. I ended up selecting “Back Yard Buddy” as the lift manufacturer. There are many choices out there but Back Yard Buddy appealed to me because of their robust/free standing design and their lifts are built in America (Ohio to be specific) with all US materials including all North American steel.

Back in 1993 when we expanded the 1 car garage to a 2 car design it also included an attic for storage with pull down stairs access. Turns out the finished ceiling was not high enough for a lift as it existed as you can see here…

I came up with the concept to remove the ceiling above the lift and create a recess into which the top car could fit while still maintaining the existing roof line. I happened to know a local architect (who I had coached soccer with and heads up Linn Architects in Media, Pa.) and asked him to stop by to see if my concept was possible. He introduced me to an architectural
feature called a “collar tie” where we could remove the ceiling in the garage over the one bay (and the corresponding attic floor in that area) connect the roof rafters mid span with these horizontal “collar ties” then refinish the ceiling attached to the collar ties and rafters at a higher elevation thus creating the recessed area for the top car! The ceiling and attic storage over the other bay would remain. I contracted with one of his architects to do the detailed design and create the required drawings for the project. With his guidance, we engaged the right people in our township to acquire the necessary permits, went out for bids and found a contractor to do the structural changes and dry wall while I took care of the electrical and painting.

The way the scheduling worked out, the delivery of the lift came after the ceiling and drywall was complete, but before the door track work was done. Here is the Back Yard Buddy Crew on installation day. They were amazing working like a pit crew to unload and assemble the lift. Now came the solution for the overhead doors. I located a garage door company that does custom work……The Ellis Company. Our goal was to retain the existing doors but rework the tracks to extend up/over the lift and the car on top. We did have to eliminate the automatic garage door opener but that was a small price to pay. Here you can see the new custom tracks being installed along with the new torsional spring system….. Now with the door complete it was time to load the lift for the first time…….and keep our fingers crossed that all the measurements were correct and our cars would fit into the recess……….

Thank goodness everything fit!!!!!! We also tested the fit with the Shelby on top. The first challenge was just loading her onto the lift given how low the GT is and the steepness of the approach ramps but it did clear going up the ramps. (Note Back Yard Buddy does offer longer ramps with a more gradual approach angle if needed). Since the Shelby is a little longer than the Mustang you’ll see the overhead door is a bit closer………but all is good!!

So we were able to meet all of our goals with our vertical solution…..3 cars in a 2 car garage…….a safe & secure place for both our “special” cars, the outside of the garage still looks the same and Darlene keeps her prime garage bay for her daily driver!! And our “bucket list” Shelby is an addition which Darlene can drive!!! Looking back I can say there are a few lessons I learned that if you ever consider something like this I’d suggest you keep in mind…….I know I certainly will:

  1. If you have the chance to build or expand a garage, aim for the maximum floor space you can… you never know down the road when it will come in handy.
  2. If you are building or modifying a garage, think about the ceiling height and get as much as you can since that may well allow you, down the road, to add a lift.
  3. Do your homework when seeking a manufacturer and understand what you are getting including technical support and installation options.
  4. Develop a budget (with contingency) for all aspects of the project.
  5. Research the suppliers/contractors you plan to use, checking their references.

In summary I sure hope you have enjoyed our story. If you ever consider doing something like this and would like to connect with me, ask questions, pick my brain (what is left of it (LOL)) or come and see our installation, I’d be happy to assist you. Just give me a call or email me.

Karl McClellan
Cell: 610-761-4804

List of key suppliers/resources used:

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