We Finally Got us a Garaj Mahal

The first official Scott home, a 1946 Cape Cod built by Best Homes of Peoria, complete with a period-correct vehicle. 

Room to breathe.

That's all Sarah and I wanted when we bought our starter home in December of 2007. This was three years after we got married and struggled through efficiency apartments, tiny rental houses, and duplexes.

When we first moved to central Illinois, we happily rented a nice 2-bedroom on the north side of town on a quiet dead-end street. We had a huge living room, a full basement, and a decent 1-bay garage but we always had someone right on top of us and zero room for automotive projects. Neighbors are fantastic until you hear them dancing at 6 A.M. on a Sunday, or you smell their fish frying... or they trip over your floor jack in the driveway while you're under a car changing oil.

We later bought a nice little Cape Cod fixer-upper and did the American Dream thing. (Sweat equity is overrated, by the way.) After a lot of help from our loving families, a few hundred trips to the home improvement store, and a decade of projects... we turned our Cape Cod into a lovely American home. No more drafty windows! No more outdated electrical service! No more plumbing nightmares!

After a decade, Sarah and I had a house that did everything a normal house was supposed to do. Everything except for one small detail.


Our original house's garage left a lot to be desired. An awful lot. No electric, no functional windows, and no room for anything but the bare essentials. Somehow we managed to squeeze a car, snowblower, motor, leave vac, two engines, two transmissions, and engine hoist and spare house fixtures into this tiny space. 

The single garage without electricity didn't cut the mustard. Sure, it kept the snow off of one the vehicles... but it just didn't make the grade when it came time to change the oil or replace brake lines on one of our project vehicles. In fact, it barely held all of the mowers, trimmers, snowblowers, vacuums and other paraphernalia that a person collects if they want to be a self-sufficient adult in middle America. One thing you should know about us: We try to handle things ourselves.

We decided to further complicate matters by not only purchasing more old cars over the years but because we ran out of places to store them, we had to resort to renting storage units. That's a sign that you either need to thin the herd or double down and get serious.

Let's face it. Storage units suck for a multitude of reasons.

1. Nobody maintains them. They can have leaky roofs or gobs of screws and nails scattered all over the place, as ours did.

2. They're pricey. A 10x20 unit here by us goes for $110 a month. That's nuts.

3. They make you think twice about how badly you really need your junk.

4. Unfortunate life circumstances can cause your stuff to end up on Storage Wars.

5. Your access to your stash is regulated by someone else. Our cars were held hostage for a week because of sealcoating without any prorated rental. Screw that, and screw everything else about renting 'space' from someone else.

By summer of 2017, Sarah and I finally agreed to start the search for a new house with a ridiculously big garage. 

So when a pretty old brick ranch with a three-car garage down the street quickly went up for sale in August, we decided to throw caution to the wind and buy it, no questions asked.

Nestled on a 1.5-acre lot, the new Scott house is more like an urban retreat. The property features a lush forest with hearty maples, Douglas firs, and white pines. This also means a ton of maintance, but we couldn't say no.

In purchasing house #2 we reset the clock on our comfortable existence in an effort to gain some valuable square footage and enough garage space for everything we owned and cared about. We succeeded but we knew that starting over would be hard.

Very hard.

Originally built as a 3-bedroom ranch with an enclosed 2-car garage, our new home features an add-on three-car garage from the 1970s. The enclosed garage was finished as a family room complete with a fireplace and wood paneling. It is in dire need of updating. We'll add that project to the list. 

Our new-to-us brick ranch was built in 1957 by a large family and was lovingly kept up over the years. The family ran a local building supply store and were responsible for building and selling a great deal of the cabinets and fixtures that went into the cookie-cutter houses in Peoria and Tazewell Counties during the post-war housing boom. This house also features a lot of 'remnants' of their wares, including its original Formica-lined kitchen cabinet shelves, blue bathroom fixtures, jalousie windows, and a working NuTone AM radio & intercom system that makes me a happy camper.

But it was the garage that drew us in more than anything else.

Moments after we closed, Minerva the '55 Plymouth made her presence known. This new space will be the launching pad of many great things down the road. Stay tuned. 

Armed with a borrowed pressure washer, gallons of Zep cleaning products, and an empty truck bed, our family helped us tackle a hazardously messy job right out of the gate. At one time, it appears a doggie door on the back of the garage became a raccoonie door. Needless to say, everything inside the garage was covered with a furry layer of wild raccoon fecal matter that stank to high heaven.

My wife gets a gold star for this. No way I could do it without barfing. 

Eventually, all those goodies got swept up and tossed in the trash. After we (Sarah) cleaned the garage, we made three trips to the dump. After that, we were in business! On Sunday, September 3rd, 2017 we rolled the first vehicle into our new Garaj Mahal and life 2.0 began.

Everyone helped us to achieve our lifelong dream. We are so blessed to have a loving family on both sides, thank you all for your work!

We had to install some lighting and shore up a few small things in the garage (think raccoonie door) but otherwise Sarah and I were finally able to store all of our oldies under one roof and when the mood struck, we could take one of our pieces of history out for a little exercise without making an evening of it.

We finally had a place to dig into that leaky rear main seal that we've wanted to replace.

We now had a home for all of our new old stock parts to hang out.

We had a launchpad for our inevitable restoration of the 76 C20 Fleetside pickup that desperately needs some attention.

After a decade of busting our behinds, it was a glorious feeling to finally get somewhere we wanted to be. I hope at some point in their lives, everyone is able to feel as happy as we were that day when we took possession of our new home.  

"Reunited and it feels so good." 

Our new place is still very much a work in progress.

Drywall, carpet, cabinets, and plumbing work were needed just to move into the place. I won't even share pictures of everything until we get it ironed out. Trust me, it's going to be a while. How else could a regular couple afford a big place with a 3 car garage? (What do they say about sweat equity?) After two months, we have the first floor livable but the outdoors still posed a challenge. After years of overgrowth... let's just say we're still working on it.

We cut down six trees. There are 17 left. Privacy is wonderful, but so are weekends without yardwork. 

Yew bushes can grow as tall as buildings. They also come down with ease. 

Sarah and I have had so much help from our families and friends, and couldn't be more grateful for their love and support of our crazy new adventure. Whether it was helping clear brush, hang drywall, load the pickup a few dozen times to run furniture from house to house, or helping to cut out cabinets to make way for new appliances, we always had a helping hand.

A house isn't a home without family and friends to share it with. That's not a Hallmark card, that's the truth.

As for the garage, we tossed in a new workbench and then proceeded to fill the 24x32 space with a lot of our stuff from down the road. Its a work in progress and will be until the warm weather returns. A generous friend from our car club donated a bunch of oak cabinets that will find a new home in our garage, filling the walls once we get things insulated and sealed up to accommodate an upcoming HVAC system that will make the space much more usable in the Illinois climate. We also had new garage doors installed along with a garage door opener because... we're spoiled. Now our Homelink in the newer cars can actually do something!

I never fancied myself as an interior decorator. Check out those old hubcaps, though. Pretty cool, eh?

Having extra space for your automotive projects is a great feeling. After years of sacrifice, it satisfies me to have the ability to spread out.

Need to yank a rear axle? GO FOR IT!

Want to rewire that Plymouth? WHY NOT?

My only fear is that I'll load up the bigger place with bigger projects and even more junk. Heck, I look daily. I've been warned countless times by friends to keep our garage clean and resist the urge to go big with my ambitions. I should "maintain what I have" and "stick to what I need" before my next Craigslist search for lost iron. Without restaint, pretty soon a three car garage can become too small.

For now, I'll keep my nose to the grindstone and use this new opportunity to bring our cars up to the next level. I will focus on what makes me happy and turn our garage into a workshop oasis where nobody can bother me. I will look forward to coming home from a stressful workday and unwinding in our Garaj Mahal.

But first, I'm told we bought an old house with our garage. We should probably finish that up first.



  1. That NuTone system is sweet. Enjoy the new garage...errr....house.

  2. Those floor lights are also sweet.


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