Photograph by Aldwin C. Aspillera
Drive Cars and Bikes

The ultimate garage (and what it takes to build one)

Rare classics deserve nothing less than a shrine
Iñigo S. Roces | Nov 27 2018

For car collectors and like-minded individuals, the garage is their retreat. They can spend hours in it repairing, maintaining, or simply admiring their pride and joy with other enthusiasts—it's no surprise the ideal garage serves multiple roles as a fully equipped workshop, an automotive museum, as well as a receiving area.

One such collector is Andy Sta. Maria, whose love and care for his car collection goes beyond acquisition. A self-taught mechanic and avid racer, Sta. Maria has a garage that reflects his interests. It is wide rather than long, and divided into two areas. One side has floor-to-ceiling windows, offering a view from the receiving room. The other side has a sliding door and is lined with tools and cabinets, apropos to being the designated work area. "When we found this place... it had garage space for six cars, which I could park all in a row," recalls Sta. Maria of his current home in Quezon City.

Individual roller doors per car; race spec Lotus Elan entering.

He got architect Ed Calma to redesign the garage to his exact specs. "I have a lot of friends that come over so there's a sitting area where you can sit down and talk. If you have to keep one door open, you can close the rest of the garage." Sta. Maria's garage is pristine and is comprised of several key components that serve a specific purpose. Here's an insider's peek on what it takes to build the ultimate garage.


 Cool lighting with high output is ideal. Sta. Maria's garage employs a mix of fluorescent and halogen lamps to make work easy and balance the light for a variety of paints.


Since grease and oil are unavoidable, the working area is made of cement floors with epoxy treatments. "The floor is completely flat so that aligning the car can be easy," says Sta. Maria.

The work desk with power tools and running water.

Climate control

"The biggest problem in the Philippines is humidity, [which] can hit 90 percent," says Sta. Maria. "You want the humidity down... because your enemy with an old car is rust." Ideal humidity levels are about 55 to 60 percent. To keep his garage cool and dry, he opted out of roof tiles and instead used plants on his roof to absorb heat and moisture. He also uses an air-purifying dehumidifier and air conditioning.

What every garage needs: fire extinguisher, an alligator jack and compressed air.

Electrical and plumbing

Automotive work requires more than just drains. The work area is equipped with running water, high-pressure air, and separate breakers for the many high-wattage tools.

Wrench sets arranged by standard, this one in imperial.


Sta. Maria's cars are from different eras, some before the widespread implementation of the metric system. As such, some vehicles require a separate set of tools. "The cars I have are made in England, using imperial inches, but in the later ones, the Italians used metric. These are not interchangeable. I have a third set called Whitworth (British Standard) for a very early English car," he discloses. To keep his sets of tools organized and easy to find, Sta. Maria also invested in top-of-the-line tool sheds. 

Cars from top: a vintage MG T-series, Lotus Elan, Lotus Elise, Porsche 911 GT 3.

Photographs by Aldwin C. Aspillera

This story first appeared in Vault Issue 2 2011.