There’s Way More Cool Stuff Than Just Army Trucks at Government Surplus Auctions

Tools, industrial machines, work stations, there's a lot of specialized gear the government doesn't want anymore besides vehicles.

I’m probably the last person on the block to learn about this, but government surplus auction sites rule! They’re filled with the stuff of my daydreams; Light Medium Tactical Vehicle off road build potential, and most of the tools I’d need to fulfill my wrenching and fabrication goals. Assuming there wouldn’t be too much bidding competition, a lot of it could be procured for cheap, too.

Join me in some daydream riffing; a sort of Sky Mall-esque (RIP) product highlight of what I’d buy for my own garage. I know a lot of these require being picked up or arranging freight; for the sake of daydream content, it’s all stuff I’d be able to lug back to my garage no problem. My actual, real-life garage is unfortunately very small; it barely fits my tiny Mazda2. But I’ve got all the room in front of it to wrench, thanks to having a cool landlord. So, with the mindset of my garage as a workshop that could house some pretty slick equipment, here’s how I’d outfit it from a government auction site.

Tire Changing and Balancing Machines

There’s Way More Cool Stuff Than Just Army Trucks at Government Surplus Auctions
Image: GovPlanet.com Screenshot

This is a crucial set of kit for yours truly. I used to be that guy who’d dig through tire graveyards at California tracks looking for scrubbed slicks with at least a session or two of life left in them. I’ve actually been quite successful at it; I once put a set together that lasted three-whole trackdays. Besides the cost of mounting they were free-ninety-nine. The reason I say used to, is because I’m no longer able to stack a bunch of roached Toyo RRs in my apartment. My girlfriend is a saint, she shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of gaudy interior design and tire potpourri.

Though, if I dedicated the garage to a workshop and storage space… I could keep a bunch of scrubs on-hand and mount/dis-mount them to my little heart’s content!

Small Arms Storage Racks

There’s Way More Cool Stuff Than Just Army Trucks at Government Surplus Auctions
Image: GovPlanet.com Screenshot

I don’t have a cache of M4s ready for this clever piece of scaffolding, but I do have a bunch of odds and ends that could store nicely in it. Tubing, miscellaneous body trim pieces, an OEM front swaybar, etc. I know, any ol’ shelving system thingy from Home Depot could fit the bill, but where’s the fun in that? Assuming it could be had for cheap, it’d look cool as heck in my workshop. Especially with “small arms” scribed on it; kind of like how metal bands put guitar cords in 5.56MM ammo cans.

Parts Washer

There’s Way More Cool Stuff Than Just Army Trucks at Government Surplus Auctions
Image: GovPlanet.com Screenshot

This is something that any home mechanic would dig. They’re useful for so many tasks, like cleaning cylinder heads and control arms, or really anything that demands a little elbow grease to be… de-greased. I’m not familiar with what’s required to hook up water or cleaning solution, but again, a guy can dream.

Workstation Table With Case

There’s Way More Cool Stuff Than Just Army Trucks at Government Surplus Auctions
Image: GovPlanet.com Screenshot

Happiness is a sturdy work table at a comfortable height. I’ve got an awkwardly tall body with a long, otter-like torso; there’s barely any portable table on the market that suits my build. This however looks like it’s height-adjustable. Plus, portability is nice for working on something outside in the sun, use at the track, etc.

Car Wash-Spec Vacuum Cleaner

There’s Way More Cool Stuff Than Just Army Trucks at Government Surplus Auctions
Image: GovPlanet.com Screenshot

Using the hose attachment on a civilian floor vacuum cleaner is annoying, and they suck. Meaning, they barely suck. This however is the real McCoy. I’d hook this up on the wall next to the garage door, pull my car up, and go to town.

Air Compressor

There’s Way More Cool Stuff Than Just Army Trucks at Government Surplus Auctions
Image: GovPlanet.com Screenshot

I know lithium-powered tools are getting better and better by what seems like the hour. But hey, for the right price, you can’t go wrong with an OG air compressor. I bet some lines and gently-used air tools could be happened upon for pretty cheap, too.

Welder

There’s Way More Cool Stuff Than Just Army Trucks at Government Surplus Auctions
Image: GovPlanet.com Screenshot

Finally, the Coup de grâce of my shopping spree: a badass welder! I’ve wanted to learn fabrication for the longest time. Creating headers, exhaust systems, roll bars -this is stuff I dream of one day being able to do with my own hands. I realize that this particular welder I’ve highlighted is some insane, pro-level stuff. But imagine being able to find a TIG setup within the pages of government auctions, for less than the cost of something brand-new that only does GMAW? Well, I’d preferably like the ability to do both, but a deal’s a deal.

What else on government surplus sites would you throw in your own workshop/garage?

Peter Nelson

Peter NelsonPeter Nelson has been wrenching on and playing with cars since he started driving them quickly between the cones at Chicagoland autocross events in his late teens. Nowadays, he can be found wringing out his Mazda2 at tracks all over California. His writing background includes Winding Road, Donut Media, and Autolist.com. He's also an avid cyclist and '80s/'90s action film connoisseur. Contact the author here.