ElectroClassic EV
Classic Cars Reborn into the Electric Future

Inside the Yellow Door

My original fiberboard door panels had seen better days.  They were weakened, warped and worn by moisture, heat, and general use.  Creating replacements out of fresh flat fiberboard is difficult because the panels are molded to the contours of the door interior.  Rather than hunting for original new or used door panels, I went with fiberglass replacements from 914 Appearance & Performance.  Fiberglass is light, strong, and impervious to dampness, warping and dry rot.  914 A&P sells them either completely upholstered, or unfinished for those who are on a budget and good with their hands.  Given the amount of work and materials needed to finish them yourself, the price on the already upholstered panels was very reasonable, but then you’d never learn what makes them tick.

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The first step involved removing all of the hardware from the old panels by drilling out the rivets, scrubbing them with a wire brush to remove old paint and oxidation, and then hitting them with a couple coats of rust reformer.  Now they’ll last another 30 years  or more.

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Some minor modifications were needed to make the new fiberglass panel fit.  A drill, a small coping saw and a variety of files made this easy.  Once the hole was widened for the power window spindle, the new panel laid perfectly flush against the door.

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Next, I dropped all three panel hanging hooks into their door slots on the window sill, just to see how they fit.  Then I held the panel in place so the top edge mated against the inner window fuzzy, seen behind the hook above, and made a mark on the fiberglass to record the position of each hook mounting hole for drilling.  The top edge of the fiberglass had some excess overhang, so my positioning of the panel accounted for trimming it off later.

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After the holes were drilled, the hooks were fastened in place with 1/8 inch pop rivets.  The back of the rivet faces the door with a backing plate added for tighter grip, as seen above.  Pop rivets were also used to attach the nut brackets that hold the armrests to the middle part of the panel.

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Here you can see the new panel hanging on the hooks riveted on the underside of the top edge.  The two small white spots under each hook are not pre-drilled mounting holes, but are used as registration marks for factory placement of the hooks.  Some of the pre-drilled holes around the side and bottom edges of the door panel needed finessing.  As you can see, I marked them with a Sharpie for re-drilling. The bottom and side panel edges had a small amount of overhang, so I marked them off and trimmed the excess with a coping saw and a file.  I also marked off the excess top edge with a ruler, and brought it flush with the inner window fuzzy strip.

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The shot above shows all of the hardware mounted to the new panel, in addition to new plastic panel fasteners.  All of the new upholstery mentioned from here forward was also purchased from 914 A&P.  The next step is attaching the thin foam padding to the panel with upholstery spray adhesive, and then trimming the excess from around the edge with scissors.  The same exact process is used to glue the vinyl upholstery material to the foam, with an allowance for enough excess vinyl around the edges to fold over and attach.  Using a marker to trace the shape of the panel onto the backside of the vinyl allowed for better placement.

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Now the padded cover can be installed over the sill on the top of the door panel.  For this, I bought a six foot aluminum strip at a local hardware store to replace the worn out cardboard strips in the original panels.  I cut it into a pair of three-footers and then rounded the sharp edges to avoid puncturing the vinyl (Shout out to Fordy for helping with this).  Then I matched the long edge of the vinyl strip along the top edge of the large vinyl piece just underneath the sill, sandwiched them under the metal strip, then drilled and pop riveted them into place.  I used a razor blade to trim the excess vinyl from above the strip.  If not removed, the surplus material makes the padded strip look lumpy.  I then attached the supplied foam to the bare fiberglass sill, trimmed away the excess, wrapped the vinyl strip over the top, and glued it into place.

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Here is the backside of the finished passenger door panel, complete with foam padding and all mounting hardware.  The cutouts and foldbacks are visible inside the window crank opening, as well as the latch handle and power window switch holes.  The gunk on the brown paper is upholstery adhesive overspray.

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Voila!  Completed door panels with latch handle wells and power window switch plates in place.  The upholstery looks a little uneven in the picture because of the lighting, but they make a much better impression in real life.  I expect them to settle and season once they have been in the doors for a while.

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Before mounting the door panels, protective plastic sheeting needs to be installed.  This originally shielded the backside of the fiberboard door panel from any moisture that entered around the window from the exterior.  Even though the fiberglass panels will be more resistant to the elements, I still want to protect any exposed upholstery from wetness.  Neither silicon sealant or 3M weatherstrip adhesive would bond to the plastic sheet, but I had better luck with Homax Professional Welder, which smells like model airplane glue and melts the plastic slightly for good adhesion.  After the clear sheet was attached, the excess was trimmed from around the edges.

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Behold the finished door panel including all the garnish.  The upholstery adds sound dampening to the door, lending a clean and solid note when it shuts: CHOONK.  The power window motors are also muted due to the padding, and sound very official going up and down.  In hindsight, there are some details I would have given more attention, but they’re buried inside the door now.  All told, I’m pretty satisfied with the end result.

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** Addendum – Above is a shot of the driver door panel that was finally assembled after delivery of the door pocket and armrest.  Notice the dual power window switches to the right of the door latch.

 

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2 Responses to “Inside the Yellow Door”

  1. Yo! When do I get to go for a ride in that freaking thing!!!!!!


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