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How to Make a Custom Car Door

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It is often necessary to build custom parts for a restoration project and this is how we built a new door frame for a 1946 "Woody".
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 1 1. We started by making a paper board template of the door opening. We will make any adjustments needed as the door progresses.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 2 2. Then we took 18-gauge cold rolled steel and cut a 2-inch strip. And bent it on our sheet metal brake to form a 90-degree angle measuring 1 x 1 inch. Next, using our power stretcher/shrinker we made the piece fit around the curve of our template and tweaked it to perfection by fitting it against the door opening. This is the inner section of the door perimeter.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 3 3. Then we bent another strip of metal at a 90-degree angle to a 1 x 2 inches and followed the same procedure to form the outer perimeter of the door. We punched holes in the inner structure along the horizontal flange for welding purposes and then we slipped the outer flange over the inner and checked for fit. This allows adjustment for the door width.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 4 4. We laid out the pieces on a table to assure an exact fit to our template.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 5 5. Here are the two pieces.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 6 6. Next we clamped the inner and outer pieces together and welded through the holes we punched.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 7 7. The door frame was then placed back on the car to check the fit and locate the proper hinge placement. We marked it exactly at the hinge plate attaching points so we could use the original hinges.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 8 8. After we established the hinge location we used a small hole saw to drill a radius at the corners and a cut off wheel to remove the remaining metal.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 9 9. A "stair step" holder to back up the threaded fastener plate was fabricated with a front cover featuring access holes to install, remove or loosen the allen head bolts to adjust the door for precise fit.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 10 10. The frame was then fitted with the hinges along with the fastener plate and holder. After exact placement we welded it all in place. We now have a swinging door.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 11 11. Next we laid out a piece of 20 gauge steel for a lower support beam. Then marked it for the bead roller to make strengthening grooves to stiffen up the door assembly.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 12 12. We rolled out ½ beads on the inner and outer panel using our 36-inch bead roller. Just follow the marker lines and it is done with no warpage.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 13 13. A The panels were then bent on the brake to fit one inside the other.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 14 14. The 90 degree lips will provide the fit.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 15 15. Then we spot welded the pieces together and cut out the back half on each end to allow us to stitch weld them in place on the ends.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 16 16. At this point we cut out strips of 20 gauge steel and bent them at 90 degrees. The two channels were then welded together to form the rear portion of the window channel. This is where the rear edge of the glass will slide up and down.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 17 17. We used 1/2 inch square tubing as a form to provide the width needed for track glide material on both sides of 3/16 laminated flat glass.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 18 18. We weld it all up while clamped in place and then allow it to cool .
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 19 19. To show you the exact location we fit the channel in to the driver side rear door edge. As seen it allows ample clearance for our door catch which we will mount at the end of this article. We then installed and weld the channel into our passenger side door.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 20 20. We then built channels two inches on one side,and one inch on the other. And we bent a small lip on the two inch side to support the outer door panel and inner interior panel on their respective pieces. This is the "window sill" where your arm would make contact if you had it resting on the door while cruising.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 21 21. Then we installed the inside window sill to the door frame and tack welded it in place. Note the holes, these will be used to retain the window fuzzys, which will also make slight contact with the glass inside and outside allowing a smooth glide against the full width of the glass.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 22 22. Here tested the fit of our window fuzzys and cut them to length to be sure everything works correctly.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 23 23. Next we built another channel and pie cut one section (white arrow) to allow our overall width of the side glass. We shrank the upper section (red arrow) to match our curved roof line and will lengthen the bottom end (black arrow) to attach it to the bottom door brace. This section needs to be removable to service the door if the power window mechanisms or glass ever need replacing.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 24 24. We installed 3/16ths wood as our temporary glass to check our fit. You can also use 3/16th lexan but it is more expensive. After we installed the outer window sill section we checked for proper clearance and then tack welded all the channels in place.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 25 25. Here you can see that we welded the outer sill (red arrows) in place and then cut off the excess metal.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 26 26. Once the inner and outer door frames were spot welded together the top window channel was tack welded on. We then slid the plywood and channel up and down to check the alignment before continuing.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 27 27. Here we laid out the metal for the upper power window motor support panel. We then drilled holes and added support plates. This will also act as a support beam.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 28 28. We made two plates one inch wide and 1/8 inch thick from flat stainless bars for the power window regulator. They were then spot welded to the upper support panel/beam.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 29 29. Threaded inserts and a custom two-way bracket keep the bottom of the removable front channel discussed in step #23 in place.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 30 30. Here we took another piece of 20 gauge and formed it into the channel needed to extend to the bottom as shown in step #23. This piece is removable and adjustable to facilitate removal and or installation of the door glass. We simply installed 1/4-20 threaded insert nuts on both ends
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 31 31. Here you can see the power window support panel/beam unit installed and tack welded on both ends. And you can see the window glide channel extension installed behind the beam. A ½ inch bead was rolled in to the panel for rigidity and the outside edges are bent on the brake at a 90-degree angle for extra strength.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 32 32. Next we installed two sections of one inch stainless strap 1/8th thick for the power window motor. The stainless uprights attach to the upper sill top, side to side panel brace/beam and the lower main door beam. Note the counter sunk holes to hold the power window regulator in place. This adds clearance in an already confined area.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 33 33. Then we made two stainless steel bolt plates 2 1/8 x 1 and welded them at the top window sill and lower main beam for gussets.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 34 34. There we checked the power window motor and regulator for fit.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 35 35. Next we welded a window down stop tab (red arrow) onto the rear upright. The slot on the regulator arm allows for adjustment if needed.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 36 36. Then we cut out a piece of metal to support the door a bit more so no flex will take place when powering the window up and down. It also held the interior door-opening lever. And access holes were located in key locations for adjustability.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 37 37. The edges of the access holes were stepped and rolled with a ½ inch bead to stiffen the panel.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 38 38. A ½ x ½ angle strip was fabricated and then fitted along the outer edge using the stretcher/shrinker and spot welded in place using clamps to complete the panel.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 39 39. And then we fitted the inner door panel brace and welded it in place. The door is almost done.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 40 40. Because of the close tolerance in our door we tapped the latch mounting holes and heli-coiled them thus eliminating the need for a lock nut.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 41 41. We chose small bear claw latches that included door panel corners pre-notched for the latch.
Building a custom door for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 42 42. We laid out the latch location and marked it with a felt pen for installation.
Building a custom door for your 3ntique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 43 43. We then cut a notch in the Rear door edge to fit the unit in. A cap was fabricated to finish off the cut out section and then welded in place.
Building a custom door for your 3ntique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 44 44. The latch plate was then welded in place and ground smooth.

Jeff Lilly Restorations
11125 F.M.1560 N
San Antonio, Texas
210-695-5151 - www.jefflilly.com