Not being one to leave things alone, I decided to undertake the ultimate challenge and install opening doors in my 27 roadster. This is something that I have always wanted to undertake but never had the time to spend working out the details. One of the main things to understand when undertaking something of this magnitude is pre planning. If I don’t think this through, I might wind up with one major mistake that could cost more time and money than I want to invest. Now I know that I can buy a 27 roadster that has opening doors both installed and raw or uninstalled. But I am also pretty cheap , and if I can save several hundred dollars and still get the same results for a small investment , then I am all about that. Plus, l am always up for a challenge. With that said, let’s get started. I might add that these same procedures can also be used on t buckets or other fiberglass bodies.
There are a couple of things that need to be known about this body. One, it actually was rescued from a dumpster years ago and then sat in or outside a shop for several more years.Two , it was pretty cut up because it was used or slated to be used for a drag car. With this in mind, and after much thought, I decided to take some precautions BEFORE I made some major mistakes. Since I didn’t know what kind of stress this body had been subjected to and knowing that when one removes a section of fiberglass from this type of body ( one piece construction), it can and often does go crazy and becomes very distorted, I decided to lock the area to be removed ( the door opening ) by supporting it with 1 x 2 pine wood strips bondoed with fiberglass bondo to the area just inside the revels where the door would be cut open. Four pieces were used, the area roughed up, and 1/2 inch holes drilled in the wood to help hold the wood to the bondo/door. Coat the back of the wood pieces , slide into position, and then run a finger or a small radiused bondo spreader along the inside and outside to form a small radius and increase the strength of the bond.
After the bondo is set, I placed 2 inch masking tape on the outside of the body next to the door revelle and marked where I was going to cut the opening with a magic marker. I left 5/8 ths of an inch from the outside of the revelle for the cut line. Then I took my disc cutter with a 1/16 th inch wide disc and made a cut on the vertical and horizontal line at the bottom of the door. This is so I can start the cut with my jig saw ( I could have used a sawzal or a disc cutter just as easily) The small radius at the bottom of the door on the corners, is marked out with a 1 inch inside diameter flat washer ( using the outside diameter for the actual arc) and the cut starts from one of the two slots just made and the round cut is made , 1/2 from one direction and 1/2 from the other.
This view shows the door after the cuts were made. I should mention that I cut the bottom of the door first , AFTER the corners were cut, and then cut from the bottom to the top , but not all the way up and across the lip. I did this on both sides. By doing it this way, the top of the door is not flopping around while the other side is being cut. Remember that cutting with a jigsaw creates a lot of vibration, and I didn’t want to take a chance that the loose door would vibrate enough and crack the side I was working on. That would just create more problems.
This picture shows the cut out door with the wood installed. When I cut the doors out, the door only moved or distorted about 1/16th of an inch. Not bad when you consider how much it might have distorted had I not taken the precautions to keep the door from tweeking.
In this picture, I am laying up fiberglass that will be used in building the door jams and tying pieces together. This will all become clear as the story unfolds. Flat pieces are done on the table covered with wax paper so that they are easily removed. The angle pieces ( 90 degrees) that will be used to form the jams, are made using 2 x 2 inch angle iron, covered with 2 inch masking tape , covered with mold release wax or auto paste wax. On the angled pieces, I lay up three layers of 1 oz. mat. I could go thicker if I wanted , but the way this will come together, I feel it will be strong enough the way it is.
This shows my shop foreman DJ and his brother Tivon. DJ is 14 and Tivon is 9. Notice that they are wearing protective clothing , safety glasses, welding respirators, and disposable gloves . I can’t over emphasize that when working with fiberglass and other products that are toxic, safety precautions need to be strictly adhered to. When working with fiberglass, work the resin into the mat by tapping the brush up and down. Do not brush it on like paint or the fibers will move around and cause a big mess. Don’t get to much resin on the mat. It should be translucent and not soggy. If it is soggy to the point that it can run, when it sets up it will chip off and be brittle or form a weak spot. If you get fiberglass resin on your skin, take a rag with a small amount of lacquer thinner and wipe it over the resin until it is gone , then wash the area with soap and water and then apply some good hand lotion. Lacquer thinner will take the oil out of the skin and can cause a skin burn or irritation. Protect yourself .