Many classic car restorers prepare their cars for paintwork. Stripping them down and carrying out as much of the repairs as they can is a good way to save money and get acquainted with your cherished possession.
One of the biggest questions when stripping the bodywork is whether to take the doors off. The boot and bonnet are mostly a much more simple affair. But if you decide the remove the doors there are certain areas to take into consideration if it’s all to go smoothly.
The positives results of removing the doors mean that the finish of the paintwork in the door shuts will be to a much higher level. Also, any repairs that are needed around the hinges can be carried out at the same time. One of the other areas that can be addressed at this stage is a hinge rebuild and new bolts. It’s surprising how much better this makes the door crevice look as well as those saggy doors swinging much more evenly. Many classics have doors that simply rock around on the hinges and this is the only way to remedy that.
I firmly believe that the door shut and crevice is one of those areas that clients and potential buyers subconsciously look at and without realising summarise the standard of the restoration, using these as a benchmark. It’s a bit like an engine bay; complete a fantastic paint job but leave the engine bay looking tatty and the car will never meet the expectation of potential suitors.
OK, so now the downsides and pitfalls. The insides of doors and hinge pillars are one of those areas that are often neglected during budget restoration. I’ve come across many a hidden ‘newspaper and fibreglass A pillar repair’. Obscured by a door hinge or two. Now although the discovery of these is good for the long-term life of the car it’s one of those hurdles that no one likes to see appear out of the blue. One of the main reasons I always advise stripping and labelling every part before you carry out any repair at all.
If you decide to remove the doors the other thing that I encourage you to do is mock up, mock-up and then mock up again. Even the most experienced repairer will need multiple attempts to trial fit doors, especially if they renew the hinge parts. On our restorations we often trial fit in metal, again in filler, then again in primer. Door gaps and fitment make a good restoration a great one if they’re done well. On some cars we even drill small 5mm holes in the hinges, through the post so we can use pegs to locate the doors during final assembly. They need to be hidden though if you’re going for a high-end finish.
So there you go, the pros and cons’ of stripping the doors off your project. As with many areas of a restoration, it’s all about how much time and effort you feel you want to put in. There is a right choice for every project and that’s often not to remove them. It’s just important that any steps you do take, you take with your eyes open, giving you the best chance of a smooth successful project.