Resto-Mod Restorations - Part 4: Removing Doors, Trunks, Gas Tank and Paint
Jeff Noll's 1967 Camaro and Jim Mokwa's 1969 GTO did not have grilles, bumpers, front fenders and hoods when they got the cars. Both cars did not have engines in them. In fact, both didn't have a lot of things, but they still had paint on the remaining body parts and some rust. The old paint was not salvageable and had to be removed before new paint could be applied. The rust spots on both cars were not bad, but the corrosion had to be dealt with. In this installment we are going to discuss paint removal. The next article will focus on rust removal.
Essentially, both of the restorers were faced with the job of starting to prepare their car for bodywork and paint. Yet, there was plenty of work left facing them. They still had to remove the doors and trunk lid on each vehicle. Both men rebuild their door hinges. The gas tanks had to be safely removed from under both cars. They had to get the old paint blasted away. Since media blasting doesn't take care of all the rust, they still had that problem to deal with separately.
In one sense, Jeff Noll and Jim Mokwa had a jump on the job at hand, because their cars were already partially taken apart. This is actually a very common situation, but it is really not the best one. Auto body repair professionals will tell you that every panel on a car has to be in alignment with the hood. In other words, if the hood doesn't mate perfectly with the main body structure, the grille, fenders and doors won't line up properly either. So, our heroes actually were faced with putting the hood back on the car and getting it in perfect alignment, so that all the other parts could be attached in relation to it.
In short, having the front sheet metal off the car would make it easier to get at the frame and engine bay and front suspension to refresh and rebuild things in those areas, but it wasn't going to make doing great bodywork any easier. And when you are restoring a vehicle to take to car shows and use and value as a collector car, you want nothing less than great bodywork.
Taking the Doors Off
Taking the doors off a car is really pretty easy. The doors are held on by bolts running through hinges attached to the cowl. Undo the fasteners and remove the bolts and the door will lift off. It's heavy, so make sure that you bring a helper along. When you're restoring a car, you'll want to remove the doors for body and paintwork. Rebuilding the door hinges is inexpensive and highly recommended. Both Jeff Noll and Jim Mokwa rebuilt their car's door hinges.
We already told you car doors are heavy. A typical Camaro door weighs over 100 lbs. The GTO is a bigger car with bigger and heavier doors. The weight of the doors puts a strain on the hinges from the time the car is new. After 30-40 years, you'll probably find that the doors on your car no longer close properly. To check the condition of a hinge, simply swing the door open and try to wiggle it. The door shouldn't move. If the hinge was new, this action would actually move the car. However, the doors on nearly all old cars will wiggle at least a little bit.
Broken door handles are a sign of worn door hinges. To latch a door swinging on a bad hinge, you have to lift it into place. After a couple months of lifting the door up and slamming it shut, the outside door handle will break in half. While the car is being used and driven, this can sometimes be "tweaked" by trying the following procedure involving two people, a floor jack, some wood shims and lots of persistence. Loosen the door hinge, remove the striker on the door jamb, then use the jack under the door with a piece of wood between the two. Set the door bottom on a wood shim so it's not scraping the door sill. Position the door by eyeball, then tighten the hinge bolts. Check the operation of the door. It should be smooth and the gap between the rear and bottom of the door should be the same at the quarter panel and the rocker panel. Torque up the hinge bolts and install the striker somewhat tight. Shut the door and the striker will move slightly into proper position. Then, torque the striker to specs.