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**TECH WEEK** How To Span the Gap OR Making Your Doors Fit

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Salty, Sep 13, 2012.

  1. Salty
    Joined: Jul 24, 2006
    Posts: 2,261

    from Florida

    Now mind you this is a fairly simple tech, but it affects EVERYONE that has a old hunk of crap that probably shouldn’t have been resurrected but being the glutton for punishments that we are.....we do it anyway.

    Now back tracking a little bit, our old iron that we love so much was never meant to last 64 years (In my case as it's a 49 Chevy AD that I'll be working on but this is applicable to all.)

    Knowing that the designers of our old stuff never thought in a million years that their equipment they cranked out would be around never thought to make "an old farm truck" fit well from the factory. Let's face it, even the higher end models didnt always fit good; then you take a "old farm truck" and they were happy if the doors shut and latched let alone fit well.

    Add into all of that that I'm a bit retentive and want a more streamline fit and finish than was originally produced not even taking into account of the years of abuse this old farm truck had to take.

    The example that we will be looking at today is my 49 Chevy AD. It's classified as a full custom, chopped, sectioned, smoothed etc. Quite honestly the doors fit like crap...they shut and latched but that's it. my door gaps ranged from 3/8" to a 1/4". my goal is a tight 1/8". The cab has been deeply reworked already with the section in addition to the fact that these cabs are small and with all the extra steel in it I'm not worried about it flexing. If your going to be doing this on a fullsized car that's going to flex you may want to open up your gaps a tad.

    We'll be working on the drivers door today as the passenger door is already done. (we'll get back to that as the driver's door isnt finished but we'll get the story out together to you can see it from start to finish).

    Here's what we started with. Bolt your door into the hinges, get it where you want it and mark it, you’re going to be taking the door off and on so make it easy on ya.

    IMG_1157.JPG IMG_1158.JPG IMG_1159.JPG IMG_1160.JPG

    As you can see the gaps are all over the map, some are wide, some are tight and some don’t even match up to the body line.

    Once you have the door in the general vicinity that you want look at what the car/truck is telling you. Take your magic marker out and mark out the entire door where it needs material and where it doesn’t. as seen below. It ain’t rocket science….I use T-bar marks everything away from the tail on the T needs filler and at the top of the T does not.

    IMG_1163.JPG IMG_1164.JPG

    NOW AS A SIDEBAR: Most of my issues are with gaps that are too wide not gaps that are too tight. And that’s what you’ll be seeing. BUT in a gap too tight situation you’re just going to take twice the material out of the door than you originally need. Now I’m sure most know this, but for those that don’t the reason for this is when you grind the edge of the door you’ll end up grinding away the crimped edge that holds the door skin on. You gotta fix that right? Which means that you have to re-clamp the inner flange that you ground off back to the door frame and the skin and weld it all back together then smooth it. That’s where the take out twice the material comes in, that leaves you enough weld on the edge of the door to bond everything back together and still get your gap right.

    Back to the story…after your done marking clean your metal stock as well as the door itself. I’m using 3/16” cold rolled steel as my gap filler and I’ll tell you why. 3/16” is actually too wide for the door skin….BUT it’s the perfect height. And there is a way around the thickness as I will show ya. Back tracking just a tad. Don’t get hell bent to leather and weld up the entire door all at once. I always start on the B pillar and move my way back. Once I get the B pillar tuned in I’ll move to the top of the window. Once I get the window frame tuned in I move to the A pillar (which usually needs the least amount of work.)

    IMG_1166.JPG IMG_1165.JPG

    I always weld up the inside of the door first. Due to the reverse curves on the inside of the door it’s harder to work with so I flush weld the inside then knock em down before I start working on the front. The curvature of the door edge and the 3/16” cold roll make the most perfect chamfer ever to fill with weld. Seeing as your working with a piece of straight cold rolled I start at the bottom of the door and work to the top. I use the heat from the welding process to curve the cold rolled into position as I go as seen here.

    IMG_1167.JPG IMG_1169.JPG

    As always get good penetration and here is a view from the opposite side as you’re welding the inside.


    Just take it slow and before you know it you’ll have the B pillar done and this is what it will look like.


    Now hopping back to how the 3/16” cold rolled is too wide. When you flip the door you’ll see the discrepancy.


    Take ye old flap disk and knock it down….easy peasy. This one though I should note that I drag a thin cutting wheel down the joint to give you that chamfer back that was naturally there on the inside of the door.


    Again, work around welding the outside of the door…


    Maxed out the photo load for this post, continued below.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2012
  2. Salty
    Joined: Jul 24, 2006
    Posts: 2,261

    from Florida


    Then knock the weld down and dress it up.


    At this point you’ll want to chuck the door back in place in check out how things are workin for you. In this case it’s a little tight and needs to get shaved down some but it fits.


    This is a better photo showing you how jacked up the gaps are. (which drives me nuts) course after the B pillar side we (should) move to the top of the door.

    Backtracking just once more, while we are fitting things up let’s look at the below photo.


    That said you’ve seen the flow of things and now I’ll show you the semi-finished product on the Passenger side. (It still needs the perfection go over but it’s tuned in enough to get the total picture)

    IMG_1182.JPG IMG_1155.JPG

    As you will see in the above photo (BTW door is just sitting in the frame in this picture…I hadda walk out to the garage and make sure my beltline wasn’t really that jacked up) even with the door not adjusted right (my bad) the gaps are night and day difference. As you can also see I did NOT add any material on the A pillar side of the door other than at the very top and the very bottom. The drivers side is the same….it does not need anything remarkable in the A pillar side.

    In the below photo …..To the very trained eye you possibly be able tell some material is added but once you get it smoothed and painted it should be invisible.


    Finally, this is my super duper secret squirrel gap checker….IE the thin paint stir stick….who needs a caliper when you got something this good….funny part is, Ron Covell has been gaping cars with a stir stick for years.

    IMG_1183.JPG IMG_1184.JPG

    Backtracking just once more, while we are fitting things up let’s look at the below photo.


    You’ll see (though I neglected to get a finished photo of this) I used the old bodymans trick of springing the door open on the bottom just a tad to match up with the cab body line. Just a well placed chunk of wood and some ass will bring stuff like that into place.

    Bottom line, when you get into detail oriented work it takes time….lots of time.

    Money wise I have 20 bucks in this project, that includes the steel and consumables.

    Time wise I have about 8 hours in the passenger door (and it’s not quite done, I prob have another two or three hours in it to get it absolutely perfect) and about 3 hours in on the drivers door. But it’s the little things that make the viewer step back and wonder what is different…. in my eyes that’s just as much of an impact IF NOT MORE than a major modification.

    I know it’s a simpleton Tech….but one that I was doing at the time. Hope someone can use it. By no means do I claim to be an expert.....this is just stuff that has worked for me in the past and hope to plug some ideas in someones head or let then get a starting point for the vision in their head.


    Last edited: Sep 13, 2012
  3. Bugguts
    Joined: Aug 13, 2011
    Posts: 417


    Nice job showing your secrets. I like the use of the 3/16 rod. I'm gonna try this on my next one. Thanks
  4. atomickustom
    Joined: Aug 30, 2005
    Posts: 3,000


    It's simpleton, but everyone needs to see it anyway, especially those working on their first major project. And using the round rod is better than just trying to build up weld beads.

    When I built my first ground-up car (current driver) it never occurred to me to even TRY to fix the gaps. My doors, hood, and trunk all have odd issues that I could have straightened out in a few days if I'd seen this tech 12 years ago. My current build will have nice, even gaps everywhere thanks to the HAMB.
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  5. Salty
    Joined: Jul 24, 2006
    Posts: 2,261

    from Florida

    Your absolutely correct about it being better than building up The edge with weld beads Atomic.....

    I should have mentioned that in the can do that, BUT it will take you 3 times as long AND you'll have to go back through a zillion times to fill weld pits in when you finish it.

    In my honest opinion you don't want divots and stuff Right on an edge....that's just asking for paint failure. Plus using cold rolled is soooo much easier....the edge already has a shape....even when you need to shave it down a little it's super easy to put the rounded edge back in it.
  6. falcongeorge
    Joined: Aug 26, 2010
    Posts: 18,506

    from BC

    Another keeper.
  7. Salty
    Joined: Jul 24, 2006
    Posts: 2,261

    from Florida

    FOURTYDLX PM'd me....he was too shy to post this up (just called it an old body mans trick.....humble) but I didnt want to claim it as my own but thought it was such a good idea that I had not thought of to post it up.

    He said for consistent line ups of your door to set your door up where you want it, tighten it down and then drill through the hinge and door with 1/8 bit ,Use short pieces of welding rod as line up pins 1/8.

    That would make it wicked easy and consistent to take the door in and out to work with it.

    I thought a new(old) idea should be posted in here that was directly applicable to what we were doing.
  8. 1950heavymetal
    Joined: Sep 9, 2008
    Posts: 323


    Thanks for sharing, great tech and photos.
  9. BadLuck
    Joined: Jan 7, 2006
    Posts: 3,059


    this is awesome.. makes me feel guilty i didnt do this before paint a few weeks ago! oh well.. NEXT project! thanks for taking the time to write this up.. keeping this for sure.
  10. chopt49
    Joined: Jul 5, 2006
    Posts: 925


    Good timing as this is what I am attacking next on the '49.

    Thanks for taking the time to post.

  11. X2

    I am getting ready to do this on my '29; this will help me a lot.
  12. Really, really appreciate the post. It may be old hat to many, but I hadn't learned it yet and I think you have just helped me understand how I too can tackle some terrible door gaps that I've been choking on. Thanks!
  13. Salty
    Joined: Jul 24, 2006
    Posts: 2,261

    from Florida

    Thanks for the kudos....really though the credit for the idea goes to all the guys that took the time to either A) explain stuff/show me or B) not kick me outta their shop when I was buggin em.......
  14. Salty
    Joined: Jul 24, 2006
    Posts: 2,261

    from Florida

    Whelp, even though I didn't win the tech week it's still not all about the here's an update and closure for the gap issue....after much trial and error (read install, measure, mark and then uninstall and fit)in addition to the few hours on manual mode fine tuning it with a rip file then capping the edge with a fine file you have gaps that are actually worth a damn.....

    Behold, what you will end up with after much toil....hey it's about the details right?

    Now to finish the drivers side I guess......

    Like I said, it's all about splitting differences and taking you time.....let the car/truck talk to you and tell you what it needs....

    Attached Files:

  15. HUSSEY
    Joined: Feb 16, 2010
    Posts: 622


    This is why I love the HAMB so much. I have a 52 Chevy and the gaps on the trunk lid are pathetic. I'm not much of a metal fabricator and wasn't sure how I could correct this. Your method shoud work perfect. Hopefully I'll get around to trying it out. Suscribed to, thanks!
  16. Inland empire hot rods
    Joined: Aug 5, 2010
    Posts: 776

    Inland empire hot rods
    from so cal

    great thread thanks HAMB!!!
  17. What is a good way to mark the edges for trimming to the proper gap once you have them built up?
    I have them built up and ground so the doors just go shut; but don't want to mess up and get them too wide and uneven.
  18. Salty
    Joined: Jul 24, 2006
    Posts: 2,261

    from Florida

    I have found that "sneaking" up on your perfect gap....well...there is no good way other than trial and error....I have a calibrated paint stick (sarcasm) I use as my fitment checker.

    Other than that it's payin attention to what the vehicle is telling you....if you have a spot that's keeping your door open....sneak up on knocking it down, check fitment and repeat the evaluation process....

    I have not found a sure fire "easy" way to's a sucktastic job but the results are worth it.

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