DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Lowtekk
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DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby Lowtekk » Sun Sep 29, 2013 8:57 pm

Club4AG,

After almost 30 years of abuse, a lot of our cars have tired looking door panels. The ones in my car were stained, half clipped, dilapidated pieces of **** with a couple pro-status speaker holes cut in them. Instead of paying a lot of cash for a clean set of original GTS black panels for a power windowed car, I decided to try my hand at making a reasonable alternative.

Be warned, I have zero experience in automotive upholstery. I couldn't sew my way out of a cardboard box.

Anyway, here goes...

Tools I used:
-Jig saw
-Power drill w/ a bit set
-Wood files (a big flat one, a small flat one, and a small circular)
-Screwdrivers (philps + flat)
-Car interior trim tools
-Open ended hacksaw
-Scissors
-X-acto knife
-A sharpie marker

Materials:
-Your old door panels (which be be pretty much ruined after we use them for templates)
-Tagboard (I used two 1/4in thick 2x4ft pieces. Each door panel needs at least a 44.5" x 17.75" piece of tagboard)
-Vinyl (or any material you want to use)
-Padding (if you want it)
-Automotive upholstery glue (the spray stuff, I used Permatex Headliner & Carpet adhesive)
-New door panel clips if your old ones are ruined/missing (Cabetoyota on ebay sells new sets)

Things to consider:
-The OEM door panels have a recessed section around the arm rests which is impossible (or a huge pain in the a**) to duplicate. This DIY gets around it by using some longer armrest screws and nylon spacers.
-Keep ALL of the factory clips + screws + big "staples", you can ditch the little fabric staples.
-Measure twice, cut once, etc.

Here's my passenger side door panel, 5 minutes after it came of the car. A+ speaker install. Missing clip mounts, flappy/busted tagboard, generally shitty:
Image
Image


Step 1:
Remove the door panels from the car. Unscrew the arm rest and door handle surround. Use your automotive interior tool (or flat head screwdriver) to pry off the door panel at each clip. The upper part of door panel (that touches the window) hangs on the frame of the door while the rest of the (lower) door panel is held on by push clips that release with a little pressure. Star with the clips and lift off the panel when it's loose.


Step 2:
Gather your wits and start removing the material from the door panel.

Start with separating the upper trim piece from the lower panel, via the "big staples". Pry them back and remove the upper portion. Careful when bending the big staples as we will be reusing them later.
Image
Image

You'll see about a hundred little upholstery staples holding the old vinyl to the panel. Pry them all up and remove.
Image

The padding under the old vinyl was pretty much shot. I tore it off along with the old vinyl + carpet + door pocket.
Image

Door panel destruction. I didn't feel too bad, as these panels were absolutely finished.
Image


Step 3:
Gather your materials. Any hardware store should have the tag board. Any fabric store should have vinyl and padding.

Image
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Step 4:
Trace out your old door panel upon a new sheet of tag board. Be as careful as possible to get a good line, including all the window control and mounting holes. The better your lines are, the less finishing/fitting work you'll have to do later.

Image
Image


Step 5:
Get out your scroll saw

I found it helped to have something to prop up the tag board before cutting. I don't have a proper workbench.
Image

First pass:
Image

Cutting out the clip holes is a pain in the a** but very doable. Pick two drill bits that fit into both sides of the old door panel's clip holes. Drill out a big and small hole and file out the material in between. File out each hole and test fit a clip.
Image
Image

Cutting out the "big staple" holes can be accomplished by finding a drill bit as wide as the original "big staple" mounting holes on the old panels. I drilled three small holes in a line and joined them by filing the material off.

Cut out the rest of the door handle, window, and armrest holes and file them until they're smooth around the edges.


Step 6:
Testing for fit and finish the base panel.

Insert all of the circular pop clips into the new door panel. Test fit your new panel to the door of your car and make sure none of the new panel's edges stick out too far. Close the door a few times to make sure everything clears. I had to do this 2 or 3 times before everything fit like it should.


Step 7:
Cut an attach the padding and top layers.

***The "big staples" need to be inserted and clipped down to the base panel BEFORE you start gluing padding or covering to the panel. Once you glue your padding/covering on, the big staples won't be removable. ***

Trace out and cut both a padding layer and a top covering layer. In my case, I used some cotton padding cut to a loose shape.
Image

Cut your top layer with an inch or two of buffer around the edges of your base panel.
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In order to get the top material to sit flush around the curved edges of the door panel, you have to cut it into strips.
Image

Notice how the "big staples" are installed under the padding and top layer of vinyl.
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Make any necessary cuts in the top layer to account for holes in the base panel. Not every hole needs the top material peeled back (the only hole on the OEM panel that had the flaps pulled back was the door handle). The rest of the holes can just have the top covering material cut cleanly at its edges.
Image

As far as gluing in concerned, I sprayed the tagboard AND the padding a few times prior to affixing them together. Once it had dried and set, I repeated the same process with the vinyl. The glue is surprisingly strong, and I was able to pull over the edges of the vinyl and glue them without issue. The duct tape is a poor man's replacement for a hundred or so upholstery staples. It's your call, but the glue + tape have been good to go thus far.

Image


Step 8:
You should be pretty close to finished at this point. My passenger side door panel came out pretty good. It's a simple look, but a huge improvement over the ratty panels that came with the car.
Image

In order to deal with the lack of an "indent" in the door panel for the arm rests, I grabbed some longer screws and some nylon spacers. The spacers keep the door panel from pulling inward when the arm rest is installed.
Image

Here's the new panel installed in my car. My apologies for the shi**y picture, I'll pull the car out of the garage later.
Image


I'm sure there's a lot of stuff I'm forgetting, but I'll be repeating this same process over again with the driver's side panel.

You can get as creative or ridiculous as you want when making new door panels. You can use any base material (aluminum, plastic, wood) and cover it in anything you can think off. You can save even more money by just painting the panel after it's been test fitted.

Good luck!!! 8-)

-Lowtekk
Last edited by Lowtekk on Sat Nov 30, 2013 2:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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idreamofdrifting
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Re: DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby idreamofdrifting » Mon Sep 30, 2013 10:38 am

Image
Image

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morgan
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Re: DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby morgan » Thu Oct 03, 2013 10:56 am

nice work
haha cali...i got one of your 86's and you're not getting it back.
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Re: DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby yoshimitsuspeed » Thu Oct 03, 2013 7:24 pm

I have wanted to do this to my AW11 just out of thin aluminum for years. Still haven't gotten around to it.

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grappletech
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Re: DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby grappletech » Mon Oct 07, 2013 7:56 pm

This is awesome, good work!!! Now I can restore this and my coupe speaker panel, as im sure its the same process
87 GTS Coupe stock and Super Duper Clean
87 GTS Coupe Beams 3sge (under construction cuz I'm slow and lazy and broke-FML)
87 SR5 Coupe Shell. (Sold)
86 SR5 Hatch Shell
86 GT-SR5 Coupe 20v Swap

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alavelle12
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Re: DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby alavelle12 » Wed Oct 09, 2013 7:20 pm

How did you over-come the section that wraps around the top by the window?

Lowtekk
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Re: DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby Lowtekk » Wed Oct 09, 2013 8:09 pm

alavelle12 wrote:How did you over-come the section that wraps around the top by the window?

I reused the ones from my old door panels. Not quite from scratch, I guess. :)

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Re: DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby HingaSPL » Wed Oct 09, 2013 10:08 pm

Awesome write up. After seeing people charge almost a grand for panels, I was thinking of doing my own aluminum panels, but was worried about the bend at the top for the sill. I did not know you could separate the top and bottom. I think I will make an aluminum lower section on mine. I will probably just pop rivet it to the top section. If I do, I will post it up. I have a bunch of spare door panels and a few are haggard and could use a refreshing. Thanks for the tips
Image

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alavelle12
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Re: DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby alavelle12 » Thu Oct 10, 2013 7:30 am

HingaSPL wrote:Awesome write up. After seeing people charge almost a grand for panels, I was thinking of doing my own aluminum panels, but was worried about the bend at the top for the sill. I did not know you could separate the top and bottom. I think I will make an aluminum lower section on mine. I will probably just pop rivet it to the top section. If I do, I will post it up. I have a bunch of spare door panels and a few are haggard and could use a refreshing. Thanks for the tips

Do that! I've been wanting to do this for a while as well but didn't know how to do the top bend. That is why I asked lowtekk, I meant no disrespect, this write-up is great!

goofesgts
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Re: DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby goofesgts » Thu Oct 17, 2013 6:05 pm

looks great!
how can i go to heaven? accepting jesus christ as youre savior!! thats youre ticket to heaven!

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Re: DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby kunfuzion » Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:08 am

great job! now to finish off the driver side.

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chocobot
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Re: DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby chocobot » Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:17 pm

Nice work :thumbup:
I also like how even though you have a garage, you're building stuff all over house. Shows you are the master of your domain. This is how it's done boys.
I've seen guys get reprimanded by the Mrs. for dropping a grain of rice on the floor (you know who you are, fuckn sad)
Your skill in reading has increased by one point.

Lowtekk
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Re: DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby Lowtekk » Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:05 pm

chocobot wrote:Nice work :thumbup:
I also like how even though you have a garage, you're building stuff all over house. Shows you are the master of your domain. This is how it's done boys.
I've seen guys get reprimanded by the Mrs. for dropping a grain of rice on the floor (you know who you are, fuckn sad)

She ain't the missus yet! 8-)

EASTSIDESD
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Re: DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby EASTSIDESD » Thu Nov 21, 2013 7:40 pm

thank you Lowtekk i just re did mine and they look awesome! Next Im going to do the quater panels in the back and the roof! Couldnt have done it without this write up thanks bro

shagymc
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Re: DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby shagymc » Tue Dec 10, 2013 8:29 pm

I know for a fact my GTS panels don't separate like this, are these Sr5 panels? If they are I need someones ASAP! Good right up!

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Re: DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby John H. » Sat Dec 21, 2013 8:47 pm

We need more write ups like this.
Great job man! ;)

-John

shagymc
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Re: DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby shagymc » Fri Jan 03, 2014 3:10 pm

I just did mine and as a heads up, here's some things I found out:
-Home Depot sells 2x4 1/8" thick hard board that works great for this.
-Don't use the 3M spray glue, Theres a contact cement you can get at hardware stores that works way better and holds just like the industrial glue pros use
-When you cut whatever wood you buy and drill it, if you lay tape over what you're cutting or drilling and behind it, it won't split or crack.
-Headliner material from Joanna Fabrics is a great thin padding to lay down before you put your vinyl on

I sourced a set of SR5 panels since they come apart and I got the tops down and finished cutting the door cards. Just need to decide on how I want the speakers to go and what fabric to use.
Image

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Re: DIY: Poor man's door panels (made from scratch)

Postby ol86 » Wed Jan 15, 2014 10:22 am

Awesome write up. I will be doing something like this on mine soon.

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