For anyone who has ever owned, worked on or just casually glanced at an early, unrestored Corvette, some issues with the car’s construction might become quickly apparent to you. Unfortunately, overall quality control often took a backseat to production numbers back in the day (and still can on some fronts even today), and, therefore, some C2 assembly issues were often overlooked. Door fitment, especially on these mid-year rides, is one of these typical issues.
Cars could easily pass inspection being “close enough” to the quality control inspector’s eye, and that particular way of thinking soon became one of the rules of the day. And when it came to the doors on these C2 cars, generally speaking, if nothing “rubbed” it was acceptable. And in many circumstances, at some point along the door gap the door was either sticking out or slightly ajar in reference to the front fender, roofline, or quarter-panel on cars leaving the factory.
But luckily there are ways of correcting GM’s oversights on the assembly line; methods learned that will bring your mid-year ride to the precipice of perfection. Doug Ims, owner of Starlight Restorations in beautiful Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, has been tackling vintage Corvettes for more than half of his nearly 40 years of life. Doug’s worked on several high-end Corvettes in his time at the shop, including Lou Notaro’s striking 1967 400hp Tri-power ride (“Red Rider,” Feb. ’17) and a super scarce 1963 Z06 big tank car in white body/black interior … the only of its ilk sold to the public (Mickey Thompson got the other two).
Over his years of rebuilding plastic Chevys, Doug’s become an authority on how to successfully install doors on these particular Corvettes. Learning how to tame this issue is not an overnight cram session; it comes from constantly tackling this thorn in Vette owner’s backsides and learning how to come out on top through the time-honored process of trial and error. What Doug has come up with is an overall understanding of the downfalls of GM factory fabrication and a game plan on how to correct it … permanently.
So don’t “blow your door off,” save that for the competition. Follow these steps and soon you’ll get your hinges hinged, alignment aligned, and your gaps gapped to perfection! In the next installment we will continue with the fitment, adding and removing ’glass to make these doors fit like they should have back when it left the factory in 1966.
01. Today we are working on one of Chevy’s finest rides: a 1966 427/425hp example of Corvette badness. This car left the factory with many of the same issues Vettes typically exited the assembly line with. The issue we’re dealing with here is poor fitting doors. Here we see the doorjamb stripped to bare ’glass, ready for hinge installation.
02. Here we have the hinge halves, complete with new bushings and pins, ready for assembly. Doug Ims blasted them, removing old paint and corrosion, and then sprayed them in a durable epoxy primer.
03. The complete, assembled hinges are now ready to install on the 1966.
04. Here, Doug starts the installation of the hinges on the door mounting plate located in the jamb. These require four bolts: two inside the doorjamb body pocket and two in the doorjamb area.
05. Doug finishing up the initial installation of the hinges. He installs all the bolts in the process.
06. These cars often require shims like these to be placed between the door hinge and the door mounting plate. Sometimes no shims are necessary, but in many circumstances several of these special shims are needed to properly align the door with the adjacent panels. In rare occasions, material may need to be removed from a hinge in order for it to move the door farther in, as the hinges are not adjustable.
07. Here we have our driver-side door stripped and prepped, and ready for its fitment to the body.
08. Doug initially installs the door without any shims to get an idea of what needs to be done. Doug gets the door into position by sitting on a short stool and using his thigh to lift the door into place. He can tweak it by lifting or lowering with his foot. Without any glass or internals the doors are lightweight and can be maneuvered easily.
09. With the door hung, we see that it is positioned too far forward and will definitely hit the body before it can fully close. Doug will have to move it back a little to get the door to close properly. The hinges are equipped with oval mounting holes with approximately 3/8-inch play to help correct situations like this.
10. Doug always installs all the door mounting hardware from the start. If not, you run the risk of having the nut plate in a position where it won’t allow the other bolts to thread into their respective holes. The hinge provides horizontal adjustment; it’s the nut plate on the door side that provides vertical adjustment.
11. By loosening all of the bolts on the upper hinge, and then using the lower hinge as a pivot he pushed down on the door to move the bolts farther back in the hinge on the upper, and then tightened. It moved just 1/8-inch, but it worked. Now loosen the lower hinge bolts and pull up on the door to move the bolts farther back in the hinge, then tighten all the bolts. As you can see, it’s closer to fully closing but it will still hit the body above Doug’s finger. The door is still too far forward so additional hinge adjustment is needed.
12. This picture shows the door fully closed, but now reveals that shims are needed to bring the door out to match up the door surface to the fender surface.
13. The shims install from the bottom up for the upper hinge and from the top down for the lower hinge. The shims have reliefs cut into them, allowing you to leave the top bolts in place, so you can slide the shims into position. Doug removed the lower bolts and loosened the top ones to allow the installation of the shims to move the door out as far as it needs to. Doug takes an educated guess and goes with three to start with.
14. Here’s Doug lining up the three shims for installation in the upper hinge.
15. Here’s the door after insertion of three shims. As you can see, the door has been brought out almost flush with the front fender. We may need to add more shims to the top hinge and possibly to the bottom as well. First, we need to determine what the transition from the door to the quarter-panel looks like.
16. After some scrutinizing, Doug decides that the lower hinge will need shimming. He adds four shims to the lower hinge in order to get the panels as flush as possible.
17. After adding the four shims, the doors are near flush along the door/fender seem. In this picture Doug is pointing out the importance of aligning the bottom of the door with the lower edge of the fender. Almost always you have to find a happy medium between the top edge, middle body line and lower edge. The general rule is to fit the door best as possible to minimize the fiberglass and bodywork that would need to be done to make it perfect in the long run.
18. Once the front gap between the fender and door is looking up to snuff, we now go to the rear of the door and quarter-panel gap and check the existing body line. This picture shows the importance of aligning the body line to get our door alignment looking the way it should. This is more important than aligning the top or bottom as the door latch and striker only have a small window for adjustment, and it would throw off all the body lines between the door and quarter-panel.
19. To get the body line set up correctly, Doug loosens the upper hinge bolts and drops the door slightly. There is some trial and error here to get it to line up correctly. After the body line is aligned, you can see the top edge of the door will need some fiberglass work to match perfectly to the top edge of the quarter-panel.
20. The lower edge of the door will need the same treatment. A little fiberglass will need to be added to the bottom edge of the door and then blend it out into the door to make the gap consistent along the rocker.
21. A stainless steel gauge is used to measure the gaps, ensuring they stay a consistent 1/8-inch. This door will need to have some material removed in order for the gauge to fit. Concours-level and high-end custom cars like this one seem to lean toward a tighter-than-factory gap and fitment. Typically, most NCRS correct restored Corvettes have a door gap between 1/8-inch and 3/16-inch, and in some instances as large as 1/4-inch … and they aren’t always consistent either. It now seems that a significant amount of material will need to be removed in order to gap the edge of the door properly.
22. The front edge of the top of the door either needs more adjustment or it needs to have fiberglass added to close the gap. This is part of the fitting process. Even after installation and initial fitment you need to spend some time getting the door to fit as best as possible on all sides before making any physical changes to the door or body.
23. Here, Doug feels for a flush fit. And even though the upper region and lower level of the gap is flush, it doesn’t mean it will be consistent along the entire gap. Doug might need to add or remove material in order to get the level consistent through the front door gap.
24. As we go down the gap, we insert the metal gauge to see where we need to remove material or add material to get the gap consistent from top to bottom. Doug finds that there is a little bit of material that he needs to remove from the leading edge of the door and front fender.
25. Doug shows the need to add fiberglass to the lower edge of the door to make the gap to the rocker tighter and straight … and flush with the lower edge of the fender. From here Doug will take this restoration to the next level by adding or removing fiberglass where needed. Since this is a concours restoration, all gaps will be 1/8-inch wide.
26. When you stand back you can check all of your gaps to see if they pass the “eyeball” test. Here, Doug is doing just that and it looks like a job well done.