If you tuned in last time you witnessed how Starlight Restorations out of Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, pulled off the initial fitting of a stock door on a C2 body. Due to poor assembly line practices and standards, the factory fit was rarely proper or consistent as the powers that be were very liberal when approving what was “good enough” when a car left the assembly line.
But if you are restoring a Corvette beyond its OEM standards, you are going to have to deal with these typical aberrations sooner or later … and somehow make up for the poor fitment practices at the GM factory. It can be a demanding and daunting task for some, but by following the procedures demonstrated here by Starlight Restorations owner Doug Ims you can learn techniques that will be beneficial for you and your Corvette in the long run.
Doug has been working on Chevy’s plastic sports car for more than half his life and has constantly tackled the problems associated with ill-fitting C2 doors. Over time, Doug has come up with a plan on how to get those tricky doors to fit properly, and he does it without any need for calling in backup. It’s a system that even a “wet behind the ears” body guy can follow and use to his advantage. Who knows, maybe you’ll impress some of your fiberglass lovin’ BFFs along the way.
So check out Doug and his handiwork here on this classic C2 Vette.
01. After fitting the door as best we could using shims and bolt-leeway to adjust, we’ve done all we could to get the gaps among the fender, door and quarter-panel to look as uniform as possible. We lined up the body line and contours and have a good start on getting this door fitment to reach concours level. Doug is now assessing the situation and looking toward the next step of adding and removing fiberglass to get all the panels flush and the gaps within approximately 1/8 inch.
02. These are the tools necessary to perform the tasks ahead this time around: a short, hard block; 36-grit sandpaper; a piece of 1/8-inch flat stock; a piece of 1/8-inch round stock (for tight radii); a scribe; a strip of 120-grit sandpaper to sand away the scribe lines and smooth out edges (helps you see the gap better); and the special, long block Doug made to get to that hard-to-reach area on the front edge of the door.
03. At the rear, top edge of the door the 1/8-inch gauge fits the door gap but the rest is too tight. Also note how inconsistent the gap is, starting large at the top and then tightening as we go down the door gap. The gap will need to be evened out by removing material where needed.
04-05. A scribe is used to mark out where to remove material from the door and fender. It’s set just a hair over 1/8-inch (to compensate for paint and primer thickness). Doug does this on both sides of the gap to figure out which side is best to remove the material from. Sometimes it’s necessary to remove material from both sides in order to keep the proper contour edge of the door and fender or quarter-panel. There will be a line scribed only where the gap is less than 1/8-inch (see pencil mark along edge). That material will be removed to even out the 1/8-inch gap.
06. A hard block with 36-grit sandpaper is used to remove the excess material from the door edge, back to the scribed line.
07. Doug always sands in small increments to ensure he doesn’t remove too much in one shot. He works up to the scribed line and checks it with the gauge before taking off more material. You can always scribe another line if you conclude that more material needs to come off.
08. Doug points to the immediate area that has the desired gap. Fiberglass will need to be added at the top edge of the door in order to tighten the gap to match the rest of the upper door.
09. Here, the door gap gauge is being used to check for panel-to-panel flushness (surface height). In this area, fiberglass will be added to the low side (door side on left of photo), to meet the same level as the adjacent panel (fender).
10. The slight low spot on the left side panel will be handled later on with body filler once all the fiberglass work is complete. No need for ’glass work here.
11. Using the feeler gauge we can show that the entire front edge of the door is straight and gapped well enough to move forward.
12. The feeler gauge shows the inconsistencies on the back edge of the door/quarter-panel edge. Once again Doug will need to scribe the area to find out where to remove material. There will be a need to add fiberglass here as well.
13. Scribing the door and quarter-panel. Doug determines that he will need to remove material from both the door and quarter-panel edge to get the arc in the door gap precise.
14. On the rear edge of the door, about 1/16-inch of fiberglass has to be removed in order to open the gap. The hard block with 36-grit paper takes off the excess. Mostly everything at this stage will use the 36-grit paper because it cuts through the material very quickly and allows you to straighten any waves or inconsistencies.
15. Doug didn’t like the flat spot in arc of the quarter-panel so he’s removing some excess material to make the panel’s arc more aesthetically pleasing. It’s here where a good eye and familiarity with Corvette contours really comes into play.
16. The gap work is complete as far as establishing a baseline. The upper portion of the door gap needs fiberglass work, which will be recut to make a cleaner arc between the door and quarter-panel. There wasn’t enough material there to straighten it out so fiberglass will be added to this enlarged gap.
17. Here’s where we stand. We are now ready to take the next step; adding fiberglass where needed.
18. The front edge of the quarter-panel will need to be built up with fiberglass to meet the level of the back edge of the door. Here, the door has been taped out to prevent any fiberglass from bonding where it is not needed.
19. Doug lays on a layer of chopped glass and epoxy resin mixture to start building up the quarter-panel’s low edge. He uses an acid brush to work the mixture onto the car’s flank, slowly building up the panel.
20. The fiberglass/epoxy resin blend is built up until the panel has a slight bit of extra material that will be removed later to flush and level out the surfaces. A fiberglass roller is used to smooth out the mixture and remove any air bubbles.
21. Here’s the finished epoxy resin mixture on the top of the fender at the base of the A-pillar. This area had an enlarged gap and flushness inconsistencies.
22. Doug starts the process of smoothing out the mixture. It’s first done by grinding off the excess material to get near the level he needs. He’s using a 36-grit pad on his grinder, which removes the fiberglass rather quickly. This shaping is a learned process and you could quickly go through the material if not careful. He rough shapes the area down to the body line.
23. Here we see the end result of the use of the grinder and pad. It’s a rough cut, and from here it will be fine-tuned.
24. Next, Doug lays out some green 3M tape to mark the leading edge of the door. He then pencils in the edge to better see it when cutting the door-to-quarter-panel gap. It’s a precise procedure that has little margin for error.
25. Doug carefully cuts the gap with an air saw, taking his time as he heads down the panel. The saw is barely 1/16-inch wide, so there will be a need to open the gap further.
26. Here is the result of the cut.
27. The area is now hit with a DA with 36-grit paper. The surface is blended; high spots are removed along with any grinder marks and rash.
28. The next step is block-sanding with 36-grit sandpaper to finalize the panel’s surface and to check for overall straightness of the area.
29. To create the correct size gap, Doug once again scribes the quarter-panel to mark out the correct gap. This will determine where material will be needed to be removed to get the desired gap width of 1/8-inch.
30. Once it is marked out, Doug takes a mini die grinder and removes the excess material from the quarter-panel edge. This will open the gap up to the desired width.
31. A little fine-tuning on the door edge with 36-grit on the hard block was needed to get the gap to look correct.
32-33. Once material removal is complete, Doug checks all the gaps with his metal feeler gauge. He also checks height flushness to make sure bodywork with filler will be kept to a minimum. Everything checks out.
34. Doug repeated the same procedure on the treated area on the A-pillar side of the door. Here we see the finished product of proper door fitment and fiberglass addition and removal. All door gaps are now at approximately 1/8-inch and the panels are flush. Final bodywork can now be performed on the Corvette and preparation for paint can commence.