’32 Update: Installing the Door Handles (article 8, archived)

We’re installing stock door handles, and we’re going to try to get them as close to the stock location as possible. We took measurements off Robert Rowe’s beautiful steel ’32 3 window. The only thing we’re missing is hinges, but I think it’s ok because we have an aluminum steering box ;). Some parts of this car are going to be old looking, some are going to be new looking. P.S. It’s our car. We used masking tape in the approximate location of the handle. Masking tape is always a good thing to have when you’re building a street rod.

We used a caliper to scribe a line in the masking tape at the right length in from the edge of the door. Stock door handles had the mounting plate screws parallel to the front door edge.

We did the same thing on the inside, although our plans changed later. The line of tape going down is where the window channel is. It’s a good idea to keep that in mind so you don’t plan to put your latch where there will be interference later.

Hot Rod Latch

We sliced, diced, welded, and made it work. The silver thing is the door handle mounting kit from Rocky Hinge. Part #HL001. We ended up having to weld it right to the bearclaw latch, because we wanted the door handle as close to the stock location as possible and that was pretty much on top of the bearclaw. The other thing we wanted was a bit of ‘delay’ in the handle rotation before the latch was tripped, so that the handle isn’t as touchy as the latch. The short stroke of the bearclaw is great for power actuators, but not so great for human actuators- you drop a booger on the handle and you’ll trip the latch. That’s why there’s the gap between the “actuation cylinder” and the arm on the latch. One more thing to keep in mind: the door jamb is not perpendicular to the ground. If you weld the door handle mounting piece perpendicular to the latch, the handle will be drooping towards the ground. Measure the angle between a body line (at ride height) and the angle of the front of the door, then transfer that to the latch.

Here we’re making sure that we got the mechanism in the right place before we go and drill a bigger hole for the handle shaft. This takes some tricky measuring- do it a few times to make sure it’s ok. Because every door is made a bit differently, your method of measuring could be slightly different than ours. You want to make sure you’re including the thickness of the fiberglass in your measurements. To get the horizontal dimension from the front door edge to the latch c/l, you COULD drill straight through the latch from behind, leaving an awful hole in the inside of your door we aren’t installing door panels to cover up unnecessary holes), OR you could put a square tube on the door jamb and measure to that surface. See my hi-fi sketch: it’s a view from above, on the driver’s door.
Real measurements are: Top screw down 3/4″ from bottom of belt line; horizontal 2-1/4″ from door edge, on a line parallel to the belt line. Bottom screw 2-3/8″ from door edge.
Do yourself a huge favour and get one of these. It’s a step-drill. Buy a good one- it’s worth the $40 compared to the 40 grams of scrap metal I bought first that didn’t last drilling 4 holes in the frame rails. I drilled a 3/4″ hole without changing the drill!

Once you’re confident that the hole’s in the right place, mark the outside diameter on the tape with a hole template. Cut out the inside, so you don’t have ragged tape edges interfering with your filing or dremelling or die grinding, whatever you’re using.

It’s centered- trust me.

When you’re mounting the door handles, there are two screws that need to be tightened. If you’re like me and don’t have straws for fingers, this is a great solution: put a piece of masking tape on the backside of a wrench and stick the nut to it. You’ll be able to pull the wrench out after you’re done. Beauty, Clarke.

Interior Door Handles

We were trying to put these in the stock location too, but Paul had a “shower revelation” one day and came up with another idea. We decided to cover up the hole that the body manufacturer made on the inside of the door with the escutcheon, and attach the handle right to the lever on the bearclaw. I made this little adapter that screws into a nut welded to the lever, and fits inside the square hole in the handle.

Like this.

We discovered that the interior handle was floppy without a return spring, so I put this on. The rubber takes the country twang vibration out of the system.

Here’s the finished product. The handle doesn’t rotate around the center of the escutcheon, it rotates around the same center as the lever on the latch.

Real World Tip

If you forgot to turn down the heat on your welder, or were simply sitting there too long and the metal sort of collapses underneath, here’s a solution for getting rid of the bump. I had to in this case, because the square shaft was just interfering enough that I could open the latch, but it would stay open until I deliberately twisted it closed. I’ve pointed to the bump with an arrow.

You might be saying to yourself (or others) “why doesn’t he just grind the bump off?” Good point. But, short of taking the latch kit apart, there was no other way of getting at the problem. So, I got my glove on and grabbed a fine tooth hacksaw blade which fit in the gap, and started working at it. Eventually, I got through, and it’s not binding any more.

One comment

  1. Jim Myers says:

    This article needs lots of attention for anyone like me trying to use real door handles on their glass 32!
    Great time saving tips, even if my handles will be on the rear of the doors.

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