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 steel ’32. 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 welding it right to the bearclaw latch, because we wanted the door handle as close to the stock location as possible. 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 is great for power actuators, but not so great for human powered handles- 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 and the angle of the front of the door, then transfer that to the latch.
Here we’re making sure that the hole is in the right place before we go and drill a bigger hole. 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, 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 with a hole template. Cut out the inside, so you don’t have ragged tape edges interfering with your filing or dremeling 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 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.
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 escucheon, it rotates around the same center as the lever on the latch.
You can see the latch in action HERE
Note: lengthy download for dialup users
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.