As the title suggests, I thought the door and rear cards would need some sort of attention to fit with essentially, a custom interior. Although my door panels and rear cards were in excellent condition I was reluctant to use them in this build for a couple of reasons. One, they would simply not work with the colour scheme I planned on using. Secondly and more importantly, I just did not have the heart to start ripping them apart or altering them, so I decided to send them off along with the seats to a new home in SoCal.
I decided to start dealing with the rear cards first as they needed to modified somewhat in order to work with the new seats. For those not familiar with this type of build using E24 seats, the seats do fit beautifully but only with some alterations to the back of the seats. A portion has to be removed to allow them to fit around the inner when wells. Once that is accomplished it will leave you with a couple of gaps along the top where the seats meet the rear parcel shelf. The other, between the edge of the seat and the rear card. The limited research I had done before I started did not provide a lot of help to deal with the issue. Some simply stuffed the gap with foam and vinyl. I thought that since I was doing all this work I would go the extra mile here and redesign the cards to help address this issue.
So after a few measurements, a few beers and a couple of hours of banging around some ideas in my head, I came up with a plan that would work better with some similar stock or original type card. By doing so, It would provide the shape or profile that I wanted to maintain. I saw no advantage to change that. I first thought it would be better to make a fibreglass mould and reconstruct the card from there, but I remembered I had a couple of rear cards from a previously parted car. They were pretty thrashed but the moulded hardboard was in pretty decent condition, they did have some water damage bit nothing that could not be fixed.
I started out by laying out both cards on a large piece of cardboard and traced the outline of both. I wanted to make a template for what would be a plywood frame for the project. I saw this as an upgrade from the factory cards. It felt it would provide more strength and longer life. The plan was to cut out the moulded section of each card and laminate them to the new frame. So I cut the cards among the long a line where the moulded section transitions to the flat section of the card.
Before I started fiberglassing in the moulded sections, I took each of the frames and mounted the metal moulding strips first. This I thought would help firming up the frame as well as providing the proper form for the moulded pieces.This was probably the most time consuming exercise of the entire project. I wanted to make sure I had the exact spacing and correct whole size otherwise the cards would not fit properly. I was fortunate the metal brackets were in good condition and the all the metal tabs were all in tact. (I had previously bead blasted them) .
So once that was done it was time to see if the frames fit as they should. After a few adjustments were made I was able to fibreglass the two pieces. I used just 6oz. cloth and a fairly hot batch of resin to bond the hardboard to the 1/4 plywood frame. Once that set, I trimmed off the excess and test fit the cards to each quarter just to see if I had to make any further adjustments. Because I had added some depth/thickness to the card compared the originals I wanted to see what considerations I would need to think about as I moved forward.
That said, I took a couple of measurements to address one of the gap issues. First the lower one. I wanted to keep the map pocket with the new cards. In doing so, it would provide a suitable solution to the problem, I simply had to deepen the pocket to fill the void. So I traced the lower section of the frame for another template. This would be the filler for the map pocket, I used a piece of 1/2 plywood to provide that increased depth, I also replaced the old vinyl covered hardboard with a similar shaped piece of 1/4 plywood.
I then addressed the upper portion of the card where it sits around the upper portion of the wheel well. I wanted to fill a visible gap created by the seats profile. So in a similar fashion I traced out that profile on another piece of 1/2 plywood, cut out that and laminated it to the card frame. This gave me the line that mirrored that of the seats. It did however create a issue for the arm rest as a result.
Because I narrowed the moulded area, the stock arm rest would have to be shortened to fit it is original position, not much however, a little more than an 1" to be exact. With that I had a new card with a deeper map pocket that worked with the seats. Another test fit was necessary to make another adjustment to the seat bulkhead. This was because of the depth of the map pocket. So I took another inch out of the upper portion of the bulkhead down to the top of the door sill. This allowed the card to seat properly.
The last step was to make some cosmetic improvements to the moulded section of the card. I wanted to delete the ashtray. No sense keeping something that was never going to see any use. In its place I considered adding a USB port or a 12V plug or even adding another speaker but decided not to do either. I started out by fibreglassing the entire inner section of the piece. I wanted to make sure to cover the void left by the ash tray delete. I then applied a couple of coats of light weight body filler, glazing putty to the desire contour and finish. It was now ready for a nice piece of Napa.
.....both sets of cards mocked up for fit
Now for the door cards.
This pair were a little more challenging in as much as I did not have a clear plan for the makeover. I new I wanted to keep the same feel as the originals but wanted to add a few different elements to the design. So while I tried to settle on exactly what I was going to do, I started out by getting the door cards cut out by tracing around the old ones on a 1/8" sheet of marine grade mahogany. Special attention was needed making sure I got all the important holes transferred accurately.
Once that step was completed, the two cards were cut out shaped, and dry fitted to the doors for fit. The metal mounting brackets were then fitted in a similar manner as the rears.
At this point I was really struggling to find an answer to my problems. I had looked at countless examples of door cards, customs and original designs alike. I was conflicted to say the least. After talking to the guy that is going to do the interior, it gave me a clearer direction in working out a few ideas that I was thinking about.
I really wanted to keep the overall look similar to what one would call a original /stock look but updated somewhat, if that makes any sense. Back to work I went. As I mentioned I did not want to stray too far way from the original design. I did come up with a few ideas from a few E30 interior upgrades I came across during my on-line searching. I really idea of adding a small door pocket similar to the early E9 and E21 I came across. So with that in mind I started to layout a few ideas for a similar type pocket. I can confess that I had tried to fabricate something on my own but each attempt failed measurably, mainly because of an issue with the scale. It seemed anything I tried was was just too big, after all, there was not going to be a great deal of room with the addition of the Recaros.
As it turned out I stumbled upon a solution yet once again. You see I have a ol' Ford Ranger,. It is nothing fancy, nor the most comfortable to drive. It doesn't offers up a lot of room either but it's primarily a parts mule/work truck, but it has a set of door pockets that I thought just might work
I took some measurements and was encouraged that they may just work. So once again, I made a trip to a local wrecker to find another Ranger willing to give up a set of door cards. Within an hour of hunting I came up with a couple of donors, one in near new condition , the other not so much but good enough for me as they were gonna get hacked up anyway. The big bonus was the parts guy only charged me for one as the other card had ben cut up pretty good by a previous parts hunter. Once I got home, I got out my trusty cutoff tool and started the critical surgery to yield a couple of pockets. The next step was to create another frame to incorporate into the design, for the door pocket.
I used a similar approach with the rears so I decided to use a sheet 1/4" plywood for this job too. It would have to provide support for the inside panel since the two would be upholstered separaely. A couple of other challenges would need to be addressed, the vent window crank being the priority. I ended up removing material around the opening for the mechanism just to make sure it will not bind when upholstered. The other, I knew this process was going to be add some weight to the card, so I felt I needed a material that could handle that. I also wanted at the end of the day a door card with a deeper profile from that of a stock panel. Not so much in the centre portion of the panel, mainly due to the window and door mechanism, but more on the leading edges. So you will see a much deeper look along the bottom and the front. I am trying to keep the rear of the card consistent with padded B pillar. The top sill will be slightly raised because of the secondary panel. With a deeper front I will be able to play with the kick panels a bit to get a more consistent look rather than have them carpeted. They will be upholstered as well after they are fitted with 6" Alpines. I will wait until the car returns from Seattle to finish these off.
For the lower section of the card I wanted to make sure the height did not rise above the top of the seat. The new pocket was just the right height to accomplish this. There was a considerable amount of shaping to incorporate the pocket in this design. So a fair amount of foam was added to accomplish the desired contours.I added puddle lights to that outer frame as well. A piece of 6 oz fiber lass and epoxy resin was applied to the entire panel to tie everything together and provide some added strength. Light weight filler was then applied and sanded. A couple more rounds of glazing putty to get that smooth finish and a few hours of sanding to finish the job
The last step will be to hang the cards and test fit the them with the seats mocked up and in position and the new door seal installed.. There maybe an issue with the cards fit relative to those door seals. I did make some allowance for that when the template was drawn up, but I increased the overall thickness of the door card somewhat from the original plan which may give cause to do a bit of trimming before they get covered. I want to make sure I avoid any stress on the cards as they open and close on that seal.
I will update with new pics once the finished panels are installed.
Thanks as always for your time,