We had a great turn out for the tech session at 356RESTORE last month. One of the subjects I covered was 356 doors but I only did about a half hour and I could have gone on for another hour. One of the things I learned in the business world was to watch the audience. After a half hour I could tell they were saturated on doors so we will keep the discussion going here.
One of the most important things about 356 door fit is not only perfect seams and the fit to the body but also internal gaps. The ’60 Cabriolet in the shop has good seams and body fit but the inner door touches the lockpost! There is no way that you could fit a door panel and a door seal and still have the door flush with the body. On the Cab I’m probably going to have to move the lockpost in and the fenders and rocker out.
One way to work this problem is to ensure you have at least one half inch gap between the inner door and the lockposts and threshold. While it’s nice to have none or few shims on the door hinges it’s more important to be able to close the door. So move the lockposts or shim the door to get your inner gap. You will then have to move the body panels to fit the door.
I also recommend trial fitting the door panels and door seal (just tape it in place) before final finish and paint. Then when assembling the door leave the stricker plate off to last. First install the door panel (this could be a tech session all by itself). Does the door close flush and you still have room for the door seal? If okay, proceed to the door seal; if not can you move the door seal channel back or grind it down. Now glue in the door seal. Do short sections (two feet at a time), use tape to hold it in place . Leave the ends long to trim to the threshold rubber later. Does the door close flush with the seal in place? Great! If not, you may have to trim the door seal. Now install the hinge cover with ID plate.
Esoteric Tech Tip
So your 356 is perfect and you still want to make it better. Take this tip from John Jenkins. Remove all your lugnuts, clean them with Metal Prep, buff them on your wire wheel and then treat them with gun blueing. Believe it or not, John did this and he had the best lug nuts ever on a 356. So if you worry about your nuts make them blue!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The most important thing in 356 metal restoration is getting to clean shiny metal before finish. I’ve seen three 356’s which had been “restored” and looked great for only a few months. After grinding down the paint and filler we found rusty metal. The factory started out with clean, shiny metal and got ten-twenty years before rust. Why would you want to cover rust and expect anything more than a few months before the finish begins to fail. If you don’t do the metal work yourself, insist you see the clean shiny metal before the restoration shop applies primer, filler and paint. If you need reinforcement, visit my shop and I’ll show you tarred over licences plates, fiber glass and tin cans used for “restoration”-even shop rags stuffed into rust areas have been found.