Tips and tricks to make your next door assembly easier

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Exterior Restoration:  A ’56 Merc gets its doors back

This 1956 Mercury hardtop has been completely torn down. One of the first steps in the re-assembly is dropping the shiny, freshly painted body shell on the equally shiny frame. The next step will be to hang the doors.

This 1956 Mercury hardtop has been completely torn down. One of the first steps in the re-assembly is dropping the shiny, freshly painted body shell on the equally shiny frame. The next step will be to hang the doors.

 

Story and photos by Brian Earnest

Mounting door hinges and hanging doors is one of those restoration steps that professionals — such as the guys at Ken’s Klassics in Muscoda, Wis. — make look easy. But as many novices can attest, it can be a frustrating job, especially for first-timers, and frought with trial-and-error learning.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s probably a 7 1/2,” chuckled T.J. Krueger, the shop foreman at Ken’s Klassics. Krueger helped hang the doors on the 1956 Mercury shown in the accompanying photos. “It’s a lot tougher than it looks to get the door adjusted right. A lot of guys will put the whole door on, and they’ll line it all up, then they’ll put the glass and everything in and it will sag about a quarter of an inch to a half an inch even, because of all the weight of the glass, the window regulator, the door panel.

 

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“So you have to kind of compensate when you put the door on and it’s something you kind of just get used to doing when you do it enough times. You always want to have it at least a quarter of an inch high at the back. So your gap will kind of appear pie-shaped, from the door to the rocker, and then once everything is in, it latches down where it should.”

There is no universal method for hanging doors, but following is a brief tutorial on how Ken’s Klassics handled the doors on this Mercury.

 

A door dolly securely holds the door and can make hanging doors a one-man job.

A door dolly securely holds the door and can make hanging doors a one-man job.

The door dolly is used to lift the door to the correct height and roll the door into place so it can be mounted on the two hinges that have also been removed and painted. “You’re eliminating another guy’s labor and now you can raise it, lower it, move it in and out by yourself. When it’s in raw steel (not painted yet), this thing is really handy. You don’t have to worry about the door banging off the cowl and scratching anything because it’s all just raw metal. But it is a time-saver, for a shop anyway. This dolly is really a nice thing to have for a shop,” said Ken’s Klassics shop foreman T.J. Krueger. “Then you can’t blame your buddy for helping you put a door on and chipping something.”

The door dolly is used to lift the door to the correct height and roll the door into place so it can be mounted on the two hinges that have also been removed and painted. “You’re eliminating another guy’s labor and now you can raise it, lower it, move it in and out by yourself. When it’s in raw steel (not painted yet), this thing is really handy. You don’t have to worry about the door banging off the cowl and scratching anything because it’s all just raw metal. But it is a time-saver, for a shop anyway. This dolly is really a nice thing to have for a shop,” said Ken’s Klassics shop foreman T.J. Krueger. “Then you can’t blame your buddy for helping you put a door on and chipping something.”

 

 

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The beefy original hinges were saved off this Merc. The base of the hinge will be mounted with four bolts on the cowl, with the door flange needing three bolts to secure the door itself.

The beefy original hinges were saved off this Merc. The base of the hinge will be mounted with four bolts on the cowl, with the door flange needing three bolts to secure the door itself.

 “A lot of times we’ll replace [the hinges], or we’ll replace the pins and bushings,” Krueger said. “ These actually were pretty nice, but in the ‘60s cars, they wore out faster. The ‘50s stuff was built pretty well.”

“A lot of times we’ll replace [the hinges], or we’ll replace the pins and bushings,” Krueger said. “ These actually were pretty nice, but in the ‘60s cars, they wore out faster. The ‘50s stuff was built pretty well.”

The door jamb and bottom of the door opening are both protected with masking tape before any fitting takes place.

The door jamb and bottom of the door opening are both protected with masking tape before any fitting takes place.

Tape is also wrapped around any sockets that will be used to reduce the chances of knocking any paint off the hinges and hinge bolts.

Tape is also wrapped around any sockets that will be used to reduce the chances of knocking any paint off the hinges and hinge bolts.

 

The hinges are held in place with two bolts inside the cowl and two on the outside.

The hinges are held in place with two bolts inside the cowl and two on the outside.

The bolts are turned only as far as necessary to keep the hinge in place.

The bolts are turned only as far as necessary to keep the hinge in place.

Once the hinge has been secured to the cowl, the flange can be fitted to the door. The inside bolts in the photo at left can be seen extending out through the cowl. “You always want to even the hinges and have the hinges all the way up and all the way out at first, and just a little bit loose,” Krueger said. “ You don’t crank anything down tight at first. That’s how you strip threads out, especially if you are going to be adjusting it a lot. If you crank it down tight every time you’re just going to strip the threads, then you’re going to have a mess.”

Once the hinge has been secured to the cowl, the flange can be fitted to the door. The inside bolts in the photo at left can be seen extending out through the cowl. “You always want to even the hinges and have the hinges all the way up and all the way out at first, and just a little bit loose,” Krueger said. “ You don’t crank anything down tight at first. That’s how you strip threads out, especially if you are going to be adjusting it a lot. If you crank it down tight every time you’re just going to strip the threads, then you’re going to have a mess.”

After the top hinge is set, the bottom hinge is installed in a similar fashion. The goal at this point it to hang the door slightly high in the back corner — at least 1/4 inch higher than flush with the top of the rear quarterpanel. The photo at right shows the two edges are even, meaning the door still needs to be adjusted.  The weight of the door skin, glass, window regulator and other hardware will drop the door slightly and help even things up.

After the top hinge is set, the bottom hinge is installed in a similar fashion. The goal at this point it to hang the door slightly high in the back corner — at least 1/4 inch higher than flush with the top of the rear quarterpanel. The photo at right shows the two edges are even, meaning the door still needs to be adjusted. The weight of the door skin, glass, window regulator and other hardware will drop the door slightly and help even things up.

The bolts on the door flanges are loosened and the door is adjusted slightly upward by pulling up on the back of the door and re-tightening the bolts. It’s easiest with two people.

The bolts on the door flanges are loosened and the door is adjusted slightly upward by pulling up on the back of the door and re-tightening the bolts. It’s easiest with two people.

The door is now properly adjusted — roughly 1/4 inch above the top of the quarterpanel.

The door is now properly adjusted — roughly 1/4 inch above the top of the quarterpanel.

 

If you liked this article on hanging doors, you might be interested in our other restoration products:

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