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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

VW Beetle Door Panel Replacement

The simplicity and clean design of the original Volkswagen Beetle is still one of the attractions I have to this car. Even with today's modern designs and technology, its still nice to get in a basic car and enjoy the drive, the feel of the road and the simpler times ( at least for 30 minutes or so, lol ).
I have a 1974 Sunbug, and decided to dress up the insides a little. Believe me I still have more to do, and you will probably see more of her here, so this is not likely the last VW project I will do.

The stock door panels are fiberboard and covered with a vinyl, and for the most part are OK, but I was adding a new stereo and needed to cut new speaker openings in the door panels. Rather than mess up the originals, I purchased two 2ft. X 4ft. Oak panels 1/4 inch thick from the local Lowes. This is plenty to make the panels and with enough left over for the dash (future project). I also needed some Oak stain, to darken the wood a little and protect it some. Other items needed are a jigsaw, drill with 3/8 and 1/2 inch bit, sandpaper, steel wool (fine) Phillips screwdriver, pencil and yardstick. Oh yeah a old CD, maybe one of those AOL CD's you've been saving.
Take your Philips screwdriver, and remove the hardware from the door. The door handle cover, the arm rest, and the window arm. Not much there to remove, and stow your pieces in the floor board of the beetle. The door panel is held in place with a bunch of metal fasteners that just pop out of the door with a little pressure. Pop one corner and work your way around till you have them all lose and the panel removed.
Next you will do a tracing of this panel on the oak panels. Lay the oak panel on a work surface and align the door panel with one of the corners of the oak panel. Since the VW panel is rectangular with rounded corners, doing this takes care of two cuts for you. Trace carefully around the outside, and the four holes on the interior of the panel. That wasn't to hard now was it? You can trace both oak panels from one door panel as they are identical, just mirrored images of one another. With the tracings done, cut careful along your trace lines with the jigsaw until you have the blank oak panels free. This is a good time to sand the edges all the way around your wood panels just to smooth any roughness out. If you were careful they will be pretty smooth and not require a lot of additional finishing.

Now take your drill with a 3/8 bit and drill out the two holes for the arm rest. Use the 1/2 bit for the window arm hole. Drill a hole somewhere close to the inside tracings of the door handle to accommodate your jigsaw bit, as you will have to saw this opening. You can work your jigsaw from the hole to the inside of the tracing and cut out this opening, using care as you turn those corners with the saw. If your not adding speakers that's all the cuts and drills you have to do. Since I was adding 5 inch speakers to the door, I noticed that a CD was the perfect size for these speakers to fit into, so that is what I used for my tracing. I measured 5 1/2 inches back from the front edge of the panel and 4 1/4 inches up from the bottom for the center of my speakers. Making an X there I placed the CD centered on the X and traced the circle around it.  If your speakers are a different size, then you need to reposition this cutout so adjust accordingly. Drill another hole close to the inside of this circle to accommodate the jigsaw, and then cut the hole out carefully. Use this cut for a tracing on your second panel and they will be identical.
I smoothed out any rough spots with sandpaper and steel wool, removed all the dust from the wood with a damp cloth and when dry applied 2 coats of a golden colored oak stain to the wood. Let the first coat dry before applying the second.
When the stain was dry, I mounted the speakers with the hardware that was included, to the new wooden panels. That's it, the panels are ready to install back in the car. Connect the speaker wires to each speaker, and mount all the hardware back on to the door, to hold the panel in place. Since you are not using the original retaining clips, you will need either a nylon type fastener or screw and anchor to hold at least one point  to the door at the rear edge of the panel. Otherwise it will not bow inward enough and will leave a slight gap there. You may also wish to do the same on the front edge of the panel.
I like the looks of the wood and the new speakers really improve the new stereos sound. This was a entire day project, but a lot of the time was spent waiting for the stain to dry and drinking coffee. So if you have an old bug, or know someone that does.... you might want to try this out.

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