Creating classic door panels
Crafting replacement panels involves armrests, too.
UpholsteryJournalMag.com | April 11, 2012
Story and photos by Marshall Spiegel
Door panels were a distant memory by the time a bright red 1959 Dodge Town Wagon arrived at Long Beach Auto Trim & Upholstery in Signal Hill, Calif. To expert upholsterer Raul Najera fell the job of updating the vehicle’s existing seating and interior trim, and recreating missing components so that they, too, could be upholstered.
Najera began by fashioning sections of 1/8-inch plywood to match the depressions in the two front doors where door panels used to reside. Next, he marked the wood where it would be drilled to accommodate openings for door handles and power window switches.
He then removed the plywood in order to sketch on it the position of stylized flames. Enduratex™ white vinyl from C.G.P.C. America Corp. was chosen for the covering. Next, using a universal street rod door panel template from RodDoors, Chico, Calif., Najera scored the template’s flame pattern onto the vinyl.
Then, Najera placed the panels on the doors to double-check the fit and to finalize the location of the armrest planned for each door panel. Once satisfied with the plywood forms, he then bonded together 1/8- and 1/2-inch foam, glued it to the plywood, and covered it with the flame-embossed vinyl to create an upholstered door panel.
The plastic armrest forms that the customer provided were too long. No problem. Najera shortened each form by cutting it on either side of its center, removing the center section and connecting the two remaining sections by screwing a wooden bridge to their undersides. The armrests were then covered in red Enduratex vinyl to match the body color of the vehicle and provide a striking contrast to the white door panels.
The end result? A pair of handsome door panels for the front doors. Najera followed the same steps to create panels (not shown) for the vehicle’s rear “barn” doors, so-called because they open in the middle, with one door swinging open to the left, the other to the right.