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Merge Modern Door Handles With a Classic Muscle Car

Classic Muscle Car

We’ve introduced you to Stacey David before. He’s the knowledgeable host of Gearz, a show about building and customizing automobiles. In this episode segment of Gearz, Stacey shows us how to replace the door handle of a classic automobile with a handle that’s more modern and unique. You can find the video on Stacey's YouTube Channel. Enjoy!


For the longest time, one of the slickest modifications that you could do to a car or truck was to shave the door handles and smooth everything down. The problem is: on a muscle car shaved door handles don’t look that good, because on these cars the door handle was actually designed to accentuate the style of the car and give you some polish here.

So the next thing that people did was pirate late model door handles because they were a little more flush. The problem with that though is that those door handles don’t look so good on a muscle car. They’re the wrong size. They’re a little too small, and they’re just not a shape that people like.

So at this point people start to think is it even possible to combine two classic looks, two classic tastes together and create something that’s totally unique. Well, the good news is it is possible. They did it with this [waves Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup] and now we’re going to do it with cars. And you, you’re gonna love it.



The solution comes in these very cool, flush mount door handles from Dave Kindig at Kindig It Design. Now if you’ll compare these to an original door handle, notice that they’re roughly the same shape and the same size so you’re gonna retain that classic look down the side of the car. But, when you look down from the front, these guys are gonna pretty much disappear. So you’re gonna have that smooth look that you’re after too. The best of both worlds here.

Now I know some of you guys are looking at this going “That’s cool but how do you open it?” Very simple. Take a look. All you do is push here to unlatch it and pull there to open the door.

Now of course you have to weld these new door handles in. I know some of you guys are going “Aw no. No way. No way am I gonna cut into my classic door. I’ll mess it up.” No you won’t. This is something that you can do, and we are gonna prove that to you.


OK. The first thing you need to do is strip the door. Which means the door panels and door handles need to come out as well as the windows and the window tracks. Now this is also a good time to clean things up and check for rust, ‘cause you don’t want to do this modification on a rusty door that needs to be re-skinned or replaced.

Now we’ll take a template of the new door handle and we’ll set it in place on the door. Now remember this isn’t a universal kit so don’t expect this to drop in place and just be perfect; You’ve got to make it fit. Now on the Cougar, the back of the door here is right up against the back of the opening, which means we’re going to have to slide this door handle forward enough to where that pivot point clears; which means it’s going to open up possibly a little hole there and another gap that we’ll have to fill later on. That’s no problem.

Now, you’re gonna want to spend some time here positioning it just right… [Pauses for snack break].. . . because you want the handle to sit level ad not be crooked. Taking measurements will not only help you make sure it’s square but it also makes it easy to duplicate the handle position on the other side of the car.

Now, once the marks are made for your cut you need to sit back, take a deep breath, and make sure that is actually something that you want to do. Because at this point it’s still possible to chicken out and forget about the whole thing, but what’s the fun in that?

So once you decide that this what you want to do just cut out the metal, and an air saw or a jig saw is the best tool do to this. [Cuts metal out and buffs it for smoothness].

The key to welding sheet metal is to go slow and move around using a series of spot welds that you slowly join together until they form a single long seam. Now I’m using a MIG welder because it quicker and better at filling gaps that might come up, but a TIG will work too. And if you take your time you shouldn’t have any warpage issues no matter which one you use.

Next, we’ll make the little patch panel to fill the rest of the original hole. Now remember, the more time you spend here making it fit right the better the finished product is gonna be.

When the welding’s done, take grinder and dress down the welds until you have a smooth transition all the way to the opening. When you’re finished grinding, very little body filler should be necessary to make this perfect.

Finally, reassemble the door handles.  

OK. The big question is, “Was it worth it” Did we actually make the car better and more unique, or did we just screw up a classic? Well, if you’ll take an original door handle, put it up there against what we just did you’ll see we have the same basic vibe going on here. This is much more unique much more modern. And when you look at it from the top you can see just how nice and flush this actually fits into the body. And check this out: just pull the door open. Man is that cool or what? This is one of those modifications that people will look at and they will try to figure out what you did. That’s what you want. Now you get to do the other side.



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