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Surrey top and Door Project


richyb66
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Here is a project I’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks during lockdown. It’s been on my radar to do for a while and as I knew it wasn’t going to be a 5-minute job, now seemed as good a time as any. It’s doors and a Surrey top for mate Gaz’s Robin Hood “The Hood” which is a rare car, later than a 2B but pre-dating the GBS Zero.

The car features inboard front and wishbone rear suspension, all fully adjustable and was intended as a more track focussed version of the 2B, similar in size but different in virtually all areas. A nice car, but totally useless in the rain.

Prior to lockdown, Gaz and I had started to look at the job with the plan that Gaz would make the doors with my guidance and I would make the roof. A start had been made on fitting the door hinges, making the doors and some wind deflectors to infill between the screen and the door.

 

 

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With the car at mine, I could start looking at things in a bit more detail. The doors are hinged to the roll bar, and if you imagine a line passing through both hinge pins, any door that is forwards of this line moves inboard as the door is opened, so this isn’t possible. The windows will be 4mm polycarbonate sheet and at the back of the door, the top needs to be more inboards, closer to the roll bar. This means the plastic needs to be twisted and the easiest way to achieve this is to raise the belt line of the door like the masking tape and bend the top of the door where the windows attach. This meant that the door Gaz had made was too small and I’d need something bigger.

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Gaz’s window was a test piece in 6mm, so would need to be re-made anyway, so I raised the top of the door aluminium to where I needed it and screwed it to the plastic. I then marked around the edge of the metal to show how much bigger it needed to be to fit correctly. The lines on the masking tape are where I want the bottom of the door to be.

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Next, I removed the door and started to look at the infill between the screen and the roll bar. Gaz had tried to make some deflectors out of 2mm polycarbonate, but they were too small, so I started from scratch. They will bolt to the inside of the screen supports and attach to the roll bar near the hinges. The deflector needs to be bent along the back edge of the screen support so it can extend outboards towards the roll bar. On the parts Gaz made, he had heated the plastic to bend which left some marking but for my parts, I would bend them cold.

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The plastic has a lot of spring back after bending and I needed a 45 degree bend so I would need to bend it around 90 degrees to allow it to return to the required angle. It also needs to be clamped firmly both sides of the bend so I used a sash clamp and a length of square timber on one side of the bend and a strip of 3mm steel and another length of timber on the other side, all held together with various clamps. The bend length is around 300mm so it’s a bit of a 4 Weetabix job bending the plastic but worked very well. This is after bending, it needs two hands to hold at the bent position and I can't do that and take a photo. 

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The plastic would need to be curved to meet the roll bar and the only obvious way to get it to hold its shape was to use the door hinges to hold it in place. I drilled out the rivets holding the hinges and replaced them with rivnuts so the plastic could be trapped between the hinges and roll bar. The markings from the metal part of the door were transferred to a sheet of hardboard and the door was fitted to the hinges. You can see the curve in the deflector. I’d left the top of both the door and the deflector oversize for now, but they would be reduced in height to suit the Surrey top later.  The back edges were also left oversize and would be trimmed later. The deflectors will be a permanent fix on the car, the doors and roof are optional.

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As I was on a bit of a roll with the plastic bending, I also made the deflector for the passenger side. Like most kit cars, nothing is symmetrically opposite so lots of checking and measuring was done using a card template before cutting anything.

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I would be using awning rail around the top of the windscreen frame to roof and luckily Gaz had already bent a piece to shape and cut it, so it just needed to be attached. A tip for bending the rail is to mark the centre of both the frame and your piece of rail and work from the centre outwards. This is so you can use the scrap rail at either end as a lever to bend the curved part of the rail, then cut it off afterwards. The rail and frame are drilled 3.3mm and then rivetted together with countersunk rivets inside the rail channel. In order to do this, I have made an extended tip for my riveter that fits inside the channel and I also file the sides off the rivets so they can be fitted.

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The rail has a bead of polyurethane sealer along it before riveting to keep any water out.

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Back to the doors now and the hardboard template was used to mark out a piece of 2mm aluminium which was cut with a jigsaw. Along the top edge there is a 3cm overlap to the window, I drilled 5mm holes that would attach the 2 together.

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The correct 4mm polycarbonate was cut for the window. I use a tenon saw to cut windows because it gives nice straight cuts and there’s no danger of accidentally marking the visible surface of the sheet. If I need a curve I use a Surform plane and only use a jigsaw as a last resort for internal curves. The window was left oversize but screwed to the door and had the hinges fitted. On the metal part of the door, cut-outs were marked out to reduce the weight, to give some flexibility to bend the edge of the door to match the body profile and finally to attach the covering material. More on this later.

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Here with the holes cut out.

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The passenger side door was made in a similar way although when the drivers side hardboard template was fitted on this side, it was the wrong shape around the rear wheelarch and so some adjustments were needed.

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With the doors on, I could make a start on the roof. I’ve made quite a few before but this was going to be the biggest yet as it needs to fit over the roll bar and the shape at the front corners meant that using a single piece wasn’t going to work. The roof material is a heavy-duty polyester material with a polyurethane waterproof backing. It comes on a 1.48m wide roll which is easily big enough to do the width of the roof. Cost is around £8 per metre and this came from www.bagstocover.co.uk and it comes in a choice of 6 colours.

I started by clamping a strip of material to the front part of the roll bar and then stretched it over the awning rail and marking where it touched with fabric chalk.

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From this marked line I added around 3cm so I could fold it back over some round electrical flex to create a bead that would slide inside the awning rail. At this stage I leave the flex oversize at the ends as it’s easier to trim the excess off later. The excess material at the back was also left on, this will be joined to the main part of the roof later.

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For the main part I start at the back. I will use a strip of 3x25 aluminium which slides into a pocket sewn into the roof to tension it and this will sit on the angled tubes at the back of the roll bar. The strip is cut oversize and has the ends bent down slightly to centre it on the tubes. The vertical position is such that you can still open the boot cover and you also can’t easily see the back edge of the roof in the rear-view mirror, so vision isn’t obstructed.

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Here is the main panel, the left-hand side is the back of the roof with the edge folded over and sewn so the strip can fit inside. The 2 big crosses mark where the rear cross tube and the side tubes meet on the roll bar. To the right of this I’ve marked 2 pie cuts on each side. These are to allow for the bends on the side and centre tube over the driver / passenger heads. Without these cuts, there would be excess material above the doors. I’ve also marked the side of the roof where the top of the door will finish. This isn’t the top of the current door; they are still oversize. It’s where I want the top of the door to be and I will make the roof to this then trim the doors afterwards. This gives a bit of scope to make adjustments if they’re needed.

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Here is the main panel with some additions. Where the crosses were that are in line with the rear hoop, I’ve added strips of material down towards the sides. This adds some stiffness because I will be adding a tensioning strap behind the door. Where the pie cuts were made, I added a similar strip all the way across the roof. This is because sewing up the pie cut neatly is difficult and adding the strip gives some stiffness to the material and means it’s less likely to leak. Once again, the roof is oversize at the sides and you can see more clearly the bend I put in the rear third of the door to push the window in towards the roll bar.

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All the strips that are added to the roof are made by folding the material back on itself, securing the overlap with 6mm double sided sewing tape and then sewing along the edge to attach them to the main panel. This ensures there are no cut edges left visible on the outside of the roof.

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The main panel needs to be joined to the front part and the seam will lie on top of the roll bar front tube. I marked a line on both parts by stretching the material tight over the tube. The chalk lines aren’t the same shape because the front part of the roof angles down and in towards the screen.

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The front part will sit on top of the main panel so the wind and rain can’t get in under the join. The edge of the front panel was extended from the marked line so it could be folded back on itself and taped down prior to sewing. Around the curved parts, I needed to make small cuts, so the material sat flat.

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The 2 panels were then sewn together with 2 rows of stitching. This is a view from the passenger side.

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Above the doors I would be adding more strips of material around 5cm wide. The roof isn’t cut to the door top lines marked earlier, it needs to have around 2cm more overlap on the outside of the door to keep the water out and the strip is sewn on to this overlap but hanging down an additional 1cm. On the inside of the roof there will be strips over the door which have Velcro on to attach the roof to the door. This picture is the inside of the roof, the outer strip has been sewn on and on the right is the inner strip with the Velcro ready to be taped on and sewn.

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Edited by richyb66
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That is most of the roof made but there was some finishing required on the 4 corners. On the back corners, the material needed trimming back, folding under and sewing between the ends of the rear tensioning strip and the back of the doors and at the front separate strips were added on the overlap to the deflectors. I then fitted 2 press studs to the roof and deflector each side. This area might be a possible area of leakage, if it is, I will add Velcro strips inside but for now, I’ll go with this. You can also see I’ve added some aluminium strip down the back edge of the deflectors underneath the hinges. The strip is an angle around 5x25mm which helps hide the cut edge of the plastic and helps hold it tight against the roll bar.

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Now the doors need to be finished. They will be covered in a black Mercedes pattern vinyl that comes from William Marston in Birmingham. It’s not the cheapest but it’s hardwearing and has a nice stretch to it. The door panels are laid on the material and marked around, leaving 3cm extra along the top edge. The two sides are then laid face to face and pinned around the edges. If the 2 parts aren’t pinned, they might stretch unevenly when sewn and not meet where they should.

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The 2 parts are then sewn together 1cm inside the edge all around except along the top edge and the whole thing is turned inside out to create an envelope that the door panel can be slid down in to. Sewing inside the marked line means the cover is then stretched to fit which removed any bagginess. I don’t glue vinyl on to doors anymore because eventually the heat and sun causes the glue to fail and the vinyl falls off. Also, this way the visible edge doesn’t need to be finished. Just ensure that when fitting the panel, the sewn edge sits flat on the inside of the panel.

Along the top edge, I use double sided sewing tape (6mm wide) to stick the inner vinyl to the door then trip off the excess. The outer vinyl is wrapped over the top of the door, stuck with tape, and then trimmed to give a 2 cm overlap. You need to be incredibly careful to only cut the top layer of vinyl or the inner piece will tear. The tape is only a temporary fit, when the window is screwed on the inside, both layers of vinyl are firmly clamped to the door.

For additional strength, I run some more stitching around the horizontal areas of the door cut outs. Due to the size of the panel, it’s not possible to sew all the way around the cut outs. On all the door fixings I use acorn nuts so there’s no screw ends to tear either skin or the doors if they’re stored next to each other. I also made a small stowage pocket to go on the driver’s door. Only the 2 centre fixings attach it to the door, all the other door fixings are the same pitch so it could go further forwards or backwards on the door depending on where Gaz wants it. Along the top of the door is self-adhesive Velcro to attach to the roof. This is the hook part; the more flexible loop part is on the roof because that needs to be rolled up for stowage.

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To store the roof, I had a spare bag that came with a folding camping table I was given. It was bigger than I needed but 10 minutes on the sewing machine repurposed it in to this.

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Then I cut the straps in half and sewed on some plastic buckles so the bag can be lashed to the car like this, using some plastic loops I fixed permanently to the car. These loops are short, so they won’t flap around if the roof bag isn’t fitted.

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Edited by richyb66
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At the back edge of the doors I made straps from the roof material that fit on to turn-buckles to hold the door closed.

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Currently only the front edge of the door has foam seal on it, more might be added later depending on how it performs in the wet. The door is a good fit to the body around the edges so it will probably be ok.

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Here are the 3 options. Just the deflectors, doors added and then with the roof.

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All in all, not too bad. Certainly, longer winded than I was expecting, mostly due to the deflectors. I haven’t kept exact track of the hours, but I reckon at least 60 over the last few weeks so not a job I’d have managed easily if I’d been working and probably more like a winter project.

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