Since my Monte SS is far from numbers matching, I decided to make a couple of personal custom touches as I’m restoring it. One way to do this is to change the outer door handles. After much deliberation, I turned to GM’s past and settled on the blade style pop out door handles used on the 1969-73 Pontiac Grand Prix. You will need to be somewhat proficient with body tools (or know someone who is) if you wish to try this.
I located the website link, and tried to correct the picture links and re-post the original posting.
Here it goes, courtesy from the original poster:
Step one was to make a template of the donor door to determine the handle opening’s distance from the edge of the door and relationship to the lock cylinder:
We used about 6 strips of 2” masking tape and traced the handle opening onto the tape. This proved to be a good material for a template since you can stick and re-stick it between both doors as you make your measurements.
After several measurements including pressing down on the tape to feel the original handle recess stamped in the steel, we arrived at our final outer edge measurements.
This is the first mock up following cutting the rectangular patch out of the original donor door. We ended up trimming the back edge of the patch significantly from what is seen here. By cutting the patch larger than what we needed, we could shift the patch around to determine proper placement.
Once the flange was trimmed, we marked the Monte door for our initial cut. Due to the close tolerance between the inner and outer door panels, I used a cut off wheel in a die grinder to make the first cut in the Monte’s door.
After the initial plunge cut, we switched to a small air saw to make the lengthwise and curved cuts. We were careful to stay well inside our scribed marks. This way we could sneak up on the actual line with an 80 grit sanding disk in the die grinder. At this point, the top and front corners are fitting pretty good. The edge closest to the door opening was the hardest, due to the tight clearances. This part takes lots of time as you test fit trim and repeat.
For our project, we settled on a measurement of 3 3/10s of an inch from the top edge of the handle opening to the horizontal body line that runs along the top of the door. This is how we maintained a level opening front to back. We marked the top edge of the patch early on to prevent mistakes.
It took us about 10 hours to get to this point. Along with making sure the patch was level, we made sure to center the “thumb ridges” over the lock cylinder for a factory look.
The success of this project depends upon your ability to weld, or to know a person who’s good with a Mig welder. Unless you do this for a living, you may overheat the metal. Despite our best efforts, we overheated the steel resulting in a significant low spot (when checked with a straight edge) below the door handle area. We made some relief cuts and used a dolly working from inside to fix this snafu. As I discovered, you have to give the steel time to cool before placing another adjacent weld. The temptation is great to keep going, but you cannot hurry this procedure.
Once we had the surface as close to perfect as we could get, we ground down all the welds on both the outside surface and inner surface of the door skin. On the inside I sealed the welds against future rust by using some 3M seam sealer.
On the outside, we ground down the welds, used a spot sandblasting tool to make sure we eliminated any flash rust that may have occurred in between sessions and laid down two coats of Southern Polyurethanes epoxy primer. With the door in primer we selected some Dyna-Glass short strand reinforced fiberglass filler as the first step in getting the surface perfectly smooth.
The reinforced fiberglass is pretty tough stuff and not the easiest thing in the world to sand. With a good layer of Dynaglass as our foundation, we selected Rage Extreme from Evercoat for our remaining layers of filler material. With the surface smoothed out, we needed to remove the duct tape we’d applied to keep excess filler from filling up the door. We found it easier to lay down the filler with both this and the lock cylinder holes covered.
With the handle hole exposed once more, we turned our attention to re-opening the lock cylinder hole once more. Our Dremel tool was invaluable for this. We used a sideways cutting bit to make the initial cut then a mini wire wheel to slowly remove the filler from the factory stamped reveal for the lock.
In order to get the proper bevel to the filler surrounding the lock cylinder, we looked around the garage for a cylindrical object that had an appropriate profile for our purposes. We used a small diameter spindle sander refill (about 100 grit) tipped at an angle to work the filler initially. A leg from an old bed frame yielded a plastic foot which we used with some 220 self-stick sandpaper.
At this point we’d laid down our first coat of high-build primer and took an end of day shot of our progress.
After several coats of high build had been sanded to our satisfaction, it was time to seal everything with two final coats of epoxy primer prior to laying down our color base coat, which will take place at some future date.
Hopefully this will inspire those of you with the desire for something a little different to take the plunge and add a custom touch or two to your ride. We used air tools because we had them. You could use a Dremel tool and reciprocating saw depending upon what you have available.