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Old 07-22-2013, 12:54 PM
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Ditching suicide doors

Just wondering.........I've got my eye on a couple of rods (Willys) that are already built, or nearly so. They have fiberglass bodies. Two of them have suicide doors, which is the only thing I don't like. But the price is reasonable.

How hard is it to convert them back to regular opening doors? Could I go back to the manufacturer and buy all the hardware, and would they sell me the templates?? One of them has electric solenoids, so no outside handle to deal with.

Would not both the front and rear door posts have been reinforced during the build, for stiffness?

What do you think? Is this something that the average guy with fairly good mechanical and body skills could do, or is this going to be a huge deal....something that should tell me to look at another vehicle?

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Old 07-22-2013, 02:26 PM
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Shouldn't be a problem..

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Old 07-22-2013, 02:27 PM
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I don't understand the whole suicide door thing either, but oh well. Ok, it depends on a number of things, where the made that way from the manufacturer? If they were maybe you could get a hold of them? If you want to buy the car the seller I would think would be more than happy to provide you with that information. If they were made that way, it is so hard to say what would be needed to swap it back. If it was modified, now, just how did they do it? It's really an open ended question with no answer.

It could be very easy if it was modified and they left all the hinge mounting stuff still there under the upholstery. But man, without knowing more about it there isn't much we can say.

There are a few guys on this site who have built them who may have something to offer.

I know of course you can do it, but how difficult, that is another story.

Brian
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Old 07-22-2013, 02:35 PM
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I would talk to a body builder like Barb at Outlaw Performance. They make a Willys body and she'll have the parts you'll need.
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Old 07-22-2013, 03:35 PM
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Suicide doors are installed for a couple reasons - it's the 'style' that some builders/owners like. Then there is that large person - tall, girth, or... and ease of car entry where it's a lot less trouble to get in and past the steering wheel and be able to plunk your posterior in the seat. I can say that getting my 6'4"/200 pound frame in my '31 Ford roadster would be a lot easier with suicide doors. At least the tilt column helps.

Changing them over - that could get real involved with reinforcing or brackets that may have been modified or even removed if they existed in the first place. Then to install 'standard' latches, you will have to go into the 'A' pillar, cowl, pull the dash out, then most likely repaint. The doors - they may not have any original style framing or brackets. Is it a hard job? Not really, but it is complicated needing mechanical as well as probably some fiberglass skills to do the job successfully - and maybe even easier to start over with a new body.
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Old 07-22-2013, 05:23 PM
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close them up and jump over the front seat!! are you going to shorten the body to make it look proper? good price under $12,000 ,just run it as found!!
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Old 07-23-2013, 01:10 PM
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I agree with Irelands Child. This could get very involved. Not sure what year Willys you are looking at, but they are going to have the hinge mount areas recessed into the pillar and cut into the door outter edge (if going with original style hinges). You will need to make sure the door and pillar is reinforced for the hinges and you will need to install latches on the other side. Any wiring would need to be changed too. This type of work would include probably painting at least the sides (which would also require the roof) and the door jambs on the body and doors. Depending on the build, the dash may even need to be factored in. Front hidden hinges can be a real challenge to get the swing right.

On the fat fendered cars, most times suicide doors are done to eliminate outside hinges (smooth look) and to have front hidden hinges are a major project that requires engineering skills.
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Old 07-23-2013, 01:21 PM
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Let me put it this way, I have installed suicide doors where they didn't exist, it was pretty challenging, going back the other way would be at least equal, maybe worse, depending on if the body came with them or it was modified and how it was modified.

Brian
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Old 07-23-2013, 02:19 PM
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I just never liked them. Maybe it was because, many years ago, a gasser '34 Ford Coupe at the local drag strip had the driver's door fly open; and it tore it completely off the car.....after flying backward on the hinges and bashing in several places on the side.

I figured that body manufacturers would probably reinforce both the front and rear pillars of a particular body, during manufacture; both for stiffness of the structure, and so it could have either style of door, depending on the buyer. Maybe I give them too much credit.

I figured it would be a job, but thought that some of you, on here, who had dealt with glass Willys, might have a little better insight. I've done a good bit of body and mechanical work over the years, but that was a long time ago, and I'm looking for something fun now, not a major undertaking. Maybe I should just walk away, and look further.
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Old 07-23-2013, 03:35 PM
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dalesy - '33/4 Fords were originally equipped with suicide doors If you saw one fly open, that owner either didn't have it latched fully or like many others of this era, the latches were worn out and some body twist unlatched it - a common problem and easily cured by a simple $60 safety pin assembly that I have even on my '31s conventional doors. Ford also did some early '60's Lincoln rear doors that way as well.

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Old 07-23-2013, 03:50 PM
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Well.... I just made 48 yrs old on the 20th of this month,, And Been into building cars my whole life and I have to say... I have never seen a suicide door fly open yet.. I have heard of it,, But never ran across one yet... When done right,, It work's better then a reg door for me...


Now I did have three hoods fly open on ME before...

Add the safety latches, And they will never open...
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Old 07-23-2013, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by NEW INTERIORS View Post
Well.... I just made 48 yrs old on the 20th of this month,, And Been into building cars my whole life and I have to say... I have never seen a suicide door fly open yet.. I have heard of it,, But never ran across one yet... When done right,, It work's better then a reg door for me...


Now I did have three hoods fly open on ME before...

Add the safety latches, And they will never open...
I am with Randy and Dave, if that's all that is holding you back, with the right safety pins, hell you could make it so they are like a neutral safety switch if you want. I didn't witness it, but I saw the results 1979 NSRA Nationals a friend with a 32 Three window, his wife won't soon forget it!

But really, with the proper latches you are good to go. Let's face it, that was with the original Ford latches, they were JUNK compared Bear Claws. The only way it would happen today is if the person actually opened it, it isn't going to happen like in the old days with a little body twist going over a bump.

aluminum knobs Suicide door safety pin kit Speed Lok 10 module

Brian
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Old 07-24-2013, 05:06 AM
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That little lever along side the driver's seat is one of those safety pins. That set (from Juliano's) came with a micro switch for a warning light or buzzer but I haven't used it:



This is what they look like along with bear claw latches while being installed - and no, the solenoid latch operators were not used:



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Old 07-24-2013, 10:24 AM
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My Austin has factory suicide doors, and I've never had any issues, even with a 327 Chevy, vs. the stock 20 hp. flathead 4 cyl. engine. The door latches have two catches, so if a door did somehow pop open (or not get fully latched) they still stop on the 2nd catch. If I was worried I'd install a safety pin also, but I'm not.
One big advantage on the suicide doors (besides entry) is when I've been in a real car cruise where we were stuck bumper to bumper at 5 mph on a hot day. I simply unlatch the door and hold it a few inches open and get lots of fresh air moving through the cab! I do the same thing on the return road at the drags to cool down the interior.
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Old 07-24-2013, 03:33 PM
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I know there are pro's and con's to every side of the question, and undoubtedly there have been many improvements made to latches over the years.

That '34 I spoke about, was 3/4 of the way down the track, when the door came open. It caught the wind, like a drag chute and snapped back, buckling the sheet metal behind the door jamb, and making major dents in the rear fender, before breaking off and destroying the door. Many years ago.

I know it's a long shot, but I don't like them anyway; and if it's going to be too much of a hassle to change them, I'll just look for something else. I really can't get enthused about tackling a project like this, at this stage of the game.
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