Lotus Elan

Plus 2 Door card restoration

PostPost by: The Veg » Sat Mar 02, 2024 5:19 pm

Hey all, just wanted to see if anybody who's been there and done that has any advice for this.

Now that the car is pretty much in the realm of solid operability and the interiour is mostly done, I've finally remembered the door cards I removed eight years ago and stuck in a closet. I'm quite used to having yellow glassfibre with various holes in it next to me when I drive! :mrgreen:

Anyway, here's the situation. The vinyl coverings are in surprisingly decent shape all things considered (and would be a better match for the good surviving seat-coverings than would something new), but the carpet inserts are not- they've faded from black to dull tan and no longer feel soft, no doubt the result of decades of UV-exposure here in the hot sunny USA, including decades spent either on a trailer or in a yard (new inserts would be perfect here, since the floor-carpets are all new)

The fibreboard or whatever it is that the backing boards are made of (better than cardboard, but not quite masonite?) is getting a little soft and wavy around the edges.

On one of the cards I've removed all the staples and started looking under the covering and it appears that the backing boards were rather liberally painted with a lot of contact-cement and everything is stuck down pretty well- when I try to unstick the covering, it just peels the top layer of the board away with it. I've also noticed a lot of foam padding that has reduced to dust. Thankfully the white foam in the basketweave section is still nice and full, but the darker stuff used above that section and up into the windowsill is all dust. I think I have some thin foam that I can use in those areas, assuming that I can get it all apart without destroying the covering.

Before I started taking one apart my thought was that I could remove the covering from the backing boards, have an upholsterer sew-in some new carpet inserts, make new backing boards, glue & staple it all together and Bob's yer proverbial uncle.

The questions I have:

1. Any suggestion for getting the old contact cement (and fibreboard remnants) off the back of the coverings without damaging the coverings? Doesn't have to be hermetically clean, just good enough to not have any weird bulges and to allow new cement to do its job. The old cement seems very tough stuff. Maybe experiment carefully with some solvents?

2. Any suggestions for a material from which to make new backing boards, preferably something available in the USA? I'm presuming that the exact original stuff isn't but haven't researched it yet. It needs to be the right thickness, able to accept the curve of the door, and able to hold both contact cement and staples. The original stuff actually seems just about perfect for all that criteria, but is there another material just as good or better?

3. Anything at all (materials, methods, whatever) that I haven't considered but should? Any general suggestions?

4. Am I over- or under-thinking any of this?
1970 Elan Plus 2 (not S) 50/2036
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PostPost by: GLB » Sat Mar 02, 2024 5:54 pm

I used ABS plastic sheet about 1/8 thick. Available here in El Paso from a local plastic supplier in 4 x 8 sheets. Smooth on one side and slightly embossed on the other side. easy to cut, won't rot when wet and contact cement sticks to it. Just my idea. Also not too expensive. Gary
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PostPost by: mjbeanie » Sun Mar 03, 2024 3:30 am

I found some great cardboard card stock used specifically for door cards. It was at a high performance speed shop. They had a guy in the back cutting this stuff in the shop, and building door cards. I got a 4 x 4' sheet for about 20 bucks. I will get the name for you.

Trying to source this stuff was impossible so I went thru some real trial and error to get a nice result. I built my interior but it was not easy. I made the two door cards along with the rear quarter interior panels, and parcel shelf.
I carefully used some Goof off for big areas of glue or adhesive, but generally didn't mess with the cards due to their fragility. The lower carpeted region was trashy, and disposed of, but the upper most vinyl part was still in pretty good shape. My final dimensions on the cards were a bit off when finally fitted, but generally not noticeable. I also used none of the former card attachment bits, My cards are held on by the top cap, the lower door handle/ armrest. That's it. It still holds the contour pretty well and is securely in place. As an engineer, this was a real tricky arts and crafts project. Took considerable time and patience. But the card stock is the key ingredient. (Plastic also sound like a good alternate approach as well.) Some detailed photos of the effort and build are attached. FYI
Attachments
doorcard 1.jpg and
doorcard 2.jpg and
doorcard3.jpg and
doorcard5.jpg and
IMG_3661.jpg and
'71 Lotus Elan Plus 2S130 (Type 50/0179)
'70 Opel GT
'67 Sunbeam Alpine
'88 Porsche 924 S
'67 Elan S3 DHC
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PostPost by: gus » Sun Mar 03, 2024 1:57 pm

You might consider removing the carpet, getting new fasteners [RD has them] and seeing if the original will lie flat enough to look good. I was satisfied with simply replacing the carpet.
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PostPost by: The Veg » Wed Mar 06, 2024 7:43 pm

Thanks MJB, that's interesting. I've done a bit of interiour work on mine as well, the door cards being the last major part of it before the interiour looks complete again. I too have made a new shelf (original one wasn't good and I deleted the speakers that lived there), and I re-covered the rear side panels, and made new inserts for them to accommodate relocated speakers (as new ones with their much larger magnets won't fit over the tank in the rear shelf). I've also made new squabs for the rear seats as the originals, while technically intact, are just too cruddy to use in a refreshed interiour. I've also replaced the headlining and carpets with new items and completely restored the dashboard including new veneer. I also have a new centre console from Famous Frank, and my original one was used for making the mould for it as Frank and I live in the same metro area.
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PostPost by: mjbeanie » Wed Mar 06, 2024 10:20 pm

Wow thats a great deal of accomplishment. Great work I would love to see some photos, if you can pm me.
That would be appreciated.

I am also getting ready to start the headliner next week. If ok with you I would sincerely appreciate your guidance as I am a newbie on this task! Thank you very much- Cheers, Mike
'71 Lotus Elan Plus 2S130 (Type 50/0179)
'70 Opel GT
'67 Sunbeam Alpine
'88 Porsche 924 S
'67 Elan S3 DHC
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PostPost by: tonyabacus » Sun Mar 10, 2024 9:20 pm

I have an S4 Elan and the door cards are made up as follows, all of which looks like factory build, so I would think the +2's were pretty much the same

1. a fibreglass sheet backing board
2. Next a thin foam sheet on top of this board
3. The factory fabric covering on top
4. Secured with metal clips around the sides and bottom 9can't recall now how many but will check and get back on that.
The foam covering on most cars has by now disintegrated and from what you say yours has done the same. So a gentle bit of heat from a hair dryer as you start to lift the layers apart should not be a problem. The foam will have to be replaced and whatever has peeled off from the backing board will most likely be only a thin covering which will get hidden by the new foam.

As for the backing board itself you should be able to purchase either a sheet of ready made fibreglass, or a suitable plastic type of material suggested above, or even make your own fibreglass sheet on a flat board.

To make it yourself, mark out your door card on the large board, tape up to the marking out with some 2" wide masking tape. Next use some sort of release agent on the area you will be fibreglasing (Non stck cooking oil, Petroleum jelly, baby oil will do if you don't want to purchase specialist release agents). Rub well into the board surface. Now place some fibreglass tissue onto the board slightly overlapping onto the wide masking tape previously marking out you card mold. Mix some resin and hardner (you need to be fairly accurate with the amounts of each and I prefer to go slightly under with the hardner to allow more time to work the mix when putting it on the board), stipple this well into the fibreglass tissue.

Once the pattern has been created let it go off and then apply another layer of tissue and bond to the first, then a third layer which should give you the required thickness and stiffness for your new door card. Leave for 24 hours to set proprly and then peel up the tape all the way around (the tape makes lifting your patern very easy) so now you have your new card which you can finally trim to fit the door exactly, cutting off the excess is easily done with a sharp scalpel or knife and a straight edge.

It is a lot easy to do than to explain and does not take long to stipple each layer on top of one another.

A final tip is to use some thickish plastic sheet to cover over the window motors whilst the panels are off to stop the ingress of water to the contacts and then using double sided tape cut some of the plastic and stick over any openings to prevent water leaking into the interior. The alternative is to cover the whole inside of the door with a thin plastic sheet and either some double sided tape or low tack adhesive all around the door edges,with some additional dabs of adhesive ib strategic places, then slitting any holes needed to enable parts to protrude through to the interior.
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PostPost by: mikealdren » Mon Mar 11, 2024 8:22 am

The +2 wasn't a fibreglass board, I'm pretty sure that it was just hardboard. It disintegrates with time and moisture. I'm rebuilding mine with marine ply, bending it was fun.
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PostPost by: tonyabacus » Thu Mar 14, 2024 12:33 pm

There are various boards available and in the UK we have something called Millboard which is and was often used both by manufacturers as well as restorers. This is a type of fibreboard which is easy to cut and shape and of a thickness which provides a stiff surface without being bulky It is advisable to fit a thin sheet of plastic to the inside of the door panel to prevent moisture and rain getting onto the backing boards, a very simple precaution which prevents future distortion and mould getting onto the carpet materials. One reason why I prefer to make up new fibreglass backing boards as they also don't damage around the clip holes when taking off and putting on and are simple to make.

Here are some UK sites that may help describe and show the different materials
https://newtoncomm.co.uk/collections/lotus-elan
https://www.woolies-trim.co.uk/p-1648-millboard
https://automobiletrim.com/window-channel.html

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PostPost by: The Veg » Sun Jul 07, 2024 11:58 pm

Just to follow-up on this, I got the door cards done back in May but I'm just now getting around to this update for a variety of reasons, and in fact I hadn't driven the car since getting the cards done until two days ago.

I took GLB's advice and used 1/8" ABS sheet, available from a supplier nearby. It was weird stuff to cut. When I tried with a jigsaw the plastic basically welded itself back together behind the blade, but a razor-knife making many many passes would eventually get through it. A bit tiresome but job done. Staples did go into the ABS but would only go all the way in if I bore down 'just so' on the stapler. The other problem I had with it was that it proved to be quite resistant to bending, making getting the bolts for the armrests threaded very difficult, and causing two of the clips on the trailing edge of one door to not want to engage their snapsacs. If I had to do the job again I'd consider using some heat for the plastic into the right bent shape.

A local upholsterer sewed some mew carpet inserts onto the surviving vinyl coverings which were still in pretty good shape. The carpet he used was nicer than what the new floor-carpet set I installed a few years ago was made of!

Once back together and in the car, the cards look good. Friday I finally took a drive with them in and the interious seems so much more 'finished' now. I also did not find the added thickness on the insides of the doors to cause me to feel cramped, thank goodness since I'm a big strapping fella. Of course it was a hot, sweaty drive since summers here are brutally hot and humid, but it needed to be done and I still enjoyed it.
Attachments
1000002789.jpg and
1000002788.jpg and
1000004079.jpg and
1970 Elan Plus 2 (not S) 50/2036
2012 BMW R1200GS
"It just wouldn't be a complete day if I didn't forget something!" -Me
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PostPost by: stugilmour » Mon Jul 08, 2024 4:45 pm

The whole interior looks very nice Veg.

I can’t help noticing your headliner, which looks really good. That is also my next interior challenge; MJB got his completed. Any tips and hints appreciated.

I have the added complication of a Britax Weathershield sunroof to work around. The paint shop did a poor job of cutting the headliner for sunroof, so the corner fit is particularly bad.

I have a new pre-sewn headliner and some extra material for the C pillar panels, which came out pretty poorly on my first attempt as the backing foam I used was too thick and the available non-stock interior lights were never mounted very well.

I need to remove the damaged front glass and have a replacement. The gasket material looks good, and have extra to hand. Not sure if the rear gaskets can be re-used; my glass guy is recommending trying this approach first. I am thinking I should order extra new chrome insert material for the rear glass in case it gets damaged during removal.

I am thinking of trying to better tension the existing headliner material to the side gaskets to see if I can gain some practice before cutting and fitting the new material with the glass removed. I at least now have a good stock of bull clips to hand to assist in tensioning and positioning. I also have some tubing to make up the three short rods from the sunroof lip to the door openings; the current attempt did not use rods so the headliner doesn’t curve correctly.

One specific question I have. Once the glass and gaskets are removed, is the tensioned headliner folded over the edge of the fibreglass and glued? What glue? Thinking a brush on contact cement might be the best option?

Any tips, tricks & encouragement appreciated. Once I get the new headliner positioned, tensioned, and glued in place I plan to drive the short distance to my glass guy to install the rubbers and glass. I don’t want to leave the glass crew with a difficult mess though. Hoping this will work better than my first attempt where a different glass crew came over to the house to install the glass after the repaint.

Cheers. Hope you are surviving the summer ‘heat dome’. Your Plus 2 is looking great.
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PostPost by: GLB » Mon Jul 08, 2024 6:41 pm

I did my headliner in my +2s with great trepidation but it turned out to be easy, if a bit tedious and very rewarding. I went to Office Depot ( an office supplier here in the US ) and bought a case of medium clip binders ( 12 boxes of 12 ). These are for holding large paper bundles together. I have pictures but they are on an old computer memory stick and I'm not sure how to move them to new machine. Anyway the binder clips are about 1 1/4 inches wide by 3/4 inch deep. I could then position the headliner and clip it to the window and door openings. The binder clips made it easy to reposition and stretch as needed until the fit was perfect. Time consuming but ultimately very rewarding to see it look so nice. I used Devcon brand clear silicone adhesive as a glue. The adhesive is available at Ace Hardware here in the US. I did only a little at a time, unclipping and then gluing it down and reclipping until set, usually overnight. The long setting time gave me plenty of time to get it right. I only glued it on the side that folded over the opening. It took a week or so to get it all glued in. The adhesive is very strong and clear. I have seen headlinings that showed yellow through them from the contact adhesive. The door and window gaskets hide the edge of the headliner that is folded over. I left it long and then trimmed it after the adhesive set. Be careful how much adhesive you use because it is tenacious and hard to remove any excess. Take your time and I think you will be happy with the result. Gary
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PostPost by: The Veg » Mon Jul 08, 2024 6:43 pm

stugilmour wrote:The whole interior looks very nice Veg.


Thanks Stu!

One specific question I have. Once the glass and gaskets are removed, is the tensioned headliner folded over the edge of the fibreglass and glued? What glue? Thinking a brush on contact cement might be the best option?


Yes, and I used Dap Weldwood, a good ol' brown contact cement.

I had to look-up 'bulldog clip' but that's what you want. I bought a bag of 50 of the 1/2" wide ones and used the whole lot.

I can't remember where I found the good instructions that I studied before doing the job, may have been a YouTube video on how to install a headlining a 1950s American car? They go in the same way, so probably. Anyway, the best piece of advice was to find and mark the centre of the front and rear openings and also of the headliner. With the rounded corners of the openings finding their centres can be a little tricky, but with the headlining just fold it in half along the longitudinal axis with the side that faces the roof on the outside, line-up the sides good and evenly, and mark the centreline for several inches from the front and rear edges, using something that won't show through. Aligning the centreline marks on the body with those on the headlining makes the job easier than if you just randomly tried to hang it and then adjust around. Of course you want the bows in place before you start aligning and stretching, but I can't offer any advice on how to modify techniques to deal with the sunroof. Once the centre is aligned, get the front and rear edges clamped in place and then the side edges. You don't have to stretch it much at first, just enough that everything looks generally OK. Then once all the edges are clipped you can get start the stretching, a little at a time, making many adjustments to get everything looking tight and smooth.

At the point where everything looked tight and smooth, I left it for a couple of days to allow the stretch to take a set and then gave it a final round of smaller adjustments to work-out the last of the wrinkle, then started gluing. To do this I just removed a handful of clips at a time, apply the cement, wait for it to get tacky, then stick it together, making sure to pull the tension back into that section of fabric before being fully stuck. And as Gary said, only applied the glue to the back-side of the flange- in addition to not showing through, you want a smooth expanse of the stretched fabric from the edge of the rubber seal that'll go over the edge. I did find that the 'fully stuck' point wasn't instantaneous though so I was able to make some small adjustments. But your results may vary so don't assume you'll be able to do that. Once I was happy with everything glued in place I left it again for a couple of days before removing the clips just to be sure that everything was secure. This was the first time I'd ever done one of these and I was very pleased with the result, so don't be afraid of it.
 
Cheers. Hope you are surviving the summer ‘heat dome’. Your Plus 2 is looking great.


Thanks again! I don't expect to be out driving it much over the next couple of months as it's a terribly warm car anyway. I can recall earlier this year taking a drive on a chilly morning, the temperature being low 40s F/mid-single digits C and barely needing to use the heater to be comfy. At least the engine temperature behaved!
The drive to LOG last year was miserably hot and sweaty too, with temps around 100F the whole weekend.
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PostPost by: stugilmour » Wed Jul 10, 2024 4:07 pm

Wow, great tips. I am gaining confidence. Binder Clips is definitely the term I was looking for. I have a couple of boxes to hand.

Glad both of you pointed out how long the job will take. Sounds like a perfect job to fit in with some other projects as I see now that I will need a bunch of shorter work sessions to get the whole project done. And then there are the two visits to my glass guy. Plus I need my work area to be spotless before I bring out the new fabric!

I think I will tackle this job after the main driving season, maybe in November. We are planning a pretty major trip in October to the West Coast Lotus Meet near Napa Valley CA, and I have a few other things to get done first. Really don’t want to rush the project.

I gave the sunroof issue some thought and think I have a way forward figured out. Love the tip on how to centre the fabric. It will be critical to get the fabric hole located, although the sunroof mounting lip is fairly wide so there is room to adjust things. This is the biggest problem with the existing headliner, and as a result the corners look terrible. My plan is to remove the glass a play around with the existing fabric (no rods are presently installed) before trying to install the new headliner.

I will have to attach the fabric to the inner sunroof lip with appropriate adhesive, probably in several separate sessions. As the headliner is attached to the top side of the sunroof rails there is no easy way to clip the fabric in place.

I should be able to use JB Weld quick set epoxy to attach some plastic clips I have to hand to hold the shortened rods on each side of the sunroof. IIRC all three rods are spaced such that they will be attached to the sunroof, probably different for five rod variants. The tricky part will be manoeuvring and trimming the fabric rod pockets, clips, excess material, etc. so the fabric is smoothly attached along the entire cIrcumference before installing the rods thru the pockets.

Thinking from then on the tensioning process would be pretty similar. Really liking the idea to take several sessions to let it all stretch into place before getting the glue pot out again. I am thinking the biggest issue will be to make sure the fabric pockets are free to move to get the tension pulling evenly on the fabric glued to the inner sunroof rails. I think I can figure things out with what I have installed now without removing the glass, which would be OK for the big trip. What the heck, at least I won’t care if the windshield gets tagged again with a rock! :D

Anyway, thanks again. I will start a proper thread in the fall.
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