Updated: Dec 27, 2019
Fabricating Custom Door Panels
A while back I made new interior panel backer boards from commonly sold stock available at a local hardware store. All of the holes were matched and cut on those boards and now it was time to cover them. (especially since the garage has become a little cold this time of year!) At a local fabric store I purchased 4 yards of Marine Vinyl in a matching red color. However, I was still uncertain of how I was going to insulate the door panels and the walls of the back seat. Many people I spoke with suggested that I glue the insulation to the inside of the door itself. This did not make much sense to me since access is very difficult for a full sheet and since there is so much of an air gap between the exterior door skin and the interior panel.
I decided to use the lightweight insulation material as my foam cushion between the vinyl and the backer board, essentially moving the insulated wall to the interior panel itself. To me, this made better sense.
After laying out some masking paper on the kitchen table (where it's warm!) I gathered the materials I needed: panels, heavy duty scissors, 3M adhesive (made for headliners and other interior pieces), EZ cool insulation, and the Marine Vinyl. I also grabbed a tape gun (more on that later).
Over the past year I had considered what insulation material to buy and many people had good suggestions. Most products I ran across online or at swap meets carried quite an expense, had an adhesive backing, added a little weight overall, etc. While I was posting a few questions on a popular classic car forum one individual suggested that I use material from a company who provided insulation for race cars. I settled with their product called "EZ Cool":
A 50 foot roll on eBay was going for less money than what I had expected, and when I offered a fair price for a brand new roll a seller jumped at it and took my offer for the roll and the shipping - all included it cost me $90 for a 4x50 foot roll. After all of the reviews, price comparisons, and general consensus, I got an excellent deal on this insulation product.
I began this process by laying out a section of EZ Cool underneath of the board and then outlined a rough shape so that I knew where to spray the adhesive (all told, I used 4 cans from start to finish with the vinyl included).
The adhesive was applied to both sides and allowed to get tacky so that when the two were pressed together there would be a permanent bond.
Notice that the treated side is the side of the panel that will be exposed to the sheet metal of the door. We will use plastic sheeting between the board and the door also but I figured this coating would further serve to protect the board's integrity. After the glue set up nice and well I used a box cutter to trim all excess, leaving the edges flush to the board.
This same process was used for all 4 interior panels.
The results did look "space age" but once the vinyl is glued to the panels no one will ever know that the cushion of the board is really the insulation and not foam. After all four panels were ready we switched our attention to the vinyl and laid out each piece for a trim about 2-3" overlap to the back of the panel.
Like the insulation, the vinyl was trimmed to the board and then a couple of coats of adhesive went to the vinyl and then a couple of coats to the insulation side of the board. After a few minutes the board was pressed to the vinyl that was lying face down on the dining room table.
You can tell from the photo above that I have already begun to spray more adhesive at the edges so that I can begin wrapping the vinyl around the board itself, pulling the material tightly across its face. I worked at the middle first, and then move horizontally in both positions.
Corners or concave sections had to be carefully managed since the material needed to have pie cuts and vinyl removed in order to full wrap around with a clean surface on the back side. Some edges needed to be taped to the board to hold its tension - this was pretty easy with the shipping tape from the tape gun. A word of caution here if you go this route: do not get those teeth on the tape gun anywhere near your vinyl!
These were certainly made on a budget but will be highly functional and durable, with little susceptibility to moisture trouble. Each panel cost me right around $33 when the adhesive was also figured into the total price. All that is left to do is to cut the holes for trim and clips. On a daily driver, these should be simple to keep clean!