Hot Rod Hidden Hinges

Wireframe A pillar - Hidden Hinge

As a datum point for the whole body, I’m starting with the A pillars and hidden hinges.
Using the hinge pins as datums, I could construct the bulkhead section and windscreen surround.

Many cars from the pre-war period, particularly those with Art Deco styling, have wonderful flowing body lines. Tremendous skill and craftsmanship is visible from every sculptured angle, yet the hinges often stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. Nothing about them has any style. They simply perform a function, whilst stuck out, whistling in the breeze.

For looks and to get the car through the IVA, I didn’t want anything I could swing a pedestrian from.

Austin 8 hingesThis is a shot of a Austin project I have.
The wireframe and body buck have quite a few curves, especially to the doors. This means that the hinges would need to extend out similar if not further than my Austin.
In the past, to hide hinges on Hot Rods, I have used hinges from the Reliant Robin & Regal. They are self contained, ‘bolt in’ units that have worked well for me.
Reliant Robin hinge

I could of course use one of the many after-market hidden hinge kits, but I’d end up cutting them up… which seems wasteful.

Although I’d done it before, I started by reading various articles:

Some tailgate hinges, like ones from Saab and Volvo also looked tempting.

Volvo v70 hinge

Custom fabrication

In the above Austin picture, you can see 3 panels:

  • the curved front edge of the door
  • a section of the bulkhead
  • the bonnet sides.

With the Volvo V70 tailgate hinges, I could have a traditional style opening door, yet still have hidden hinges. However, I had concerns about them flexing.

The plan was to construct a traditional pre-war style bulkhead section, then slot the hinges into the edges. However that plan was about to change……

Hidden Hinge Opening

A modern approach to hidden hinges

Whilst planning the ‘A pillars’ with various cardboard templates, something rather obvious dawned on me……..

Modern cars don’t have visible bulkhead sections AND have invisible hinges. The door butts directly up to the wing.

Modern Hidden Hinge

I could extend the bonnet sides and use hinges from something modern. Luckily, I have some hinges from a Seat Leon.

MK5 Golf Hinge

The pillar is going to need some serious strength. This might be a small car, but no doubt the doors will end up weighing around 30lbs (14Kgs). Any flex in the pillar will result in a misalignment of the hinge pins. When this happens the door won’t open properly and the pins will wear out very quickly.

By using modern hinges, not only are they shorter, but also the distance between the door latch and the hinge pin is less. This reduces the leverage on the hinge pin, making a stronger structure.

On a modern car, the front door edge tucks inside the rear edge of the wing. The door does not swing out around the wing in an arch and the hinges are more compact and strong. To prevent flex, the A pillar will need shape and heavy gauge reinforcement.

Entry into this car, particularly for a creaky old man like me, will be tricky, so the closer the doors open to 90 degrees the better. A Golf door opens around 80 degrees, which hopefully will be good enough.

To give you an idea of my goals, this 35 Ford has a ‘trick’ bulkhead and extended bonnet sides.

Hidden hinge

This particular car has suicide doors, but you can see the doors could now tuck behind the bonnet sides if using modern hinges.

Suicide Hidden Hinge

So what started out as a fairly mundane tin box of an A pillar, is now quite a complex part. I can see there being 100 hours in getting a matching pair.

A Pillar Wireframe

I started with the hinge panel. Just 4 folds in the bender and the basic shape was there. Unfortunately, It’s going to need a lot of work, even to get the hinge pins to align, as top and bottom hinges are different depths.

To make just the bottom edge of the door return took several hours in the shrinker/stretcher. I started by making a mahogany buck. The bottom edge of the door has a 6.6metre radius. The door needs a edge to compress the D section rubber, so I incorporated a double fold. None of these could be done in the folder, so this piece was manually beaten.
Wireframe door return
Whilst moving workshop, the wireframe sustained dents and twisting, but I’ll straighten it as I go.
A Pillar wireframe


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