Side hatches step by step

Written by ralph on 22/02/2015. Posted in Boot storage build, Ralph's blog, Vehicle modifications

The configuration I wanted for the new boot storage layout required side access.  I had planned, for many months, to replace the rear side windows with lift up hatches similar to those found on some Defenders.  This is a step by step guide as to how I did it.

Parts required:

2 off Aluminium sheet 3mm (minimum) 650mm x 600mm (minimum). I bought two sheets 750mm x 750mm from ebay from Streamline Metals for £68.26.
4 off Southco Compression latches with locks Once again from ebay from ajw-vehicle-fittings for £72
4 off Gas Strut Stay Kitchen Cabinet Door Hinge 80Nm Bought from raf.property04 for £7.60
5 meters UNIVERSAL BLACK DOOR SEAL, KITCAR, HOT ROD, CLASSIC MINI, FORD, PAY PER METRE I bought 7 meters but you only need 5.  Bought from kitcar.crazy for £37
4 off Covered 316 SS Hinge – Top Pin I got these from Solent Marine for £32.  There are a number of choices of hinges available.  I chose these because they had covered screws.  If you decide on something different, try searching for horsebox or marine hinges.
10 metres of SATIN BLACK Car EDGE TRIM SEAL – Interior & Exterior – PVC Van Boat Truck I bought this from monkey-dub-car-parts for £31.  You only need 6m.
20 off M5 x 16mm countersunk hex head set bolts/screws stainless steel Bought from Screwfix @ £2.27 for 50
4 off M5 x 40mm countersunk hex head set bolts/screws stainless steel Bought from abolt-fromtheblue @ £1.38 for 10
12 off M5 nylock stainless steel nuts Bought from Screwfix @ £3.37 for 100
30 off 3.5 x 10mm self-tapping screws Dug out from my collection
 2m x 25mm aluminium angle Bought from local supplier for £20 for 2 x 5m
850mm x 1520mm Gloss Black Vinyl Wrap Car (Air/Bubble Free)  Bought from classic-tradinguk for £12.99



Tools required:

Electric drill
5mm drill bit
3mm drill bit
Electric jig saw with metal cutting blade
Rule/Measuring tape
Stanley Knife
Soft mallet
IMG_1308 Firstly here is a picture of the end result.

Because I was unsure of certain aspects it took me around 8 hours to complete the first hatch.

However, it took less than half that to complete the second as I could use the first one as a template.

This was the time taken to get the hatches to a point that they could be shut and locked.


IMG_1310 I fitted the gas struts, added the black wrap and secured the light on following weekends due to other commitments.I am sure that with good weather you could easily finish the whole thing in a weekend.
IMG_1229 First step is to remove the existing windows.

The easiest way of doing this is with a Stanley knife.

Cut through the rubber seal by tracing the edge of the glass.

IMG_1231 Once you have cut around the full edge then push the glass out from the inside.

This might take a hefty thump near one of the corners to get it started.

Then you can prise it out from the outside.

Be careful not to drop it as you will need it later.

Once this is done pull away the cut rubber seal.

This will leave you with access to the ‘flanged’ edge of the body work.

IMG_1235 Using a soft mallet (I used our camping mallet) start, at the bottom, applying the seal.

This can be a bit fiddly in the corners but a bit of perseverance will get it fitting snugly all around.

IMG_1258 When you get back around to the bottom, cut the seal approximately 10mm too long.

I used the Stanley knife for the rubber and a junior hacksaw for the rest.

It is difficult to get a perfect cut.

IMG_1260 Force the two ends together.

This will cause it to sit proud as you can see in the picture.

Using the mallet and holding the two ends together, gently tap the ‘hump’ down from the cut edge towards the corner.

This will have the effect of putting the seal in a state of compression and forcing it tightly into the corners.

It also helps to push the two cut edges together firmly thus eliminating any gap.

IMG_1236 This will leave you with all the bodywork edge covered and a nice continuous seal for the hatch to push against.
IMG_1264 Next take the glass and lay it onto your aluminium sheet.

Take note of the side of the aluminium that is the ‘best’ side and ensure that this will be the side showing outwards after you have cut the shape.

Remember that the 2 hatches are the same shape but you will want to cut them opposite handed so that the ‘best’ side is showing out on the left and the right side (I hope that makes sense!).

IMG_1265 Draw carefully around the glass adding an additional 10mm around the full circumference.

You can actually add as much as you like (except along the top edge) but I found 10mm suited the size and style that I wanted.

10mm gives a size approximately equivalent to the original window + rubber.

I used a scriber to mark the aluminium and held a piece of scrap wood, 10mm wide, between the edge and the scriber to maintain the distance.

Once you have done this use a jig saw and a guide to cut the straight edges.

I then used a combination of the jig saw and a file to create the curved corners.

IMG_1242 I forgot to take any pictures of this part (sorry).

I offered the cut hatch up to the hole and roughly judged where I wanted the hinges.

The picture shows the hinges fixed to the car.Ignore this and follow the instructions below as I found out that it is easier to fit the locks first.

Using the hinge as its own template position them on the hatch, drill through (5mm) and secure them using the 5mm x 12mm set bolts.

The hatch is approximately 600mm wide, so initially, I placed the hinges at the third points i.e. 200mm apart.

However I felt that this put them to far away from the corners where I wanted to ensure there was enough pressure to compress the seals.

In the end I placed them 150mm in from each edge and 300mm apart.

This seemed to look okay and provided the compression I wanted.

To be completely honest the alignment of the hinges was done by eye.

It’s important to note that the top two bolts on the lower hinge plate do foul the rubber seal slightly so you may want to consider different hinges.

If not then you will need to cut down the bolts slightly which foul the seal .

If you do go for different hinges be aware that the top hinge plate can only be around 20-25mm because of the depth of the bodywork between the widow top and the gutter.

Once the hinges are fixed on the hatch cover, get someone to hold it in place so that you can mark the ‘sill’ height.

Mark a line from the inside and then measure and transfer this line onto the outside.

This is important so that you know how far to fit the locks from the lower edge of the hatch.

IMG_1245 Make a template, out of cardboard, of the hole required to fit the locks.Tape this into position where you want the locks to be.Once again I placed these 150mm from the side.The vertical positioning of these locks is critical.

If you sit them too low they will foul on the seal and body edge and prevent you from closing the hatch.

If you sit them too high they will not ‘mate’ with the body edge when closing them.

If you do put them too high you can always add an additional ‘lip’ on the inside but this is best avoided.

Mark the hatch through the template.

IMG_1247 Place masking tape over the area, to prevent scratches and chain drill two of the corners.

Once you have done this join the holes using a jig saw.

Always remember that the drawn line is from the inside of the template and so will be on the small side.

However this is better than cutting it too big.

Once cut remove the burs and shape the hole using a file.

IMG_1255 Using the locks, to hold it in position, align the hatch where you want it and drill through (5mm) the hinge top plate and bodywork.

Insert a bolt after each hole is drilled to ensure alignment (M5 x 16).

It is worth placing a small ‘packing piece’ between the bottom of the lock and the body edge (2-3mm) as this will ensure a bit of clearance when closing the hatch.

As you will see, you will need to remove the upper trim panel to get access to the two top hinge bolts.

Drill through the top hinge pate into the body (5mm) and insert the M5 x 40mm set bolts.

The bolts do come through an angled part of the body.

Although it may look single skinned the body does have an angled strengthening piece here.

IMG_1253 Remove the packing pieces, undo the locks and you should now have a functioning hatch.

Assuming that this has all gone swimmingly to plan, you can now disassemble the whole thing and use this ‘door’ as an exact template to cut out the other side.

IMG_1277 Next came the gas struts.

I wanted to keep the outside of the hatches as ‘clean’ as possible and avoid any visible screw heads so I needed a way of fixing the struts without drilling more holes.

I cut a length (500mm) of 25mm aluminium angle and picked up to two bottom hinge bolts.

This gave me something to fix to.

IMG_1284 I then added two short lengths of angle at each end, as brackets, to form a sort of Z shape, and secured the top of each strut using 3.5 x 10mm self tapping screws.
IMG_1273 The bottom end of the rear strut was secured to the redundant speaker mount using two 3.5mm self tapping screws.
IMG_1276 For the bottom of the front strut I made a bracket using the 25mm angle again.As the body is double skinned this was secured using the same 3.5mm self tappers.Ignore the, obviously, long bolts showing at the top.

These were just temporary while I waited for the 40mm set bolts to arrive.

IMG_1288 After fitting these I realised that this was also an ideal way to secure the LED strip light.

I extended the small end brackets and screwed the lamp to them with self tappers.

I chose this light as it rotated.

This would allow us to tilt it to light into the hatch and also point outwards to light the area beside the car.

As you can see, I have yet to wire them up.

 IMG_1294  The next step was to remove everything again and apply the black wrap and edging.

Of course if you were doing this in one go you could fit this much earlier.

Make sure you thoroughly clean the surface and take you time and you can get an almost mirror finish.

I used a hair dryer to help stretch the edging around the corners and I hid the joint behind on of the hinges.

 IMG_1303 The final step was to spray and fix the hinge covers.

I used Plasticote gloss black for the lower section and a Land Rover Tangiers Orange touch up spray for the top half.

All in all I am very happy with the result.

From a distance it is difficult to tell them from the original windows.

From a security  point of view the wore discreet they are the better.

Leave a Reply



Trackback from your site.