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Opening the doors and trunk

Q: I want to open the doors and trunk on my latest model. How do I cut them open? How do I build my jambs and detail the underside of the trunk lid? Where can I buy hinges that look real, not a rod with a sleeve? Please help me with my model.

- JJ Jauregui
Kennewick, Washington

Ken: Well, JJ, that's certainly an ambitious question that could take several feature-length articles to answer, but we'll do our best to help you here at the Workshop.

To open body panels, start saving those old, dull #11 hobby knife blades. Follow the panel lines with the dull blade turned upside down so the sharp edge is facing up. A sharp, new blade is much more difficult to control and could easily pop out of the groove and cut across the surface of the car. The dull backside of the blade will actually tear through the plastic rather than cut it.

It's a painstakingly slow process, and you'll really have to take your time - especially around the corners - but the results will be worth it. Resist the urge to get "almost" all the way through the cut and try to wiggle the panel loose. That could cause a problem. Be patient, and the panel will fall out in your hand.

To build the jambs and the inside of the door, you'll have to cut out the door panel from the interior tub. To accurately do this, insert the interior tub into the car after the doors are cut open. Trace the location of the door opening onto the outside of the interior tub.

Don't go by the molded door lines that are inside the tub - they may not actually line up with the door opening. Cut that piece out with a razor saw or by scribing the tub with a hobby knife and straightedge.

Tape the door back onto the model, and with the interior tub in place, measure the space between the door and the interior tub. That's the distance you'll have to span with spacers to get the inner door panel in the proper position. A lot of trial-and-error fit-testing will be required during this step.

When you've got the inner door panel securely attached to the door, fill in around the outside edge with thin, flexible styrene strip to close all the gaps. Do the same with the door jambs.

With the interior tub still in the car, fill the gaps between the car body and the interior tub. Only glue the jambs to either the body or the tub, so you can remove the interior during the build.

For the trunk, cut open the panel in the same manner as you did the doors. You can line the inner trunk lid with fabric to simulate upholstery, or you can line it with another piece of thin styrene into which you've cut the brace detail.

Hinges are another matter. There's not much out there besides the typical pin-and-rod type, unless you decide to build your own.

This is simply an overview of the big picture of opening and hinging body panels. There's an illustrated feature article on these techniques that goes into a greater detail in the 2002 Car Modeler Annual.

Thanks for the great question. I hope this answers at least some of your fundamental questions.

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