The third and final installment of my van interior completion series is devoted to door panels. As I planned out the interior build I figured recovering the front seats would be the most difficult part. While it was very challenging, I would say doing these button tufted door panels was just as frustrating and even more time consuming. It was important to me that they looked right and not all wrinkled and thrown together. Also getting the panels to fit flush and stay on the doors without visible hardware was also a challenge.
This shot shows the basic layout of the door panel. I weighed out a few door panel materials but ended up using luan from Lowes or Home Depot. It was cheap and easy to get. More professional panel board was harder to find and ultimately I didn’t think it would matter.
The next step was to build the arm rest structure and layout where the buttons would go. I then transferred the hole layout to the foam with spray paint and then cut the holes by hand using a hole saw. The trick to cutting the holes is to use spray silicone on the saw.
Here’s the finished driver side door panel. The pieces fit pretty close to how I planned but I still have some finessing to do. I also plan to cover the lower part of the door at some point
Now that I figured out how to do the biscuit tuck to my satisfaction I could apply it to the rear and side doors. Here is a shot of the finished rear passenger door prior to installation.
A professional upholster friend on Instagram helped me understand how to sew these button tuck panels. Basically you make a pocket for each button to sit. This made all the difference.
I made the front doors using 2-3″ thick foam. I liked the look but realized later the side doors would never open with that much padding. The rear doors ended up being around 1.5″ thick. I had to make a extension out of square tubing so the inside door handle would clear the panel.
The view from the back doors. I really like the way this turned out. The rear panels are a tight fit wear the touch the bench bases but other than that the back doors turned out perfect. You can also see the rear cargo cover.
Here’s another shot of the finished interior (at least for now). It is pretty comfy in there and a lot quieter than it used to be thanks to all the padding, carpet and insulation.
Here’s a favorite detail about the door panels. I wanted to work around the door handle so it wouldn’t be an eyesore. The solution was to have it protrude at an angle out of the armrest. This period correct handle also matches the steering wheel.
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