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Discussion Starter #1
Hello everybody, this is Jim Royston from Dieselgeek. I've had three pretty beat up New Beetle door panels sitting here for a few years from the NB handle project and they got me thinking a bit. I took them home, cleaned them up and the only thing keeping them from being serviceable are the cloth inserts. SO, my question to this group is whether or not you would buy replacement inserts for your door panels or not. The inserts would not be exactly like the stock panels. If you were to buy them, what would they be worth per door?

Let's discuss it!
 

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I assume you mean the part that always ends up sagging and looking like crap? I might consider something like that depending how they looked and how difficult it was to install them. As to worth, that depends on what they're made of.
 

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There is NO question; that the New Beetle door panel, situation needs to be addressed by the aftermarket. I live in the Southwest and the sun; is making the door panel plastics VERY brittle. Both of the top painted plastics; cracked/split, the last time I removed the door panels. In the past, some of the mounts for the panel clips, broke off as well.

Other people, are starting to reproduce a full replacement panel; made out of fiberglass. These seem, somewhat crude and do not have any areas, to hold the stock panel clips and the only thing holding it to the door is the bottom screws. I personally, am not a fan of fiberglass; especially for something that makes contact with your skin and is prone to degradation by the sun with fiberglass material eventually going to burn through the paint.

So, the stock materials; are failure prone and it doesn't take long for the heat, to degrade them and they become brittle. I have read, that German car companies; made a effort to use plastics that were easy to recycle and that maybe why they do not hold up to the heat. I'm sure, if there was a engineer out there and you identified the type of plastic VW used, it would make sense.

So, I would like a affordable way; to either repair or replace the stock panels with a new assembly or figure out some other way, to have a similar to stock panel. In my dreams, I was thinking; of a stamped steel panel and you could just apply upholstery to it if you wanted to. That probably is not cost effective; would be hot to the touch and most likely not cost effective (the tooling alone; would be expensive). I'm afraid my dreams are affected by the fact; these plastics fail and soon, when VW discontinues making interior parts, many are listed as "NLA" already and we are going to be stuck with broken panels and no way to fix them.

Anyway, I am thinking outloud to a certain degree but it would be nice to have a indestructable solution, that won't be destroyed by heat and the fiberglass repro's I have seen so far, I am not happy with. These stock panels; are made up of a number of pieces and one could reproduce, the parts that keep failing or come up with a whole assembly. I don't know what the answer is but I am currently, driving around with both of the tops of my door panels split/cracked and I would like a permanent solution to this problem.
 

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If the fiberglass panels had some kind of reference marks, to install the door clips, they would be perfection. Also,ni wonder if some kind of gel coat over the fiberglass would aid in the fiberglass/paint bleed thru.

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Gel coat is the problem; the sun gets to it and then you have the raw fiberglass exposed, not good for your arm to rest on. I think fiberglass is easy to mold things with but I don't know if it is the best material for a door panel (under continual physical contact, exposed to the sun, which will eventually burn through the gel coat, continual physical stress of opening and closing the door, etc).


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Jim,

Great idea that deserves discussion.

I'm sure you've seen the Refurbished Door Panel thread http://newbeetle.org/forums/styling-modifications/37996-refurbished-door-panels.html , and there are many approaches to recovering/refinishing that door insert panel.

One of my favorites is Pierre and Kristin's (Locksmith and KBelle) crocheted door panels...a novel approach, fits with their bug and Kristin's hobby.

I reused my original panels (after a good cleaning) and painted them with a textured "splatter" paint...they turned out far better than I expected, and it's lasted several years.

Warren
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I think that on the original VW panels the weakness is in two material choices. The plastic VW used was ABS which is not known for it's resistance to heat. It's also not very recyclable or at least it's not at the consumer level. The second weakness is that the cloth material for the center inserts had an open cell foam attached to the backside which was then glued to the fiberboard center insert. The foam back cloth was subjected to skin oils and heat and mechanical jarring forces of opening and closing the door. It's like a headliner material used in the worst possible location and was doomed to failure. The foam also doesn't clean up well if you decide to recover the center section insert. To make matters worse, all of the thin ABS plastic tabs that hold the insert to the rest of the door panel break off so you scratch your head wondering how to reattach the insert to the door panel once you have it recovered.

What I was thinking was to recreate the center section out of thermoformed plastic using the current insert as a mold. That would provide a good surface to glue more material back onto it or if there was some surface finish that could be made into the thermoformed panel that would be cosmetically acceptable you could then just engineer a method to firmly reattach the new insert into the door panel and call it a day. I have made the assumption that the main weakness is the insert and not the top painted part like billymade's panels. I have not seen damage like this not caused buy hasty removal. (I'm not implying that billymade damaged his own panels.)

Never considered remaking the panels from scratch though. That's quite a project. I have thought of looking for the original tooling but that's a big deal. Remaking the stock panels with better plastic would be cool.

I guess the next question or request is to get a fix on what is the common failure mode. Am I barking up the wrong tree with reproducing just the insert?

Jim
 

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I have taken the panel off many times over the years and never had a problem; I just think it has gotten to the point that they are very brittle from the extreme New Mexico heat. It was very bizarre; they both failed and split on the same day removing the panels, so I think the plastic just gets brittle and splits. From what I have been told; once the oils are gone inside plastics, they lose their flexibility and strength. Keep in mind; the panels, were pretty much exposed to the sun all day for 13 years or so. I know VW did or does sell; the top portions by themselves, to repair the door panels. Of course, replacing something with the same plastics; will end up failing again.


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Discussion Starter #10
The ABS panels are brittle, that's for sure. They are not impregnated with any glass fibers so they crack pretty easily. If I remade them I would spend the extra buck on some glass fibers to keep the cars looking good for at least 20 years.

The door panels are molded in the same color plastic that they are painted with. The paint comes off pretty easily when you scrub on them and they would probably look great with some new paint when you refurbish them. They are much more resistant to deterioration from the sun if they are painted.

What do y'all think about carbon fiber or carbon fiber look inserts? I think it would be kinda slick.
 

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The ABS panels are brittle, that's for sure. They are not impregnated with any glass fibers so they crack pretty easily. If I remade them I would spend the extra buck on some glass fibers to keep the cars looking good for at least 20 years.

The door panels are molded in the same color plastic that they are painted with. The paint comes off pretty easily when you scrub on them and they would probably look great with some new paint when you refurbish them. They are much more resistant to deterioration from the sun if they are painted.

What do y'all think about carbon fiber or carbon fiber look inserts? I think it would be kinda slick.
Carbon fiber would be neat depending on the look you want for you bug. In my case it wouldn't be something I would be interested in. Just a normal panel preferably with some type of padding would be best.
 

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I don't see much of a point in making just the center piece that's covered in fabric as it is the furthest from the weakest point of these panels. Those fiberboards are pretty simple to take off, recover, and put back one. Why do we really need new ones?

The problem is that the entire panel, from age, gets brittle. The handles are the weak point and start breaking from there.

Fiberglass is a great option. It takes a LONG time for the gelcoat to break down... But it's supposed to be painted anyway which protects the gel coat. The gelcoat on the top of my 78 westy only lasted about 30 years... That a good 15 years longer than any of these door panels have lasted this far.

Carbon fiber would be cool if you made the whole door panel out of it.

That's my input fwiw.
 

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I don't see much of a point in making just the center piece that's covered in fabric as it is the furthest from the weakest point of these panels. Those fiberboards are pretty simple to take off, recover, and put back one. Why do we really need new ones?

The problem is that the entire panel, from age, gets brittle. The handles are the weak point and start breaking from there.

Fiberglass is a great option. It takes a LONG time for the gelcoat to break down... But it's supposed to be painted anyway which protects the gel coat. The gelcoat on the top of my 78 westy only lasted about 30 years... That a good 15 years longer than any of these door panels have lasted this far.

Carbon fiber would be cool if you made the whole door panel out of it.

That's my input fwiw.
Pretty much my school of thought too. Couldn't have said it any better, except I don't own a Westy :D

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I don't see much of a point in making just the center piece that's covered in fabric as it is the furthest from the weakest point of these panels. Those fiberboards are pretty simple to take off, recover, and put back one. Why do we really need new ones?
Because not everybody wants to redo their inserts or just wants something they may not be able to make? My door panels are actually in pretty decent shape and it's the inserts that are sucking.
 

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I am the original owner of my 2000 Beetle GLX and it took about 14 years for my lower panels to deteriorate with material sag, the upper painted portions are still pristine.

I looked extensively for well made sanitary replacements and found only half-ass facsimiles that I wouldn't use if they were free.

Although it's too late for me because I have already purchased both lower panels new from Volkswagen, I do think it is definitely an area that should be carefully addressed in the aftermarket.

If the price per side could be kept under $300 for a quality made/looking finished product, this would be fair in my opinion as it would drastically under cut Volkswagen's price.

Forgive the following thread twist Jim, but, MKIV Beetle cup holders do not hold up long (as I'm sure you know) and VW sells them at a ridiculous $65ea, I would be thrilled if you guys at dieselgeek would create direct fit exact version replacements of these in billet aluminum, I would absolutely buy these from you if the sell price did not exceed say $85ea.

 

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Frankly, I'd probably rather have mine refurbed. The vinyl's still good but the foam backing has deteriorated. At this point, though, I have neither the time to do it or the money to have it done. Gotta have the headliner done as well.

I probably wouldn't buy new ones, although it looks like I'm probably the only one with that viewpoint.
 

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What about the solid plastic painted inserts in the 98-99's? Would they fit in place of the vinyl covered fiberboard panels in the later models?
 

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I would like to have the options of an aftermarket interior panel. The vinyl on the arm rest section is beginning to detach
 
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