We love custom trucks. Without them, there would be no Sport Truck magazine, no disgustingly powerful trucks, no ultra-low frame-draggers, no shows, and-dare we say?-no bikini contests. Imagine how lame that world would be, where everyone drives a stock truck. Well, luckily, that is not the reality of the world. The term custom is very well known and basically drives our industry.
As soon as you install a billet grille or big shiny wheels on your truck, it falls into the custom category. Custom, by definition, is something made or performed according to personal order. Personal order is the key point of that sentence. We build trucks to fit our personal taste and be outside of the norm. What do you do if custom starts becoming the norm? It is happening. You can go straight to the dealer and buy a factory truck with 20-inch wheels, and if your wallet is really big, you can get 22-inch wheels on a stock SRT-10.
We have an idea. Why not take something the factory put on a vehicle and make it custom for your truck? Turnabout is fair play, right? Shaving the door handles has become a staple modification in our industry, but we want to show you another option.
We contacted John Meyer from Clean Cut Creations in St. Louis, Missouri, and asked him what was going on his shop. The truck gods were smiling on us that day because he said, "It just so happens I am grafting in a set of Chevrolet Malibu door handles into an S-10." We asked if he would snap some pictures along the way, so we could see how a professional does it.
The procedures in this story will work for just about any door handle swap that your deviant mind can think up, but there will be a few little factors to think about before you start. Before you go out and just grab a set of handles, make sure the curvature of the sheetmetal is relatively close for each door, because a curved handle will look like ass on a flat door. Once you have found a handle suitable for the swap, check out the way the opening mechanism works. You want the rods to function in the same manor as your factory handles, either a pull-up or push-down design. The '97-'03 Malibu handle matches both criteria for '94-'04 S-10s, so all you have to really focus on is getting it into the door.
After you have decided on what handles you want in your truck, buy a set of doors from a wrecking yard, or if your donor is too new, contact a dealer. Since John decided on a Malibu handle, he got a set from his local scrap yard and tore them completely apart.
On the right, you can see the styling differences between the two handles. The Malibu handle has a nice ovate shape that will look totally different in the S-10. You can also see that the new handle has a key in it, so make sure to get the keys from the junkyard. If they don't have them, take the handles to a locksmith and have a set made.
1. Once the donor doors are apart, mark the area to be removed, and make sure you cut it o
2. There are a few ways to cut the sheetmetal. John opted to use a cut-off wheel. Whatever
3. Make a template of your new handle skin and transfer it to the stock door to get a prec
4. Find the new handle centerline and reference with a level centerline on the door skin.
5. Test-fit your new piece, and keep grinding until the piece fits nice and tight. John re
6. Grind the edges to be welded to bare metal around your donor handle skin and stock skin
7. John uses a digital setting Millermatic Model 251 220 welder using 0.035 wire, 75/25 mi
8. Follow with your favorite autobody filler. Sand smooth using an inline air sander, star
9. John spread the mud and blocked it smooth, before coating the area in primer. Once the
10. Here is the handle area, once the truck was finished, and as you can see, it really lo
SPORT TRUCKTECH TIP
JUST A REMINDER
Don't forget to remove door glass from the inside of the door, because it will pit from welding and grinding. Always remove any trim or hardware from inside the door that may get damaged during the welding procedure. Cover all exterior glass and paint. John at Clean Cut Creations uses 3M Welding and Spark Paper, PN 05916. He says, "The product is expensive, but it's cheaper than buying new glass." Do not use standard masking paper, cardboard, or your grandma's old blanket because these things will catch on fire as you are working. If you are working with the truck door open for any reason, cover all interior areas.
THE FINAL WORD
This installation will be different on each vehicle, depending on what donor handle is used. But, the most important thing to remember is to completely bolt in and mock up the new handle, and fab the lock rod and handle linkage with the glass and gasket installed to check for clearance. If you have an S-10, you might want to consider the Malibu as a perfect donor, but again the options are only limited to your imagination.