Door Alignment - Roadsters

Also Deluxe Phaeton*
The primary adjustment when shimming the body is at the cowl. Open models simply bow or flex at the floor. This either expands or reduces the door gap at the latch pillar as illustrated above. Tilting the cowl by changing the shims below it raises or lowers the doors at the rear. It also evens the gaps at the rear of the doors.


Our primary objective here is the final adjustment of the vertical door alignment by means of shims between the body and frame as done by the Ford Motor Company when the cars were produced.

*While slightly different, the details here also apply to the 180-A Deluxe Phaeton.

There are other door fit problems common to Roadsters unaffected by shimming. For more on these problems see: Roadster Door Problems & Corrections

Assembly must be done on a straight frame for proper results. Most frames require straightening, if only to remove a sag at the rear motor mounts. This typically has little effect on the body itself, but will result in a poor hood fit. With the body properly shimmed the hood will fit as shown in the third illustration below. While shimming the body higher can overcome this, it requires raising the body excessively to obtain a reasonable hood fit and you may have difficulty latching the hood. If the frame was previously straightened, check it again with the chassis assembled. You may be surprised! We see many otherwise nice restorations fall seriously short in this area. It really detracts from a nice restoration, so straighten that frame!

Straighten door hinges. Door hinges are often bent. Now is also a good time to replace worn hinge pins. Oversized pins may be required. The slightest play in the hinges will become a rattle while driving! Straighten the hinges and adjust to obtain an even gap at each hinge pillar measuring 1/16" to 3/32". No other course of action will resolve this problem.

Door fitting should be done without the door alignment dovetails in place. These will give a false reading.

The adjustment is achieved by shimming the body to level the doors, even the spacing at the rear of the doors, and align the body belt-line around the car.

1. bolt the body down on your (straight!) frame using all the wooden filler blocks required and rubber shims. The original starting point was two layers of rubber totaling 1/4"-5/16" uncompressed except the round shim at the front bolt. This shim was made of more (thinner) laminations since this was the primary adjustment. Since new body filler blocks are rarely quite the same don't be alarmed by some of the corrections required by shimming. The Deluxe Phaeton had wooden floor sills and therefore didn't use body filler blocks. The Deluxe Phaeton will typically allow for more even shimming.

With a straight frame and proper body filler blocks you should obtain a proper fit and have shims totaling no less than 3/16", and no more than 5/16" uncompressed, at any of the body bolts. With the body bolted tight and the rubber pads compressed the typical space betwen the body sheet metal and running board apron was just under 3/16".

2. After placing rubber shims between the frame and body at each bolt as described above, snug each body bolt beginning at the front of the body and continuing rearward until all bolts are snug.

3. Carefully attempt to close each of the doors. Be cautious as one or more doors may hit or bind somewhere and damage paint in the door openings.


This illustration shows the secondary adjustment. If the front doors are within 1/8" and the door gap is even after the cowl is shimmed, the remaining adjustments are made by either raising or lowering each rear quarter of the body. If the door gap is still slightly uneven, some tilting of the rear section will be required. See the last illustration.


1. The first or primary adjustment is done at the cowl. Using the first illustration as a guide, determine if the cowl needs to be tilted either forward or back. Tilting the cowl will affect both height and spacing at the rear of the doors as shown. Lowering the rear of the door will decrease the door gap and vice versa. If you are fortunate and obtain an even gap with the door height within 1/8", the correction should be obtained with the second stage of shimming. If not, a combination of steps 2 and 3 will be required.

Keep in mind that both sides of the body can be adjusted somewhat independently. However the cowl assembly will twist only slightly with the fuel tank bolted in firmly. Tilting one side of the cowl with the addition or reduction of shims will slightly tilt the other side as well.

2. The next stage is simply raising or lowering either the front section (cowl), or rear section behind the rear doors. This process works completely independent from one side of the body to the other.

Using the second illustration as a guide, determine whether to raise or lower either the front or rear of the body. The change in door height will be the same as the change in shims. For example, adding 5/32" (compressed) shim under the left rear section of the body will raise the belt-line to meet the door by 5/32".

Please note: The block and shim at the #4 body bolt (just behind the front floor) will have little affect when properly shimmed. It will slightly increase or decrease the arch of the body if too much upward or downward pressure is present. Likewise, no other single bolt location should have excessive upward or downward pressure relative to the surrounding bolt locations.

3. Finally, with the doors level with the rear quarters, check the door gap again at the latch pillar (rear of door). If the gap is still uneven, or the gap at the belt-line is too small or too large, the rear of the body will require tilting. Using the third illustration as a guide, increase or decrease the arch of the body working from the doors back.


The first two steps often require a compromise of the door rear spacing. This can be corrected by increasing or decreasing the overall arch of the body.


Shim as required to get the rear of the door aligned in both height and gap. Keep in mind the front body bolt and the double carriage bolts at the cowl can severely tilt the cowl altering door height at the rear as well as gap (that's why it was the primary adjustment), but will usually only get you close. With the open models the floor can be arched from front to rear also effecting door gap at the rear. The rear section can also be raised or lowered relative to the cowl and door assembly. Simply stand back and visualize which way the floor has to be moved to get the alignment desired. The gap at the belt-line should end up similar to the front gap (possibly up to 1/8").

1. For fine tuning use thick roofing felt (paper) cut slightly smaller than the rubber shim between the wood and shim. It will not be visible.

2. 1928-29 models used a continuous shim from front to rear of the cowl. This method did not provide the option of tilting the cowl. It will likely be necessary to "cheat" in this area.

3. As with most aspects of restoration, patience is the key to success. The shimming process is "trial and error" and may require several efforts over a day or two to obtain the desired results.


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©1998 Marco Tahtaras