I’ve had this modification on my to-do list for quite some time. I wanted to be able to access the rear closet from the side instead of only being able to access it from the long slender door on the front. The more and more I use my Vanagon I find ways to improve upon its original design in order to make it more user friendly to me.
In order to keep the classic look I bought a grey westfalia refrigerator door, frame, hinges and catch from TheSamba.com back in October 2013. Here it is July 2014, 9 months later and I finally got to get this project scratched off my list. I’ve been on the look out for these items in grey ever since I purchased this set and I must say they are VERY hard to come by. I see plenty of tan/brown doors available but very seldomly do I see grey ones for the 87-91 models.
Having paid a little extra for the frame definitely made my job a lot easier. I just located the frame where I thought the door should be and clamped it down so I can trace the opening with a pencil. I really wanted the top of the door opening to be in line with the top of the smaller door opening but when I checked I would not have been able to get my jigsaw that close to the above A/C cabinet. So I settled for it being inline with the bottom. I could have removed the cabinet in order to get that fitment but I figured it was too much effort for the little return. hehe.
One of the key factors in locating the new door opening is to make sure your rear bench seat is up in place so that you can make sure you have adequate clearance when opening the new closet door.
I made my pencil outline of the door frame and spotted my center points for my 4″ hole saw cutouts in the corners. With everything marked off and double and triple checked for clearances I was ready to cut.
Be prepared for DUST! Lots of DUST! I had a fan handy inside the van blowing out towards the rear hatch and had my shop-vac handy for the clean up.
Next up was the jig saw work. Since I was using the jigsaw and cutting from the “finished” side of the cabinet I used a Reverse Tooth Blade which would help keep the finished side of the cabinet from chipping and getting messed up. I went to my local hardware store and asked for a reverse toothed blade and the worker gave me a weird look and said they don’t carry them. I continued to look in the blade section and found them myself. So keep that in mind if you go hunting for one at a store and they tell you they don’t carry them, look yourself.
You can see in the photo that I also removed the rear closet back panel. This is something I did because I was going to have the windows tinted the following day and wanted the installer to have better access to that back window. In fact me getting the windows tinted is the main reason I had to get this closet mod completed. lol. If I didn’t have the tint guy scheduled it might have been another 9 moths or a year before I made myself work on this modification. ha!
One thing I wanted to do a little different than the other closet door installs shown online was to reverse the opening of the door. Most people will install the fridge door as is meaning the latch to open the door is towards the rear of the van. I wanted the door to open from the other side, so I could access it while I’m sitting on the rear bench seat.
The hinges shown were extras I bought from GoWesty, since my door came complete with hinges these were not used but what I did do to the existing hinges was to pop out the pins themselves and flip them the around the other direction. The hinges on the fridge door were also tweaked as well, I popped out those pins and inserted them in from the other direction. Both of those minor things allowed me to change the opening direction of the fridge door to the way I wanted it.
The pins on the hinges that mount to the cabinet are pressure fitted. I took one of the pieces of scrap wood that was left over from the holes I cut into the cabinet and I used it to help free the pin. The piece of wood looks like a donut with a hole drilled out in the center. I placed the rounded end cap of the hinge in that hole and tapped on the flat blunt end of the hinge pin with a hammer until the pin was freed. I then placed the pin into the hinge from the other direction and pressed it into place.
The hinge on the door itself was done the same way but since there is no extruding pin in the hinge just a hollow tube I placed a drill bit into the hollow tube and tapped that with a hammer. This popped the short end cap of the door hinge out and then I simply inserted it into the opposite end of the hinge.
The hinge work was a little work but the end results are much more usable in my opinion. It’s so much nicer being able to sit on the rear bench seat and open up the closet door and get to that storage area. If the door opened to the rear of the van it would have been much harder to access the closet with that configuration.
All in all the install went really smooth and once I was done I wondered to myself why I waited a full 9 months to get this taken care of. I love it! ha!
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