Door Handles -
upgrading / repairing using our kit
Door handles - some history
When Lotus "updated" the Eclat to become the Excel in 1982, they decided to change the infamous Wilmot-Breeden "Marina" door handles and opted to adopt the handles from the Celica Supra Mk II instead. Of course, being Lotus they didn't just fit them to the car - they swapped sides. Mostly this is so that the levers on the handle pull in the right direction to operate the latch correctly, but it means that finding a suitable replacement is incredibly hard.
The handles themselves suffer from a fatal weakness - they're held into the doors by just two short bolts which go into metal inserts which are held in place by some plastic surrounds which go very brittle over time. If your door doesn't pop open properly, there's a natural tendency to tug harder on the handle, and that breaks the plastic. It is possible to repair the mounts once or twice, and insert some longer threaded inserts, but sooner or later it will fail again and become unrepairable.
In 2022, we resurrected a plan, that we started in 2016, to redesign and replace the handle backs. This page shows you how to transfer over the good bits of your handle to one of them, to create a new (and, we hope, stronger) handle for your car. (Please see the Shop page for information about pricing, stock levels and ordering.)
Before starting, you'll need :
This guide - please read the whole thing, including the note about mounting bolts under "Putting the new handle on the car", below, before you start.
10mm socket or spanner to remove your handle from the car, and to reattach it.
A small drill and grinder to remove a couple of rivets.
A hammer and punch/drift/nail for the pin that holds your handle flap in place.
A 6mm drill bit or hand reamer to enlarge a hole, if necessary.
Some hex keys (size 3.0 and 2.5) and a 7mm spanner for the supplied screws.
The conversion process takes no more than an hour, unless you're very unlucky.
What's in the kit?
The kit contains
a new back or back + flap
grey or black "top hat" pivot washer/insert, M5 screw and black nylon washer for the middle pivot point
M4 screw, 2 black nylon washers, white nylon insert and M4 nut for the lever to flap pivot
Remove the door card (see Window Frames ) and inner door panels to gain access to the rear of the door handle. (N.B. there's no need to remove the weather strip or disconnect the battery since the rest of the door will remain intact and can be closed as normal, then opened by using the rods that you're about to release from the handle). While you have the door card off, check the condition of the door beam and window frames.
Swivel the two plastic clips to release the latch rods from the handle. (see Door latch/lock mechanism )
Check to see if yours is one of the rare late handles which have an additional pin which goes through them, and the mounting frame, in a vain attempt to solve the stress problem - if you do, you need to push this up and remove it before the next step. (see Door latch/lock mechanism ) If you want to refit the pin you will need to drill your new handle for it.
Unbolt the two mounting bolts from the handle, if you can. Be sure not to unbolt the lock barrel by accident - it's the inner bolt. Catch the mounting brackets, if they're not stuck to the inside of the door shell. If one of the mounting bolts spins, without releasing, it's a sign that the plastic has broken around the captive nut. Don't worry - brute force will get the handle out of the car once the other one is undone - you can get some pliers or mole grips on the captive nut to unfasten it once the handle is out.
From the outside of the car, ease the handle out of the hole (or pull hard to break it completely free of a bolt that won't let go).
Now, unbolt the lock barrel and put it to one side for later.
Strip your old handle
For the conversion process, you need to swap the flap and lever mechanism from your old handle to the new. This means some careful drilling and grinding to get rid of a couple of rivets.
The pivot point
On the back of the handle, the actuating lever is held to the body by a single rivet (1)
1 - the pivot rivet (upper in this picture, with the hole through the middle). Drill this out carefully to release the lever.
Once the pivot is removed (2), you can proceed to the more difficult job of removing the rivet that holds the lever to the flap (3).
This process take some care. Rather than trying to deal with the large head, and risking damaging the plastic flap, we've found it's "easiest" to slowly grind away the smaller head which holds the metal lever to the flap (3), using something like a Dremel (other hand-held mini-grinders/multi-tools are available). Take your time doing this, checking regularly to see if the lever will come loose. As you can see, some grinding of the lever is inevitable (3), but it can be minimised if done carefully. Once you've ground the head off and released the lever, carefully prise the rivet out of the flap (4).
2. Rivet drilled out, lever freed from pivot.
3. The small head of the lever to flap rivet, just after grinding has started.
4. Lever to flap rivet prised out of flap.
The final operation is to release the flap from the handle body. Again, find the small end of the rod (5) that holds it in place - this is usually opposite to where the lever was attached.
5 - small end of the flap to handle rod.
Using a small punch and hammer, tap the rod until it's far enough through to grasp the big end with a pair of pliers and pull it completely free (6).
6 - rod released from the handle.
Now you can lift the flap and spring away from the "out" side of the handle body (7), and that's the disassembly complete.
7 - flap and spring removed. Job done!
(Note - there is a nylon insert in the flap that actually locks the rod in place when it's re-inserted. It also helps to locate the spring. Please DON'T LOSE THIS!)
7 - the parts you're going to transfer to the new handle back. (lock barrel not shown)
Finally, take the plastic gasket off your old handle back and make sure you have the following parts (7) kept safe to transfer to the new handle :
Flap, rod locking insert, and spring
along with any rod retaining clips that were, or still are, attached to the lock and lever.
Process 3 - Assembling the new handle.
This should be fairly straightforward since most of the parts in the kit will only fit in one place. There is a little fiddling required to make sure that parts pivot around bolts without the bolts turning - which is why threadlock is essential. If you don't have any to hand, PLEASE go and get some now. (NOTE - the photos used here show a test fitting using an early prototype. The handle in your kit will have a better finish and inserts).
Ready to start - components from the old handle, new handle kit and tools required.
Start by inserting the flap into the new handle and then pushing the pin through the fixing holes and the handle until it is fully seated. During this operation you will probably need one hand to move the flap in order to get everything aligned. You may also need to tap the pin into place in order to overcome friction and the locking insert.
Check that the flap moves freely and that the spring returns it to the closed position properly.
Now you can move on to the pivot point. Make sure that you removed any old washers or inserts from your lever before starting.
Put a drop of threadlock into the insert in the handle back.
Put the grey/black "top hat" insert into the lever so that the wide face is between the handle back and the lever. (you need to remove the old white insert before the new one goes in).
Place the black M5 nylon washer between the lever and screw head and tighten the screw down to create the new pivot. Be careful not to overtighten - the lever should move freely without turning the screw in the thread. (see animation).
Now you need to connect the lever to the handle flap.
Start by inserting the white nylon tube into the handle flap - you may need to enlarge the hole in the flap, slightly, by using a hand reamer or 6mm drill bit. It should be a tight fit.
Once the tube is inserted, place one black M4 washer between the screw and flap, and the other between the lever and the nut. Put a drop of threadlock on the screw thread before adding the nut.
Tighten the screw and nut so that the lever is held securely to the flap, again ensuring that the screw and nut do not rotate when the flap is operated, and that the lever moves freely, returning to the closed position when the flap is released.
Congratulations. You should now have a fully working handle.
Process 4 - Putting the new handle onto the car
WARNING - before starting, check your mounting bolts. They MUST be no longer than the depth of the mounting holes (8mm all round is plenty, but the rearmost mount might be slightly shorter due to manufacturing variations. We STRONGLY recommend you test by assembling the handle and brackets off the car, getting the bolts hand tight only. You may find that some packing washers or shorter bolts are required).
This should be really straightforward:
Take the plastic gasket off your old handle and place it onto the new.
Insert the lock barrel into the surround for it in the new handle and secure it using the mounting bolt.
Ease the new handle back into the hole in the door
Replace the mounting brackets or frame and loosely attach to the new handle using the M6 (10mm socket) bolts (see warning above about bolt lengths) so that you can move the handle to make re-attaching the rods easier.
Reconnect the latch rods by inserting them into the plastic clips and rotating the clips to lock them in place.
Tighten the mounting bolts - but DO NOT OVER-TIGHTEN - tight with a screwdriver handle and socket is plenty - there's no need to apply your biggest torque wrench and breaker bar! If you employ gorilla tactics, your new handle may break in spite of everything we've done to try to reinforce it.
Check the operation of the flap and lock using the procedure outlined in Door latch/lock mechanism If the rods need to be adjusted, rotate the plastic clips to release them and turn the rods as described in the Door latch/lock mechanism guide to get the necessary adjustment.
Once you're happy that everything is working, replace the inner door panels and door card - not forgetting to reconnect switches, speakers etc.
Post something on social media to show people your latest upgrade and let us know what you think of the new handles.