For years, street rod builders have relied on the strength and simple security of so-called bear-claw-style door latches when replacing worn-out, antiquated, or nonexistent latches on steel or fiberglass cars. As cars from the '50s and '60s continue to age, we're seeing similar aftermarket latches employed on their doors as well (not to mention a few trunk lids too). In addition to the strong, safe design, modern bear-claw latches are relatively compact and easy to adapt to most vehicles. Many enthusiasts like them simply for their smooth operation, or because their easy-pull release mechanisms work well with electric solenoids on cars with shaved door handles.

On a recent visit to KA Custom in Huntington Beach, California, we caught up with Kevin Francis as he installed a set of bear-claw latches from Hagan Street Rod Necessities on a customer's custom '54 Chevy. While the procedure was not too different from one on a prewar rod, Kevin made a few alterations to position the latch close to the Chevy's original door latch location, and to make the finished installation as clean and unobtrusive as possible.

While you study the installation on this Chevy, keep a few things in mind before planning a bear-claw latch addition to your ride. First, your doors should be aligned and the hinges in good working order before fitting new latches. If possible, it's also smart to have weatherstripping on the doors to ensure a proper fit once the car is painted and assembled. And remember that, on some cars, it may work better to install the latch on the doorjamb and the striker on the door. Each custom or rod project is different, so it's up to you to determine what will work best on yours.

SOURCE
Hagan Street Rod Necessities
721 W. Monroe St., Dept. CRM
New Bremen
OH  45869