Using the factory inside door handle, a cable and casing from a local bike shop and some cushion clamps, you can fashion a reliable inside door release for your racecar for next to nothing.

Engineers and designers who work for OEM automobile manufacturers spend years working on their education. When they do finally land a job with a carmaker, and finally get to work on something interesting and important, they usually end up producing systems and parts that are, at the very least, well thought out and reliable.

That’s why I keep stores of parts I’ve removed from the various cars I’ve owned, built and raced. You never know when you’re going to need the most arcane piece, and they often come in handy when you’re building a racecar, which I’m doing. Again.

Inside door handles are almost always something you have to remove to make room for the NASCAR bars that jut out into the shell of the door itself. That leaves you looking for a way to recreate a door handle so you can get out, and get out quickly. Reaching over top of the door to use the outside door handle isn’t an option. That’s dangerous under certain circumstances such as a fire.

For the construction of my first car, I figured bicycle cables would be a good substitute for the factory rods that actuate the door latch when you pull on the inside handle. I could use the factory release handle, route the cable any way I wanted around the NASCAR bars, and as long as I mounted the casing firmly, it would stay put and be as reliable as a factory setup.

The best news is this is a cheap system to fabricate. The parts from a local bike shop, cable, casing and screw-on cable stop were like $20. I used the factory inside door handle mounted on a couple of bushings that came out with the side windows, all of which were essentially free. I rigged it all up in an hour or so. I’m almost certain you could do this on any chassis popular for road racing.

The bicycle cable comes with one stop on one end. Thread the cable through the hole in the door latch where the factory rod went and feed it through the casing and toward wherever you decide to locate the handle.
The Miata has two studs on the lower rear corner of the door where the window lift track used to be mounted. I used those to locate and hold in place the casing with cushion clamps. I added a third cushion clamp on the bottom of the door using an existing hole. That keeps everything in place so that when you pull on the handle, the casing stays put and the cable inside moves.
Put the handle where you want it and mark the holes. Again, on a Miata, there’s a raised portion in the middle of the door that looked like a great place to put the handle, within easy reach of the driver.
The holes didn’t exactly align with the holes on the handle, so I had to make a new one.
I had to raise the handle a bit off the bottom of the door so the handle could pivot on its base and pull the cable. I used some spare nuts and bolts to mount it on bushings that came off the window I removed from the car.
The other cable stop holds the cable to the handle. Put the cable through the hole in the sleeve and thread in a set screw to hold the cable in place.

Here’s a quick video of the finished product. It works just like a factory setup and leaves plenty of room for the door bars of the roll cage.

Image courtesy of Brett Becker


  1. Looks good.

    We just strung up a braided wire from the rear latch to the front of the door. It just hung there. So all we had to do was push out on the wire and the door popped open. But there was enough slack that it could never be done accidentally.

  2. My last car had that same device, Rob. I just found out from the cage builder that the handle is in the way of the door bars, and I’ll have to move it to another location. Or, go with the cable again.

  3. When gutting the door, leave a tab at the top of the door. Just relocate the handle up a bit higher. It’s second nature to reach there unlike at the bottom of the door. That’s a tight space down there, lap belts, seat and cage bars. If something should happen, car filled with smoke, it should be second nature to reach for the door handle in a stockish location. Not to mention getting your hand or racing glove cut up from the steel of the inner door you cut off, even if you took the burr off, you’ll still be running your hand along the steel it to find it.

  4. What’s not shown in the photos is the Trim Lok over the cut edges. I added it after doing the handle. I don’t like rough steel edges, and I like your idea of putting it in a stock-ish location.

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