Terms from the Hot Rod world
Top Chop or Chopped Top. What does that actually mean?
A random Chopped Top 1950 Ford 2-door sedan & My non-chopped 1949 Ford 2-door sedan at the RedNeck Rumble in Lebanon, TN
The Pierson Brothers Coupe. Photo Courtesy of: Rod Authority
In 1949 The Pierson Brothers arrived at the Dry Lakes in Bonneville, UT with a strange car. Most speed runs, at the time, were attempted in roadsters. Coupes, were for chickens! So the saying went and this odd coupe the brothers arrived in made everyone wonder what they were up to. They had cut the top down, laid the windshield back and rewelded everything. They would go onto set a 150 MPH record at Bonneville in 1950.
The So-Cal Coupe. Photo Courtesy of: canepa.com
After the dry lake performance of the Pierson brothers chopped top coupe, everyone started building them. The idea was pretty simple: By removing the height of the windshield and laying it back you would increase the aerodynamics of the car. Plus the weight loss was good, too.
The Hirohata Mercury. Photo Courtesy of: The Historic Vehicle Association.
Once customizers of the time, got wind of the process they began to do the same to cars for aesthetic reasons. This is the main reason the task is performed on cars today.
HOW IT'S DONE: BASICS
In the above pictures we see how the prep work is done for performing a top chop on a '30/'31 Model A Ford Coupe. (Picture 1) You can see that a frame of rectangular tubing has been temporarily welded to the interior of the car to support the body once the roof has been removed. (Picture 2) Next we see the car has been marked with tape to show where to cut. (Picture 3) The third picture shows that even the tops of the doors are to be cut. (Picture 4) Next we see the roof being removed after the first cuts have been made. (Picture 5) After the top is set safely aside, the excess material is cut away. (Picture 6) Once the cuts are cleaned up the top is set back into place. The seams are welded up. (Pictures 7 & 8) Two examples of finished top chopped Model A Fords. Once the roof is back in place, the tops of the doors must be finished along with all the window trim.
MORE COMPLICATED CHOPS:
Model As are pretty straightforward chops. Most of the pillars are straight and the windshield doesn't slope. Once you start trying to chop a car newer than a Model A, things get complicated! Raked windshields, curving back glasses, angled B-pillars and complex curves in the rear around back glass can add to the difficulty of a top chop.
Getting the proportions correct is the key to any custom metal work, this is even more important when chopping a top. When done correctly, chops will help with the look of any car. Due to the dangerous nature of cutting up cars, chopping is something that is starting to go away. It is understandable as the value of cars increases, but you will still see a hammered lid every now and then!
Seeing out of even slightly chopped cars can be difficult sometimes. The hardest thing is when you pull up too close to a red light. You can't see the lights! An old custom trick was to chrome the top of your dash so you could see the reflection of the lights!
Keep on Cruisin'
Art by: Chris Breeden
About the Author:
"Chris Breeden is a Social Media content creator for Custom & Hot Rod Life on DRIVETRIBE, YouTube and Facebook. After spending 5 years in Southern California, a.k.a. Hot Rod Heaven, while serving as a jet engine mechanic in the United States Marine Corps, he moved back home to Tennessee with an even greater love for Hot Rodded Vintage Tin. Since then he has worked in retail sales and the transportation and logistics industry. In 2018, seeing a gap in Hot Rod and Custom Car coverage on DRIVETRIBE, Chris began advocating for their inclusion on the platform. During the summer months, he can be found all over the Tennessee region covering car shows, meets, and cruise-ins. During the winter months, he can be found in the garage working on his custom 1949 Ford two-door sedan and 1954 F100 truck."