When it comes to building hot rods and custom cars, just about anyone can stuff a bigger cam in a motor, throw a Hurst shifter on the ol' four speed, or a swap on a set of flipper caps and wide whites. What really separates the men from the proverbial boys is taking a torch to perfectly good sheetmetal and altering factory bodylines for no other reason than improving the look, attitude, or style of your ride. In the narrow little niche we call the custom universe, things like nosing, decking, and shaving are all well and good, but if you want a full-blown radical custom, you've got to chop the top.
A little over a year ago, we brought you a three-part series that centered on how to chop the top on a Shoebox ('49-51) Ford. The articles proved to be pretty popular, so we decided to do it again, but with a twist. This time around we visited a different shop with a slightly different take on the process and used a different guinea pig, as well. Since the Blue Oval was our focus last time, we thought a Bow Tie product would be appropriate for this round of panel bashing. It just so happened that our bud Troy Ladd at Hollywood Hot Rods had a customer who was looking to turn his mildly customized '51 Chevy into a radical sled, so the timing worked out perfectly.
While still relatively new on the custom car scene, Hollywood Hot Rods is rapidly developing a reputation for solid work at honest rates, and with a diverse crew capable of everything from suspension and motor swaps to advanced metalwork, they are truly a one-stop shop. With those virtues in mind, famed Los Angeles-area tattoo artist Zulu brought in his slammed Chevy for a little work, and as anyone who knows anything about custom guys can tell ya, "a little work" usually evolves into "a LOT of work." In this case, after fixing a few mechanical squawks, talk turned to adding some custom touches, as well. While Troy suggested a very mild top chop and possibly a body shave, Zulu spent some time poring over "little books" from the good 'ol days, studying every picture of a chopped Chevy he could get his hands on, until he found the look he lusted after. After finally finding some images of a radically slammed '49 with 5 inches removed in front and a whopping 7 inches taken out of the back, Zulu brought the pics to Troy for inspiration.
After hearing his customer's desire, Troy began to formulate a plan, figuring a chop that steep could provide a really cool teardrop shape to the normally boxy Chevy bodylines, if it was done correctly. Curved posts and a heavily slanted rear window would have to be worked into the equation as well. He planned out what the chop would look like in Photoshop then printed the pic for customer approval. Next, he spent several days measuring and masking, marking off each cut with tape and a felt pen. This ensured that the minimum number of cuts would be made and that all the pieces of the puzzle would fit back together at the end of the tale.
This month we'll show you how Troy began the cutting process, and we'll give you a sneak preview of what the new roofline will look like. Next month we'll examine the process of curving the posts and creating an all-new rear window and surround. Keep in mind that this process applies not just to '49-54 Chevrolets, but to all "turret roof"-type cars, including Pontiacs, Oldmobiles, Buicks, and even some Plymouths and Chryslers. Have fun, and happy chopping!