In typical hot rodder fashion, we took the only rust-free part of the 1951 Ford Street Rodder Road Tour car, and cut it all to pieces! We gladly broke out the sawzall and cut off wheels to whack a few inches out of the roof of this Shoebox Ford. It was no easy task, but we had lots of help from our trusty magazine guy and fellow hot rodder, Gerry Burger who has been a part of many chops over the years. Richard and Delton were certainly pleased to have an extra pair of eyes on this project.
Compared to our awesome Eric Black rendering, this ’51 Ford looks a bit weird with it’s original roof line. We’re about to take care of that.
The nature of chopping a top is fairly confusing because of the various cuts necessary, especially on a car with such a contoured roof. For instance, a Model A pickup or ’32-34 Ford pickup are the easiest to chop because the posts are vertical and do not require any sort of major thought when it comes to making the posts line up. You just cut, and then weld it back…such is not the case with a Shoebox Ford. The leaned posts and rounded shape make for a challenging chop, but they look oh-so good when the right look is achieved. We’re going to show you how we did it–the pictures make it look easy, but Richard and Delton spent approximately one week on this chop from start to finish. That includes the garnish moldings, stainless window trim, vent windows, etc. Check it out!
Lots of work was done to strengthen various parts of the roof. The body was already braced from some of our rust repair, so we welded in a few more braces, such as the vertical bars in the rear window opening.
Measurement after measurement, we decided where to make our cuts. The yellow tape shows the most basic cuts on the vertical door post, and the leaned windshield post. The rear section will be a bit more tricky.
These are the rear corners of the quarter windows. Richard cut these completely out of the car, because the last thing you want is to do is try to replicate this beautiful contoured curve that ol’ Henry stamped out in 1951.
Richard used a reciprocating saw for most of the straight cuts. The rear window area will be cut out of the car completely, as it will be moved forward and leaned in to match the new contour.
This is where a few buddies can help out. After the necessary cuts, the roof is placed to the side. The few inches of metal we’re trimming off is cut from the remaining stubs on the car, instead of wrestling with the roof, which is no longer attached.
After taking two inches out of the front and an estimated 3-1/2 inches out of the posts, we placed the roof back on the car. Shortening a leaned post results in misaligned posts elsewhere on the roof. Notice our marks to resolve this issue quickly and easily.
We had to move the B-piller rearward, so we used our noggin and made the cuts so we could re-use the cut-out metal as a filler panel to fill the gap left behind. Radical chops require a lot more work to align the posts, but this was an amazingly simple fix.
With the roof tacked into place, and our B-pillars aligned, we could place the rear window surround on the car, and get it where we want it. This photo provides a nice view of the new roof contour.
Butt-welding these panels is challenging, but it’s the best way to do it. We used these cool panel clamps, the gave us a perfect gap for welding. We tacked it with a Miller MIG but did our finish welding with a Miller Tig machine.
When the main portion of the roof had the right look, we chopped the door frames to match.
Even with the exterior finished, Richard had to climb through the jungle jim of bracing to weld the inner panels.
There is no technical merit to this photo, but it sure looks cool!
Hours of welding, grinding and sanding, this is our finished product! A tasteful top chop is hard to accomplish, but we’re very happy with the results.
The chop actually shortened the quarter windows, which are sort of an awkward shape on the sedans, like this car. Moving the rear window forward and leaning it also helped to lengthen the trunk area, which is another odd-looking area on these cars from the factory.
Finally, a view of our completed chop shows the side profile we wanted. A perfect silhouette for a custom and a job well done to Richard and Delton.