One of the most popular body modifications, the chop top has been around for decades, even though the true origins of the design remain a mystery. No one is certain about the design’s exact beginnings, but the earliest stories of the chop top go back to 1938, when customizer Harry Westerguard of Sacramento, CA., slammed his ‘35 Ford to the ground with a spindle kit and chopped the roof. The effect was aerodynamic, fast-looking, and Harry didn’t stop there. With the help of a young, local piano player who had taken to hanging around the garage, Harry went even further. The piano player’s name was George Barris; now a legend in automobile customization.
“He took off everything, not only the accessories, but everything―including the factory chrome,” writes Lowrider historian David Holland. “Then, to further the smooth look, they would fill in the body seams with lead, or metal from melted coat hangers. Harry also created the ‘pop’ door; and the smooth hood sides were made.” One thing that separated Harry from his Hot Rodding contemporaries is that while they tended to sacrifice interior comfort for performance, Harry instead put a premium on it. His interiors were hardly the stripped down, light and uncomfortable interior favored by the masses. He instead placed a huge emphasis on comfort, perhaps a suggestion that while functional, his cars would also be one heck of a shotgun ride.
Chop tops were prevalent in the past decades of automotive couture. In fact, it was not uncommon to see everything from Volkswagens to American classics sporting the streamlined look. While the trend faded out to a certain degree, a recent surge of popularity has hit auto builders yearning for customization points. These days, design is again at the forefront, and builders are again chopping their cars and loading them up with as many options as possible. Today, we caught up with GO-EZ of Orange County, a shop that was in the process of cutting off a little from the top of a first generation Riviera. Now follow along, as GO-EZ shows us how to shave a few inches off the top to help streamline this classic Buick.
1. This car was ready to be chopped and raked.
2. The first order of business was to reinforce the structure by welding a cross brace designed to keep the car body from flexing once the roof is cut and removed.
3. The front window frame was braced in order to keep it from losing its shape.
4. As you can see, the welds don’t need to be super clean, just strong enough to keep the window frame rigid in order to prevent it from moving or flexing.
5. Tape was used to show the area that was going to be removed and cut.
6. The edge of the roof was marked as the outer skin was going to be cut at the edge.
7. The top layer of metal was marked so that it could be cut.
8. Dave used a cut off wheel to start cutting the roof.
9. The front of the roof was cut using the cut off wheel.
10. Dave used a saws-all to cut and remove the roof.
11. Dave followed the lines that he had laid out.
12. Using a long blade on the saws-all allowed Dave the power to also cut the inner section of the roof.
13. Dave was careful while cutting, making sure to follow his stencil lines.
14. The corners of the inner structure were cut using the saws-all blade.
15. Dave proceeded with a cut off wheel to cut the roof.
16. The inner support was cut with a cut off wheel as opposed to using the plasma or saws-all
17. The last part of the support structure was cut in order to allow the roof to be removed.
18. The roof was carefully removed.
19. This car was sporting a huge Hollywood top as the roof laid in wait to be welded back on.
20. With the roof off of the car, Dave had the freedom to lean the rear glass after a small cut in the back section of the roof.
21. The back window was slanted forward, and here you can see it on the side of the roof as it was reinforced.
22. It was time to thin down the roof, as Dr. Dave cut two inches from the top.
23. The roof was reassembled and it looked like a life-size puzzle.
24. With the roof lined up, Dave prepared to weld it back together.
25. Dave started on the welding task by using his Miller gear.
26. Here’s a look at the spot welding technique necessary to put the roof back while keeping the metal from warping.
27. It is time consuming, but in the end, you can see how many beads of welds were needed.
28. Once the welding was finished, the welds were grounded down to make the roof look as if it was never cut.
29. The inner panels needed to be reinforced.
30. Dave used his Malco metal shears to cut out the panels.
31. The new brace and roof reinforcement looked really good, but unfortunately you will not be able to see it once the car has the interior added to it.
32. Once the metal was grinded and smoothed, it’s virtually impossible to determine if the roof was cut.
33. From the side of the roof, you can see the subtle change on the profile of the car.
34. All that was left to finish was to remove the window frame supports.
35. This Buick’s roof was properly streamlined after chopping and slanting the front and rear windows.