Chopping a vintage coupe body is a serious undertaking, one that takes a keen eye and skills to match. The all-important “eyeball” is why no two chops are exactly the same. The angle of the windshield, the radius of the quarter window corners, and the shape of the door glass are all judgment calls in the process we fondly refer to as chopping. Done correctly, the term “chopping” seems a bit too crude for the almost-surgical precision exercised in a fine chop. So, we have established that it takes skill, a critical eye, and pure guts to chop a top. The only thing more challenging than chopping a stock 1934 Ford five-window coupe is chopping a 1934 Ford five-window coupe that has already been chopped. It takes a real man to step up to a second “correction chop” and all the extra special challenges.
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Enter Bill Sather’s 1934 Ford five-window coupe, an old hot rod body that came to him through a bit of good ol’ Texas-style horse trading. The coupe had been chopped but it appears the process was never completed. The good news is whoever cut the car the first time had a good eye. The coupe had a wicked profile, unfortunately the skill level and panel fit left much to be desired, particularly by today’s metal master standards. So the coupe made its way from Texas to Mahomet, Illinois, where the team at BBT Fabrications took on the task of producing a killer profile with expert metalwork. To accomplish this, BBT first had to locate an entire donor roof off a second 1934 Ford five-window coupe. Basically, they cut this second roof up to repair the mismatched panels on the car. During the chop they would also be filling the roof insert, but the first order of business was to get a proper, symmetrical, mathematically correct top in place, complete with cut doors (these weren’t finished during the first attempt by an unknown hot rodder).
The first order of business was squaring up the body. The doors had been cut but the tops of the door frames had not been fitted. This permitted the doors to be fit to the openings, gaps adjusted, and body reveals aligned. The fact that the top of the doors had not been fitted was actually a good thing as it left fresh gennie Ford door tops to fit to the new opening created during the second chop. Whenever chopping a top (preferably the first chop) it is imperative the body be square on the chassis and that all panels are fit. After achieving proper panel fit, the body is crossbraced before any cutting can begin. Crossbracing must be designed to keep the body absolutely stationary after removing the roof, but you must also build in working space inside the car. Those door tops were set aside and the job of repairing top chop number one began.
It should be noted that the windshield opening had been chopped and reattached with a symmetrical windshield opening and a pleasing chop; our guess is somewhere around 3-1/2 inches. Because of the taper of the body, when you chop a 1934 Ford coupe the roof section is smaller than the body. There are two ways to remedy this: You can lean the windshield posts back for that salt flat look or you can add filler strip to effectively lengthen the roof to fit the new windshield location. It often comes down to a matter of taste. It should be noted that leaning the posts back during a chop is not that simple. The entire bottom of the windshield area of the cowl should also be leaned back to ensure a proper-fitting windshield.
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In this case the windshield posts would remain on the stock angle. The original roof had been cut just forward of the B-pillar but the roof did not appear to align with the rear portion of the chop. We’re guessing this may be why work stopped on the original chop. After some minor work on the windshield opening, it was square and the roof now extended back to the B-pillar on both sides. Troy began work on the driver-side quarter window. Both rear roof corners on the car had different cut lines (never a good sign), so both corners would require unique repairs.
The original roof attached to the windshield posts was trimmed back to the center of the door opening. This eliminated a lot of distorted metal and allowed more distance to transition from the roof. Remember, when lowering the lid, it effectively becomes longer as it comes down, which calls for completely reshaping the rear quarter window. The final shape of this window is crucial to the overall look of a chopped top. The lower front radius of the quarter window remained stock, while the lower rear radius had been reshaped with a series of cuts to tighten the radius. The metalwork left a lot to be desired, so Troy cut that lower rear radius out. He then used the lower rear radius from the donor roof. After carefully dicing and welding the radius he had a piece that fit and flowed perfectly in the lower corner. A similar treatment was completed on the upper front radius of the quarter window. With all three corners configured a filler piece from the donor roof connected the pieces, resulting in a very pleasing quarter window shape. Next, the original weld from the first chop was cut out of the rear radius of the roof and a strip of 18-gauge metal filled the void. The corners of the rear window were removed and reshaped corners from the donor roof completed the second chop on the driver side.
A similar treatment was completed on the passenger side, although the cuts were different so each piece had to be carefully formed to ensure both quarter windows would be the exact same shape. Templates made from poster board work well for checking window radius from side to side. With the roof fully connected and metalworked, the team at BBT leaded the windshield posts and metalworked all the other welds.
Next, a filler panel was formed to fill the roof and carefully welded in place. This panel is a compound curved crown and it is imperative that it flow perfectly into the top. To that end careful welding and some final planishing finished forming the roof insert.
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The final piece of the puzzle is fitting the door tops to the new shape of the roof. This involved a slight modification to the top front radius and also adding a filler strip in the center of the door top to fill the new, longer opening. Since this was all original sheetmetal the process was simplified since it was basically a first chop. A narrow strip of 18-gauge sheetmetal was fitted to the leading edge of the door tops to provide enough new material to form perfect door gaps. Filling the window opening with 1/8-inch Masonite is a good way to get a visual on the shape of the glass opening and also check to be certain glass will glide up and down in the reshaped doors. The stock interior garnish moldings were cut to fit and the newly “chopped chopped” top was complete. Next team BBT will be fabricating and fitting a three-piece hot rod hood, so stay tuned. MR