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MY '53 Chevy chop, circa 2001 (with mistakes!)

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by atomickustom, Sep 20, 2010.

  1. atomickustom
    Joined: Aug 30, 2005
    Posts: 3,295

    atomickustom
    Member

    Okay, so here is the scoop: before I ever heard of the HAMB, before I'd ever been to a Stray Kat show. I had never seen a chopped '49-54 Chevy in person. I had been told my several people (including one who'd chopped dozens of cars) that you can't do it because of the curved glass. But I had seen photos of a couple chopped Chevies over the years so I knew that it was possible.
    I had been doing bodywork for rust repair since I was 14 but had never customized anything in any way.
    I desperately wanted a chopped '49-54 Chevy. I found one or two for sale, but couldn't even begin to afford to buy one. So I decided to do it myself. Bought two books with "chopping tops" in the title, dragged a solid '53 210 out of a farmer's field for $750, bought a sawsall and a super-cheap MIG welder at Sears, and did it.
    I did not document every single step of the process, but hopefully these photos give you an idea of what I did and how. As you can see, I did not just cut the top and lower it. I think it looks wrong when a car's top is narrow and the pillars lean in, so I kept the pillars at the factory angle and widened the top at the same time. This also allowed me to section the roof skin. I took just under an inch out of the skin toward the front, tapering back to several inches in front of the rear window. Personally I think this is the roof profile Chevy should have had at the time.
    Why am I posting this now? Two reasons:
    1. It's a very different chop than most of the ones on the HAMB and someone might pick up some tips
    2. It just occurred to me that I could - I've had the photos all this time and I hate to sound slow in the head but I only just realized that I could scan them and post them!
     

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  2. atomickustom
    Joined: Aug 30, 2005
    Posts: 3,295

    atomickustom
    Member

    Okay, I don't know why you have to click the links to see the photos, but at least they're nice a big when they open, huh?
    I did not scan these myself (no scanner), so I apologize for the technical errors.

    I am not exaggerating when I say that this chop was the very first customizing I ever did to anything. I did the chop first because I figured if I messed it up I could just junk the car. This was mistake #1 - I had never used a MIG welder before and I should have done some of the smaller things (frenched the headlights, repaired the rust in the floor pan) first and THEN tackled the biggest and most difficult job! Live and learn.
    Here you can see some of the steps, and the thing roughed back together. There is also a photo of every single tool I used for the job, along with my high-tech work bench. (I took that photo because my Dad in Ohio was showing progress photos to my uncle and he thought I had all kinds of specialized metalworking tools!)

    Again, sorry about the links rather than thumbnails. This may be the lamest chop thread ever!
     

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  3. atomickustom
    Joined: Aug 30, 2005
    Posts: 3,295

    atomickustom
    Member

    And here is what it looked like a year or so later. By then I had been to the Paso Robles show and seen dozens of chopped Chevies in person. Until then I was so naive I honestly thought there might only be a dozen or so chopped '49-54 Chevies in the entire country! (Seriously)

    The "finished" photo isn't how it looks today, but it was the first time I had the car really together.
     

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  4. atomickustom
    Joined: Aug 30, 2005
    Posts: 3,295

    atomickustom
    Member

    So, what mistakes did I make? Tons!
    1. Should have done the chop after doing more sheetmetal welding.
    2. Should not have bought such a cheap welder. Turns out you can weld good welds with a $#!**& welder.
    3. Should have shaped the sail panels more. I made the curve by putting them in between the slats on my picnic table-style workbench but didn't do much to give them any hump. It looks okay, but I'd have liked a bit more compound curve there.
    3. Cooled the welds with a wet sponge as I went. DON'T do that! It shrinks and warps the metal way more than allowing it to air cool (I don't care who says otherwise) and basically created a ton of work for me when it came to finishing.
    4. Mounted the '48 Chevy rear window too low in the top for my taste. I think it would look better a bit higher. The related lesson here is to put things into primer so you can see how they will look. As soon as I shot my car black I knew that rear window should be a couple inches higher into the roof, but I was out of time and money and couldn't cut it out and start over. No one else might notice, but I do.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2010
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  5. billys54
    Joined: Apr 16, 2006
    Posts: 1,295

    billys54
    Member

    Hey at least you finished it. In stead of giving up
     
  6. atomickustom
    Joined: Aug 30, 2005
    Posts: 3,295

    atomickustom
    Member

    Oh, I kept plugging away at it, alright! Been driving it for several years now. Glass is all in and everything is fine.

    I did think of one more mistake I made, though: I managed to warp the top just above the center of the windshield and I spent an entire day trying to work it out instead of just cutting out that part and replacing it with new metal. It was only about the size of my hand but I ended up beating the hell out of it trying to make it work.
     
  7. atomickustom
    Joined: Aug 30, 2005
    Posts: 3,295

    atomickustom
    Member

    Yours looks sharp! You aren't giving up, are you?
     
  8. roddinron
    Joined: May 24, 2006
    Posts: 2,677

    roddinron
    Member

    That car doesn't look bad at all in the pictures. So, do you still have the car? If you do, why not fix it now if it bothers you? With what you've learned over the years, it shouldn't be that hard, and with a Chevy's wrap around beltline, even if it's painted you can do it and only have to repaint the top.
    As far as the pictures, join photobucket (http://photobucket.com/) or something similar and upload the picture to it, then copy and paste the img code in your posts. Those are annoying.
     
  9. atomickustom
    Joined: Aug 30, 2005
    Posts: 3,295

    atomickustom
    Member

    Yes, I still have the car. It's sitting in the parking lot outside my office right now.
    Why not fix it? Well, I may be the only person in the world who wants that window moved and I just don't have the time to tear it apart.
    Maybe I should clarify: the car came out great - my mistakes just cost me a lot of time and effort. The finished product is pretty swell.

    Instead of "fixing" this one I have started on a '51 coupe (which is what I really wanted but couldn't find the first time around) and I'm doing all the same modifications except this time around I'm making less mistakes AND, most importantly, when I make a mistake now I stop and redo it until it's right.
     
  10. atomickustom
    Joined: Aug 30, 2005
    Posts: 3,295

    atomickustom
    Member

    Here's the '51. Give me, oh, ten years or so and it should be ready to go. (Damn, kids and job really do suck up all spare time, don't they?)
     

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  11. budrow
    Joined: Jun 25, 2009
    Posts: 115

    budrow
    Member

    I got to go to Joplin, so where the parking lot? I,d like to look it over. I won't touch it or droll on or anything.
     
  12. budrow
    Joined: Jun 25, 2009
    Posts: 115

    budrow
    Member

    Oh, PM me if you don't want the rest of use to know. I can keep a secret, ask my wife.
     
  13. atomickustom
    Joined: Aug 30, 2005
    Posts: 3,295

    atomickustom
    Member

    It sits outside Webster Hall on MSSU campus at the corner of Newman and Duquesne Road. It's there most days of the week unless my 5-year-old daughter insists on driving the car she can actually see out of.
    You can see it from Newman Road.

    Thanks for the compliment.
    I mentioned all the mistakes because I got tired of seeing posts that acted as if everything went exactly as planned 100% of the time. That just creates the false impression that everyone is smarter than they are - NOTHING goes 100% right the first time through!
    The smart ones learn from those mistakes and don't repeat them. I learned from those mistakes and I was hoping to pass that along so that others don't have to make the same exact mistakes themselves.
    The dumb ones say things like "I meant for it to be that way" or "I like it with the hump above the window" or "the crooked posts don't bother me."
     
  14. eddie_zapien
    Joined: Apr 4, 2007
    Posts: 276

    eddie_zapien
    Member

    Looks Killer. Cant wait to get mine and tear it apart!
     
  15. Is the whole body just sittin on the the engine hoist?
     

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