Register now to get rid of these ads!

History Where and when did the Chopped top originate??

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by T-Head, Jul 9, 2013.

  1. cleatus
    Joined: Mar 1, 2002
    Posts: 2,277

    cleatus
    Member
    from Sacramento

    I believe any talented designer would have originally drawn up their designs with lower lids. Why? because they had talent and an eye for balance - that was their job.

    For coachbuilt cars, they mostly got away with it because they were commissioned by people who wanted something fantastic looking and were willing and able to pay for something unique, and lets face it, most of those coachbuilt cars were huge, so the smaller lid (in proportion to the rest of the car) still left plenty of head room.

    However, if you were a designer working for a major mass-manufacturer, that is when the boss came in and said 'needs more head room' and made you alter your design.
    The majority of people have no clue about beauty and balance, they just want function and don't want their hat knocked off when they enter the car, so they don't care about stuff like proportions.

    I have a hard time believing that the same designer that was talented enough to lay out the wonderful lines of a 36 Ford (for instance) would have then had the lack of vision to not see that it would look much better with a little bit lower roofline.
    I believe he originally designed it the way it looked best - with a lower lid, and was then FORCED to alter it into a bulbous roofline to please the masses (and his boss).

    But neither is an example of 'chop' - that has nothing to do with designing.

    That came later as -modifying- bodies to make yourself something unique, fast, beautiful from something previously bulbous and mundane began to surface. They saw and were influenced by the best designs of the era and most of those had a proportionately lower lid.

    They said to themselves, 'damn that looks good' and broke out the hacksaw.

    Who knows when or where was the earliest guy to realize he could make something great from dad's old junk.
     
  2. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 8,994

    Rusty O'Toole
    Member

    There are a lot of factors involved in designing a mass produced car including practicality, and wanting to sell to as many people as possible.

    American cars were normally designed to fit 99% of the population. This means you would have enough room if you were up to 6'4" or so.

    Sporty cars like Camaro and Mustang were designed for up to 95% of the population. If you are 6' tall or enjoyed a double helping of waffles this morning you may have trouble squeezing in.

    Another thing was hats. Heaters did not become standard equipment until the fifties and cars were designed so the driver and passenger could wear hats and overcoats. Up to the early 50s they had a lot of headroom, from the mid 50s on the cars had heaters and the designers assumed, would take off their hats in the car.

    So you can see there was a lot of scope to lower the tops on cars built before about 1955. If the owner was of average size, and cared more about style than wearing a hat in his car.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2013
  3. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 8,994

    Rusty O'Toole
    Member

    Speaking of the 36 Ford the same designer who did the 36 Ford, and other Fords for sale to the public, also did a series of "specials" for Henry Ford junior. For these he was not constrained by practical considerations and could design a car for looks and style. One of these became the 1938 Lincoln Continental.
     
  4. 29AVEE8
    Joined: Jun 28, 2008
    Posts: 1,384

    29AVEE8
    Member

    My Dad told me he chopped 3' out of his '28 Chevy Coupe in about '36, in his Mom's driveway. It wasn't an unknown modification.
     
  5. 40fordtudor
    Joined: Jan 3, 2010
    Posts: 2,503

    40fordtudor
    Member

    So, are we to conclude "He" is responsible for sticking rigidly to "tradition."
     
  6. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 8,994

    Rusty O'Toole
    Member

    Ford was somewhat restricted by their primitive chassis design. They still had the transverse leaf, beam axle suspension, torque tube drive and straight driveshaft, bevel gear differential when other cars had parallel leaf springs or even IFS, low mounted open driveshaft and hypoid rear axle. This meant competitive cars could be 3 -4 inches lower without sacrificing head room or ground clearance.
     
  7. hugh m
    Joined: Jul 18, 2007
    Posts: 2,148

    hugh m
    Member
    from ct.

    That's certainly the earliest true chop I have ever seen....that being said, Frank Kurtis deserves as much respect for his customs as any of the other customizers on any list of them. Will be interesting to see what else comes up.
     
  8. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 8,994

    Rusty O'Toole
    Member

    I'm waiting for the oldest chopped sedan or coupe. I'm sure I have seen a pic of a coupe that was chopped in 32 or 33 but don't recall where. It was a custom not a race car.

    Earl Bruce bought a new 40 Ford coupe in late 1939 and started modifying it on the way home from the dealer. It got the top chopped in September 39. This was pretty early but I don't think it was the first one.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2013
  9. MO_JUNK
    Joined: Jan 22, 2006
    Posts: 1,016

    MO_JUNK
    Member
    from Rolla, Mo.

    No one has mentioned the mid-thirties Chevrolet pickups that were available in a tall or short cab. Good discussion.
     
  10. 39cent
    Joined: Apr 4, 2006
    Posts: 1,569

    39cent
    Member
    from socal

    My buddy in hi school had a 32 Plymouth, and when I asked who chopped the top he said , ' the factory'

     
  11. fleetside66
    Joined: Nov 20, 2006
    Posts: 2,446

    fleetside66
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Did you say chopped "car" or chopped "top?"

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Ned Ludd
    Joined: May 15, 2009
    Posts: 3,878

    Ned Ludd
    Member

    For some reason I seem to have missed this thread.

    Here is a 1932 Daimler Double Six sport saloon by Martin Walter:
    [​IMG]

    I think that the low rooflines at that time were not only about rakishness as such but also amphasizing the sheer bulk of these chassis. Compare the proportions of the Bugatti T41 Kellner saloon, also of 1932, whose interior height was probably quite conventional:

    [​IMG]

    When top chops began to happen I believe the intention was more often than not to capture the proportions of these magnificent cars at a smaller scale.

    Today the motivation for a top chop is often that that is one of the elements that positively mark a car as a hot rod or custom. We might say that the hot rod/custom phenomenon has become culturally self-referent and self-complete. The emergence of iconic traditional types - what the HAMB is all about - is quite consistent with that. But the constituent elements of all these traditional types had to predate the cultural phenomenon if it were to give rise to it, and therefore had to come out of inspirations outside the hot rod/custom phenomenon. Thus the first top chop could not have been driven by the desire to make a hot rod or custom, because the association of top chops with hot rods and customs had not yet been established. BUT the associations did get established quite soon, as people started to communicate and compare notes, through a process we might call stigmergic cross-inspiration.

    Still, it is those border regions where one thing turns into another thing which fascinate me, which is why I keep wanting to bring sports specials and coachbuilt cars and obscure classics and stuff in.
     
  13. This Nash kind of has it going on...
     

    Attached Files:

  14. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 8,994

    Rusty O'Toole
    Member

    There is an article on electric cars in the October 2013 Collectible Automobile. One of the cars pictured is a 1916 Detroit Electric Brougham (coupe style body).

    It was returned to the factory in 1928 where it was completely reconditioned. The modernization included chopping the top.

    This is the earliest chop top I know of. One could quibble that it was done by the factory that built the car, but it was done 12 years after the car was built. No doubt it was done in the body shop or repair shop not on the assembly line. To me this makes it a bona fide chop top custom.
     
  15. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 8,994

    Rusty O'Toole
    Member

    Ned you have a point. The first chop top customs seem to have originated in California. There were a lot of beautiful custom body cars in the Hollywood and Los Angeles area, owned by movie stars, executives and other show business personalities.

    It is likely that seeing these cars inspired body men and garage mechanics to modify their Fords and Studebakers along similar lines.
     

Share This Page

Register now to get rid of these ads!

Archive

Copyright © 1995-2020 The Jalopy Journal: Steal our stuff, we'll kick your teeth in. Terms of Service. Privacy Policy.

Atomic Industry
Forum software by XenForo™ ©2010-2014 XenForo Ltd.