Custom History

January 22, 2016

C. A. Hall Tops

C. A. Hall Tops



When you lived in Northern California, and wanted a custom upholstery job or padded top created for your car, then you most likely ended up having the work done at C.A. Hall Auto Tops in Oakland.


When it comes to Custom upholstery and padded tops in California there are only a few shop names that pop up. The most popular shop was the Carson Top Shop on Vermont Ave. Los Angles. Shop employee Glen Houser developed a non folding padded top for an 1930 Ford in 1935. It was the birth of the Carson top, however it was named that until much later. Another big upholstery shop name was Gaylord who started a little later in the 1940’s in Lynwood, not to far from the Barris Custom Shop. In the early 1940’s the padded tops became very popular among the Hot Rod and Custom Car crowd, and not only in Southern California. In North California, the city of Oakland to be precise, there was a guy named Calvin A. Hall who had a auto top and upholstery business since 1925. When the Hot Rodders and Custom guys found out about the special tops and tuck & roll interiors done in So California they wanted to have those done more locally as well.


The Hall Top Shop came to the rescue an Calvin quickly figured out how to do the padded tops and create the interiors the guys wanted. And business was booming for the shop. The C.A. Hall Tops shop was responsible for most the the padded tops created in the Nor California era. The Nor Cal builders like Harry Westergard, Dick Bertolucci, Gene Winfield and early one also the Barris Brothers who sill lived in Sacramento in the early 1940’s all took their Customs to the Hall shop for a padded top or custom upholstery. Hall never advertised as much as the Carson Top Shop, Gaylord, Runyan and others did. We have only found a  few Hall ads in some early 1950’s Hot rod show programs, but not in any of the magazines. This most likely is one of the main reasons the Hall shop name never became as popular in the rest of the country / world as Carson or Gaylord.

This and the fact that Oakland was to far away for the So Cal based magazines to do an article on the Hall Shop is the reason that there is rather little known about the Hall Top Shop. As far as we have been able to find out, nobody has ever really interviewed Calvin A. Hall about his Top Shop, so all his information is most likely lost. Since the Hall name was not as important, it might have been left out in many magazine Hot Rod and Custom Car features as well. The shop did turn out really great work, and customers often came back for an update, or with a new car in need of a padded top or custom upholstery. For this article we have collected a number of cars with Hall Tops shop padded tops and interiors. Special thanks goes out to Ron Brooks, who owns a 1940 Chevy custom created in the late 1940’s with a real and very rare Hall top. Ron has been collecting info and material on the Hall Top Shop ever since he owns his Chevy. Ron has been so kind sharing a lot of his info and photos with the Custom Car Chronicle.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-40-chevy-brooks-03When Ron found his 1940’s restyled 1940 Chevy it still had the original Hall top on it including a very rare C.A. Hall Auto Tops interior tag.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-40-chevy-brooks-02Fred Creller created the 1940 Chevy in the late 1940’s and had the interior and padded top done by Hall. This photo is from 1950. (Ron Brooks collection)


CCC-ca-hall-tops-40-chevy-brooks-01These photos showing the top a little better were taken in 1959. (Ron Brooks Collection)


About the Hall Tops Shop.

Calvin A. Hall was born on December 11, 1901 in Mink Creek, Idaho to Andrew G. and Martha Lavine (Olsen) Hall, his father was born in Denmark, his mother in Utah, USA. In the early 1900’s the family moved from Idoha to Oakland, California. Calvin graduated from high school in 1918 and after having had a few small jobs he started to learn the trade of creating auto tops at Victory Auto Painting and Top Co., at 901 E. 14th st., Oakland, Calif.

In 1925 Calvin A. Hall started his own business C.A. Hall and was located at 72nd and E. 14th, Oakland. CA. creating car tops. The small shop moved in 1927 to 901 E. 14th St. Oakland, CA. (the same shop is currently in use by Earl Scheib Paint & Body shop).
During WWII the Hall shop relocated to 3208 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, CA. The shop would remain on this location till it closed somewhere in 1965. The building is still standing today. Calvin A. Hall was married and had three children, none of them took over the shop, so when Calvin retired for the upholstery business the shop was closed. Calvin A. Hall passed away on January 28, 1979 at the age of 77.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-38-lincoln-01This photo of this amazing 1938 Lincoln Custom with Hall padded top was found on the walls of the former Hall shop on San Pablo Ave. (Ron Brooks Collection)


CCC-ca-hall-tops-38-lincoln-02Close up on the really well shaped and proportioned Hall padded top.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-38-lincoln-03We are not sure if Hall also updated the interior in the 1938 Lincoln, but more than likely he did the cover on the rear.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-36-ford-max-ferrisThe weather in Nor Cal is not  always as sunny and warm as in So Cal, so often Hall was instructed to create the chopped padded tops for roadsters, with side separate window curtains to make sure the driver and passengers would stay as warm as possible. This top and window flaps/curtains was created for Max Ferris’s Harry Westergard restyled 1936 Ford roadster.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-g-barris-36-01George Barris created this 1936 Ford convertible as his own personal driver when he was working at the Browns Body shop and Harry Westergard in Sacramento. The padded top on the car was done by Hall in Oakland in a dark material.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-g-barris-36-02Close up of the Hall padded top which has seen better days. After the car was finished and painted George Barris took his 36 Ford to Hall’s shop who re-covered it with white material.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-38-chevy-01Harry Westergard restyled Pittsburg Ca resident Sal Cacciola’s 1938 Chevy convertible in his typical nose up narrow grille style. Sal took the car to Hall for the padded top. Inset is one of the very few ads Hall’s Top Shop ever ran.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-40-mercuryThis is another photo that was found in the old Hall shop building. It is an unidentified 1940 Mercury with unique exhaust tips true the rear fenders. Hall was responsible for the padded top.



CCC-ca-hall-tops-41-Buick-paul-01Pierre Paul was a Custom Car builder from Oakland Ca, and he had the interior and padded top of his own personal 1941 Buick created by Hall.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-al-serpa-46-ford-02Gene winfield had his shop in Modesto California, and also used the Hall Top Shop quite a bit for his customer cars. This 1946 Ford was restyled by Gene in 1949 for owner Al Serpa. The traditional styled padded top was done by Hall. This photo was taken in 1950.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-benny-furtado-48-ford-01Gene Winfield also restyled this 1948 Ford for owner Benny Furtado during the same period as he did Al Serpa’s 1946 Ford. However Hall created a different style padded top for Benny’s Ford with open rear quarter windows. Creating a much more open and light feel inside the car.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-herb-cattani-42buick-02Herb Cattani’s Custom 1942 Buick also received an Hall padded top with open rear quarter windows, creating a wonderful shape.



CCC-ca-hall-tops-herb-cattani-42buick-01A rare look at one of the Hall interiors in Herb Cattani’s 1942 Buick shows a lot of soft leather tuck and rolls creating a very luxurious feel.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-47-caddy-sestito-01Dick Bertolucci from Sacramento restyled this 1947 Cadillac convertible for Tony Sestito. When it was time for the padded top and new interior the car was driven to Oakland for the full Hall treatment in 1953-54.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-47-caddy-sestito-02The latest trend then was to add full width wrap around plexiglass rear windows to the padded top. So that is what Hall created for Tony’s 1947 Cadillac. Close up of the wrap around rear window courtesy of Rod & Custom magazine.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-35-ford-02Hall created the padded top on Sil Moyano’s 1935 Ford Phaeton. This photo comes from a feature on the car in a 1973 Street Rodder magazine, and we have no idea when the padded top was created, but more than likely this one dated back into the 1940’s.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-35-ford-01The interior was done with relatively narrow tuck & roll in black, and the white top was also upholstered in black on the inside.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-invoiceHall’s Auto Tops invoice from the 1950’s with another rare ad from an July 1951 issue of Motor sports World.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-ad-01This ad was used in one the Oakland Roadster Show programs and shows an panoramic rear window padded top Hall created for a stock bodied Buick.


Warren Gonzales 1950 Ford Convertible

Possibly the best publicity the Hall Auto Tops shop had for their interior and top work was with Warren Gonzales’s 1950 Ford Convertible. The shop worked on two versions of the car. The first time in 1953-54 they did a complete interior, and traditional styled padded top. The second time a year later they added more to the interior, to keep up with the demand for winning show points, and they redid the padded top in the latest trend with cantilever (over-hanging) rear portion. The July 1956 issue of Car Craft magazine had two color photos of the car on the cover, and four pages for the feature inside. The feature showed many photos of both the top and the wild interior.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-gonzales-ford-03Warren’s 1950 Ford convertible was first done in a more conservative way with a “regular” style padded top created by Hall Auto Tops. The photo on the left is from the 1954 Oakland Roadster Show, and the one on the right from the 1955 show. By then the car had been completely redone with a wild interior and complete new cantilever padded top.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-gonzales-interior-02The color photo of the Hall Auto Tops created interior in Warren’s Shoebox must have had a lot of impact. The interior was done in three tone leatherette, dark green, white and soft green. The same soft green was also used on the second version top.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-gonzales-interiorC.A. Hall created the interior for Warren’s Shoebox with the latest in luxury in mind. The create a custom made semi-circle rear seat, which is divided by a large Hi-Fi radio speaker. On both sides of the bench a refreshment bar has been incorporated. A console has been created on the floor to house a small upholstered TV set. The seats back are reshaped both front and rear and are upholstered in a bolt design with rolls and pleats. The dashboard has been made “crash proof’ by adding padding and upholstery on the whole unit. The center was cut out to make space for a 45 rpm record player. A radio and Hi-Fi speaker have been installed in a custom build center console underneath the dash extending the front bench. The carpets are dark blue green and outlined with white trim.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-collageA few more samples of car with C.A. Hall Auto Tops  padded tops and or interiors.


CCC-ca-hall-tops-building-2016This is how the former C.A. Hall Tops Shop building at 3208 San Pablo Avenue in Oakland, California looks today in 2016. (Google maps image)


As mentioned in this article the amount of information on the Hall Top’s is limited. We have tried to gather as much information as possible and added as many photos that would mattered the most for this article. As always we would love to hear from you if you have any additional information about the Hall Auto Tops shop, or any cars that had the interior or tops created by this shop. If you have more info, please let us know, email Rik. We would love to add more info to this article and share it with Custom Car enthusiast from all over the globe. Thank you.



  • Ron Brooks
  •, Mark Theobald
  • Barris Kustoms Technique books.


(this article is sponsored by)

CCC-Sponsor-KingKustomsTShirt-602Contact Rob Radcliffe at King Kustoms for more info on these T-Shirts Email Rob





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About the Author

Rik Hoving
Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)


  1. Thanks Rik, another outstanding article. I always felt Hall was overlooked . Because Carson became the standard name for these tops, Hall was often forgotten. Many people know my car has a Carson style top but very few know Hall. Your article brings back some lost history!

  2. Thanks for yet another fantastic article. Several top notch customs from my favorite era here, great stuff!

  3. Thanks Rik for this jaw dropping fantastic article !

  4. Thank you again Rik for another well-researched article on an area of customizing not generally covered, even back in the day. The differences in customizing from region to region are distinctive. Yes, trend-setters did lead to copied ideas all across the land, but those being created simultaneously in different locations can show us just how huge was the creativity out of that golden era of customizing. Cars out of the Bay area, and Northern California, did differ from those being built in the early days in Southern California. And those out of Portland, Oregon were distinctive in their own right. Cars of the East played their own unique tune. Fun!!

  5. rik, another great story so neat to read an other one of what was going on back then ,hall sure did some nice upholstery an tops like manny others ,

  6. Ron what a wonderful kustom you have……… With so much history, I love your car with the cal custom style trims on your fenders of the car…. To own a real Hall Top car is also just way kool…….

    Rik the article is top notch trying set things straight and give credit were it due..
    well done

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