Chop-A-Top, is the photo essay narrative for Ron Tesinsky’s documentation of the steps he took in chopping Gerald Brantz’s 1950 Mercury.
By Larry Pointer, 1987 photos by Ron Tesinsky
Sheridan, Wyoming Conquistador Gerald Brantz chose to take his restored 50 Mercury to Ron Tesinsky at West Side Kustoms outside Billings, Montana for further work. In taking this nicely restored coupe into that otherworldly realm of the full custom, Tesinsky first addressed Brantz’s request for a full, but well-balanced top chop. Ever a meticulous craftsman, Ron documented each and every step in photographs. Ron chopped the top on Gerald’s Mercury back in 1987.
Each pillar in support of the roof was marked in preparation for the cuts that would follow. A pair of tape lines were laid down, 3 ½ inches vertically apart. The same was done for the tops of the doors. The top then was detached along the line of the upper taped lines, lifted off and set aside. The same was done for the doors.
Next, the A-pillars were cut along the bottom tape mark, and the roof panel was lifted onto the car and aligned at the A pillars. Material was removed from the C pillars until the rear of the top dropped to the desired profile. This resulted in the top being slid forward, in compensation for the 3 ½ inch drop in elevation. Like a cone cut in the middle, the flow of taper no longer matched, top to bottom, front to back.
Another result of the forward placement of the roof panel was that the B pillars of the roof section now were too far forward to realign with the base of the B pillars on the car. Carefully measuring out a calculated distance forward and rearward from the roof’s hanging B post, Ron cut the pillar stub out of the roof panel.
At the rear of the quarter window opening, Ron re-formed a smooth, tight, curve into the attachment of car body with roof panel. The separated roof section containing the rear window now could be tacked into its new home. This, however, also required some adjustments. The sloping curve of the main roof panel, along each side down to the replaced rear window piece, now also did not align. To create a smooth transition curve in these areas, Ron made a series of slits up into the main roof panel, at each side above the rear window piece. This then allowed him to re-splice these compound curves into a pleasing flow of curvature down to the rear window.
This surgery trick, however, only goes so far in dealing with the disruption of the compound curvature of the bulbous Mercury roof, Ron pointed out. The rear sail panels presented a much more complicated problem in geometry. To solve this dilemma, Ron made a set of templates, right and left, and adjusted their shapes until he was pleased with the flow of these critical roof sections. At this point, he transferred the outline of each template onto fresh 20 gauge sheet metal.
Sliding these post pieces forward into alignment with the post stubs on the car body, Ron then reattached the two segments together, re-creating the original vertical alignment of the B pillar. Others have taken a different approach at this point, slanting the B pillar forward to compensate for the unavoidable roof offset, and slicing pie-shaped pieces out of the corners to effect a smooth forward slant. Ron, in this case, chose to keep the original vertical alignment intact. The resulting gap in the roof panel below the drip rail, forward of the realigned post, then was filled with a patch taken from material removed in the previous step.
The top pieces of the door frames were reattached in their chopped configuration, then the top rear corners of the doors were rounded. This same curve then was done in complementary fashion to the forward section of the top of the B pillar.
It was decided to completely remove the drip rails from the car. In their place, Ron later shaped a sculpted line of 3/8 inch rod. At the rear of the roof, however, instead of the abrupt stock Mercury drop of the drip rail down to the beltline, Ron carried the sculpted line rearward in a gentle bell-shaped curve taper. This is one of the most striking custom touches to this example of what otherwise might be considered a pretty standard chop to a Mercury top.
Ron is a believer in the new (1980’s) epoxy and polyurethane filler products on the market. They are much more flexible than that old hard Bondo that first came onto the market back in the day. Given that neither lead nor filler lasts forever, Ron weighs in on the side of safety and ease of application of the new fillers.
As to trimming out the top, Ron offered this bit of caution. For exterior trim around the quarter windows, he had secured some aftermarket “chrome” material, instead of trying to silver solder or reform stainless trim. That material hasn’t held up well, especially if a car is subjected to the elements over time.
At this point, work was temporarily halted, and the car returned to Gerald Brantz. Gerald epoxy primered the complete car and made it ready for some serious cruising prior to subsequent phases in the evolution of this remarkable 1962-period-perfect custom 1950 Mercury.
More progress on Gerald’s 1950 Mercury Custom will follow soon in part 2.
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