Bob Fairman 36 Ford Restoration

 

BOB FAIRMAN FORD RESTORATION

 

After sitting in a field left to the elements for year. The iconic Bob Fairman Jimmy Summers chopped 1936 Ford with fade away fenders is finally getting restored.


In the Spring of 2009 some photos of the Jimmy Summers / Bob Fairman 1936 Ford Custom sitting all rusted away in a field in Ohio, were shared on the internet. It was big news at the time that another early Jimmy Summers created Custom Car had survived. Even thought it seemed to be in a very poor state, left over to the elements for years, it was still amazing to see. And we all wondered how this once trend setting Custom could have been in such a state all the way on the other side of the US, from where it was created.

How the Jimmy Summers Ford sat in a field in Ohio in 2009.
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In the full Story on the Bob Fairman Ford on the Custom Car Chronicle we did in December of 2016, we have gathered as much information as we were able to find. And it was quite an amazing story. The best part of the story was that the car was eventually pulled from the field and that it was destined to be restored. Good New! But then years of silence about the Fairman Ford, some people said that the restoration had started, others mentioned it was just sitting, but inside, not deteriorating any further. Then in October 2016, the rusted remains of the Ford plus a few gathered parts were offered for sale here on the CCC. Due to legal issues the then owner had to stop the sale, and the car “disappeared” from the radar again. Legal issues sometimes mean, we will never see it again.

This is how the Bob Fairman ’36 Ford originally looked like back in the early 1940’s.
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On October 19th 2017 we received an email from Jim, that he had some great Custom Car News he wanted to share with us. Very excited, we had to wait another day to find out what this Great Custom Car News was. The News was that the Bob Fairman 1936 Ford restyled by Bob and Jimmy summers in the late 1930’s or very early 1940’s has a new owner, and that the restoration of this iconic Custom has started..




We let Jim tell the story.
“So after trying to buy this car for years, I was finally able to close the deal and acquire it. It is rough for sure but very much restorable. One of the coolest things about it is that the car is way more complete than anyone thought.
Included with the car were the original bumpers, front fenders, hood tops and sides, nicely preserved original chrome garnish moldings (apparently stored indoors), and the original fender skirts.

Upon finally getting it in our possession we were able to discover some of the coolness, like the fact that Jimmy removed and smoothed out the body bead that surrounds the rear bustle of the car around the trunk And the way he fabricated the original door poppers which are still amazingly intact. The amazing craftsmanship of Summers work is absolutely outstanding.”

This is how the Bob Fairman/Jimmy Summers 1936 Ford sits in October 2017. All the parts that came with the car put back together for the first time in many years. A set of new wheels and white wall tires mounted give a good feel for how it once looked.  As Jim mentioned there is a lot of rust, and a lot of metal is gone, which will take time to restore. But its not impossible, and the good thing is it is far more complete than he had thought.
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The ’41 Ford bumpers have the chrome plating completely stripped from being in the field for so long. This photo shows how the fade away panels are separate units bolted to the body panels, just like the original fenders, and not welded and molded in like most customs had.
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Close up shows the restyled work from Jimmy Summers and Bob Fairman on the character lines, and how the rear license plate was set it. The plate most likely sat in a small box mounted behind the opening.
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It feels so amazing to see the car back on its feet again, and knowing that the restoration team will do its magic to make it look just like it did when the car was freshly restyled  75+ years ago.
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Close up shows the reworked front fenders and ’37 – ’38 Ford headlights that were added. The front section of the drivers side hood has been completely rotten away, and will need to be replaced.
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This photo of the car that Jim send gave me goose bump all over… It is so good to see the car back again. Most of the lower sections of the fade away fender panels are gone as well, but it can and will all be fixed according to Jim.
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Lots of rust on the drivers side door fade away panel. The lower sections were sitting in the dirt for a number of years. The restoration team will try to keep as much from the original car as possible during the restoration.
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This is such amazing news, to see new photos of the Bob Fairman – Jimmy Summers 1936 Ford now owned by Jim who will completely restore the car to how it looked in the early 1940’s. See the car sitting of four wheels, with all of the remaining parts put back on the car again.¬† We cannot wait to see more progress on this Iconic Jimmy Summers Custom. Jim also mentioned that they found some of the original paint left on the inside of the car… So wild!

Thank you Jim for saving this historic Custom Car for future generations to enjoy, and to share it here on the Custom Car Chronicle.




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Custom Grilles Vertical

 

CUSTOM GRILLES VERTICAL

 

Since the very early beginnings of Custom Restyling the grille has played a huge part in the overall design. Pioneer Customizers designed their own grilles, later swapped or modified grilles were the rage. Lets take a look at the early, vertical Custom Car grilles.



One of the key factors of Custom Restyling was, and still is, to hide the actual origin of the car, and make a car appear to be a more exotic car. The exclusive brand cars from the 1930’s ‚Äď when custom restyling really took off ‚Äď were Cadillac, LaSalle and Packard Duesenberg and a few others. These cars all had tall, Art Deco styled grilles and hoods, visualizing Class, Elegance, and Power. These were all wonderful designed grilles and from the very early days of custom restyling these particular grilles from the Cadillac’s, La Salle’s and Packards became the number one choice of many Customizer, or at least an important inspiration source.

Our journey in this case does starts actually before these higher-end car grilles were adapted to lower-end cars. The first Custom grilles to be used on Customized, restyled cars, were mostly hand made instead of adapting grilles from the more expensive brand cars. In the early 1930’s when car Customizing started time was relatively cheap compared to more modern times. Cheap labour made it possible for the custom restylers to create completely hand crafted details like grilles to set the restyled automobiles completely apart. The price of having those hand made grilles chrome plated was also far from what we are used to today.



Early Custom grilles

People like Frank Kurtis, George Duvall and later shops like Coachcraft designed unique grilles for their restyled cars. Grilles that required heavy modified stock or swapped grille parts, but more often complete scratch built units. Created from brass, or metal, with beautiful Art Deco styling crafted by skilled craftsman, completely smoothed before send out to be perfectly chrome plated. New grilles that made any regular automobile look like and exclusive top model and changed the overall appearance. One of the better samples of this is the multiple bar grille George DuVall designed for the SoCalif Plating 1935 Ford shop delivery car.

ccc-frank-kurtis-grilles-01Frank Kurtis created several custom built cars in the early 1930’s. Here are three samples with all hand made grilles Frank did.
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ccc-atlas-grilles-1933Frank Kurtis also did a 1931 Dodge panel for Atlas Chromium Plating company. He used a 1933 Ford grille to make it looks more modern, and streamlined. The all chrome plated grille on the race car is stunning as well.
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ccc-duvall-grille-01-1933Another pioneer when it comes to Custom Grilles was George DuVall. George worked for the Leonard DeBell’s¬†So Calif. Plating Company and designed many special parts. Including some exclusive custom grilles for the So Calif. Plating Co. shop trucks. This one, created by George DuVall was on an 1932 Ford Roadster So Calif Plating Co. Pick up and was photographed in 1933.
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ccc-duvall-grille-so-cal-plating-1936Perhaps George DuVall’s most popular grille he designed was on the 1935 Ford So Calif. Plating Co shop truck. All hand made from plated brass.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-duvall-01George DuVall dod several designs for the grille on the SoCalif Plating ’35 Ford, and used similar ideas for other designs as well.¬†These designs were created around 1935.
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Custom Grilles in Early Publications


Dan Post Publications

The first and most popular publications on Custom Cars were created by Dan Post. In his Custom restyling manuals, which he started in 1944, he described how you could restyle your car by updating or changing the grille of your car. Over the years he added more and more material to the subject of grilles and added a lot of photo samples in the Master Custom-Restyling Manual (1947) and later Blue Book of Custom restyling (1949-52). These early publications must have played a big role in the style and development of Customizing in general and of course also grille restyling in particular.

ccc-dan-post-grilles-01-1944From its first publication in 1944, Dan Post has been writing about custom restyled grilles. And which factory grilles could best be used for your car.
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ccc-dan-post-grilles-02-1944Special attention was payed by Dan Post to the ’38 Ford type grilles and how they could best be restyled.
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Edgar Almquist Publications

Edgar Almquist Styling manuals from around 1946-48 are another very important source for the Custom restylers in the 1940’s. When there were no regular magazines available yet it were these manuals that could be mail ordered or bought from the local speed and custom shop that brought the very welcome inspiration.


ccc-almquist-grilles-01-1946Edgar Almquist wrote a lot about restyling grilles in his 1946 Restyling Manual. He showed several cars with custom grilles and used simple drawings to illustrate his ideas.
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ccc-almquist-grilles-03-1946

ccc-almquist-grilles-illustration-1946The Illustrations in the Almquist manual are easy to understand, and show how much impact these grille chances can have. Illustration #9 shows what happens when the grille is changed from vertical to horizontal. We will get back to that in part two on Custom Grilles, here on the CCC.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-car-adsThe most popular¬†grilles the pioneer customizers liked to use. ¬†1937-40 LaSalle’s, 1939-40 Nash, And 1942-48 Packard grilles.
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The Aftermarket

Another way to create the more appealing smaller, taller grille was to incorporate a so called “winter-grille“. Designed to keep the engine at temperature during the winter period. One of the companies that created these winter-grilles was Pines Winterfront Co. Today these are very high sought after aftermarket products.
Other aftermarket companies as Eastern and Cal Custom started to design and produce special narrow grille kits to personalize your car in a more bolt-on type of way. Especially for the backyard¬†customizers. Products like this were available from the late 1930’s.

ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-eastern-49Eastern Custom catalog from 1949 offer several components to create custom vertical grilles.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-eastern-49-02’39-41 Ford options. The aftermarket catalog show that the Fords were the most popular cars to customize. Those were the cars the aftermarket made the most custom restyling parts for.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-pines-wintergrilleThe Pines Winterfront Co. in Chicago created special winter-grilles for some¬†model cars in the 1930’s. These special¬†grille, reduced the open section of the factory stock¬†grille, and could even be close more manually to keep the engine hot in the color winter. One of their products was this winter-grille for the 1936 Ford. Early Customizers used the¬†outer part of this set up¬†to create Custom grille¬†surrounds.¬†
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Narrowed stock grilles

In the late 1930’s another trend was started. Factory stock grilles from lower-end cars were modified, restyled to make them look more attractive. Modified to make them work better with the restyled cars. When modifying these stock grilles the builder was inspired by the high-end car grilles. Grilles were narrowed by adding sheet metal to the sides, or new inserts were fabricated. creating much more streamlined grilles. These narrower grilles had of course one big disadvantage… Cooling of the engine. Often special below the bumper scoops, or side grilles needed to be created to prevent the engine from overheating.

A fantastic sample is the Santa Monica ’36 Ford 5-window coupe. The unknown customizer narrowed the top section of a stock ’36 ford grille sin such a way, that the top was now as narrow as the bottom section of the grille. The grille sides body panels were extended to match the narrowed grille. The top corners of the grille were radiuses, making the whole set up much more pleasing to the eye. The result was a completely vertical shaped grille, that still looked very much like a ’36 Ford grille, just more elegant. Two small elegantly styled “wing” grilles were created in the front fenders, to help cool the engine. The new grille set up fitted perfectly with the art deco look and feel of the rest of the custom restyling on this car. This one really is a stunning sample of early customizing.

CCC-36-ford-5-window-1941-02Santa Monica ’36 Ford 5-window coupe. Beautifully styled grille based on the stock ’36 Ford grille.¬†The main ’36 Ford grille was narrowed at the top, the top corners rounded with a larger than stock radius and new stainless trim. The side of the grille was filled in with shaped sheet metal. To make sure the engine would be cooled enough two small “wing grilles” were created in the same style as the main grille and added to the front fenders. Most likely special “tunnel’s to guide the air to the engine were added underneath the fenders. This photo was taken in Santa Monica in 1940.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-de-rosa-48Frank DeRosa with his 1936 Ford convertible with beautiful narrowed grille and sunken GM headlights in 1948. 
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-09Bill Grader from Seattle created this great looking Roadster in Cadillac Cypress Green. He filled the grille sides more than some others leaving a very small opening, thus creating an optical very tall front of the car. This color photo shows the car in the early 1950’s after the original DeSoto bumpers had been replaced by ’49 Plymouth units.¬†
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-macminn-37fordEarly 1937 Ford sedan convertible custom with a narrowed grille. The sides of the stock grille are covered and a new vertical stainless trim piece was added to give the new smaller grille a nice finished look. Interesting to see the new belt line side trim to cover the grille side panels.
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Custom Made Grilles

In the early years of Custom restyling it was perhaps a bit more common to create all custom made grilles than it was later on. A few key factors played a big role for this. First of all, the custom restyles liked to be totally unique. And creating an custom made grille allowed for complete freedom in design. The low hourly rates and low prices for chrome plating also played a huge part. In cases like the cars created by Frank Kurtis and George DuVall (which can be seen above) the creativity an showing what could be done by the companies the cars/grilles were created for played a big roll. There complete custom grilles were more like an advertisement for what they could do for their customers. The result was extremely wonderful grilles working very well with the rest of the designs of the restyled cars.

CCC-Solomon-Wong-40Ford-01-70Coachcraft created a custom grille from chrome plated round bar for the 1940 Ford based Roadster for James Wong in 1940. The stock ’40 Ford grille insert was replaced by the new unit, and the side grilles were filled in. Later the filled in sections were replaced with louvered units once again, to help cool the more powerful engine then.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-08Another early Custom with all hand made grille was this 1936 Ford 5-Window Coupe restyled by Howard Fall for Tommy Jamieson. The front end of the car was replaced with that from an 1938 Ford, and the whole grille area was redone with a hand made chrome plated insert. Most likely this set up caused some heating problems since in the late 1940’s early 1950’s¬†several holes were cut in the grille surround, allowing for some extra air to the engine.
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CCC-george-barris-36-ford-coupe-01George Barris personal 1936 Ford coupe might have used one of the Pines winter-grille surrounds to create this custom grille opening.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-011936 Ford with a new grille cover with smaller vertical with round top and bottom grille opening, nicely molded to the front fenders. A new grille was created from what appears to be flat bar surround and round bars inside the opening. The whole unit was chrome plated for a nice finished look.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-37-chevy-011937 Chevy with Custom created grille opening. Possibly the bars using in the new opening come from a 1939 Nash. The new much narrower oval shaped grille changes the look of the Chevy completely.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-jimmy-summersJimmy Summers created a custom grille for his personal channeled 1940 Mercury with sectioned hood. The grille was created from flat bar stock and has been shaped to roughly resemble a Buick grille.
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In the early 1940’s customizers started to use the more exclusive car brand grilles like the afore mentioned Cadillac, La Salle and Packard grilles. They were taken from junk yards, or perhaps sometimes straight from the car dealers and adapted to smaller, cheaper lower-end-models from Ford, Chevy, Buick, etc. The grille designs from these high end brands were often of much nicer design, added much mored style, or length and height to these lower-end-models. And of coarse the idea of up-scaling the lower class cars played a roll in all this as well. And above all these nicely designed grilles just look so awesome in these restyled cars.




Packard Grilles

The Packard Clipper was introduced in April 1941, the car came with a wonderful Art-Deco styled narrow grill devised in two halts with small horizontal grille bars. This grille was an instant hit among the early customizers. This grille ended up on many restyled cars, and in many different ways. Larger model types as the Packard Super used larger, and most of all wider grilles with a similar design, but then with vertical grille bars. It was a bit more tricky to get these larger grilles to work with the customized cars, but especially 37-38 Chevies and 39-40 Fords looked very well with these larger grilles. The samples below illustrate that there were/are many ways to install one of these Packard grilles. Some are placed as high as possible, others simply start at the bottom of the grille opening and end a few inches below the hood opening.



ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-westergard-01

Harry Westergard used a Packard grille on Gene Garrett’s¬†’36 Ford¬†convertible built in the early 1940’s (1943 photo). The rather low position might perhaps indicate this was one of the first Packard grilles he used¬†on the Customs he created.¬†
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-westergard-simonsHarry Westergard loved to use Packard Clipper grilles. This one he added to Max Ferris’s 1936 Ford Roadster. Harry created a beautiful filler panel, molded it to the front fenders and made the Packard grille fit like it came like it from the factory.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-westergard-salHarry also added a Packard Clipper grille to Sal Cacciola’s 1938 Chevy convertible. The Packard grille works extremely well on this car, where the hood starts at the flat spot of the top of the grille. As it always belonged on this car.¬†
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CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-09The Barris brothers reshaped the front of the hood, and hood sides to make the Packard Clipper grille work on Dick Fowler’s 1938 Ford Coupe around¬†1946-47. The new grille made the ’38 Ford look much taller than stock, and more exclusive.¬†
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-40-ford-01The 1940 Ford customs usually had stock grilles, or perhaps the sides filled in. The use of a Packard Clipper grille like on this chopped and padded topped convertible was rather rare, but looks surprisingly good. A lot of work was needed to the hood and side panels tao make it all work and look perfect.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-02Interesting photo from the Howard Gribble shows how a Packard Clipper grille surrounds was added to the center of a stock ’36 Ford grille, on this ’36 Ford. The center bars were removed from the stock grille so that the Packard grille could fit inside. Typical backyard restyling, to make your “average” Ford look like a more expensive car.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-37-chevy-semasHarry Westergard used a larger Packard Super grille on Leroy Semas’s 1938 Chevy Coupe. Another really great sample of how to integrate thes grilles the best way. Harry Westergard was a great craftsman, and he was exceptionally skilled in using more exclusive grilles to make lower end car look at their very best.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-bertolucci-38-chevyDick Bertolucci used a larger Packard grille on his personal 1938 Chevy Coupe in the¬†late 1940’s early 1950’s. Dick still has the car today, and has been working on it in the last couple of years to restore it back to how it looked in the early 1950’s. The Packard Super grille is wider than the more common clipper grille, but suited the wider front of the ’38 Chevy very good. Dick had to reshape the side panels and hood a lot to make it wall look like it came this way.
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La Salle Grilles

The Cadillac La Salle grilles from 1937 to 1940 are the ones that were used the most on Custom Car. The ’37 and ’38 models had a slightly more square look, while the ’39 and ’40 units were extreme round with pointy shaped ends. The older models were a little easier to adapt to other cars, and fitted perfectly to the front of a ’36 Ford. one of the more popular cars to customized in the mid 1940’s. The ’39 and ’40 models came in several divergent versions, and were pretty hard to install right. Especially since the angle of the grille on the cars they were matted to, were different than that from the stock LaSalle, resulting in misaligning grille bars. When installed the right way the ’39’40 LaSalle grilles are the top of the line in custom grilles.

ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-07Harry Westergard installed an 1937 La Salle grille on Jack Odbert’s¬†1936 Ford Convertible. Notice how the lower edge of the top portion of the grille sits level with the bottom of the hood. Details like this make a grille installment like this look like how it was always meant to look.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-caloriAnd of course we cannot forget the use of the LaSall grille on Jack Calori’s 1936 Ford. The what we know as typical Westergard look was created by Herb Renau in Long Beach in the later part of the 1940’s. Herb hand shaped the surround and fitted the¬†1939 LaSalle grille the best way possible. Stock ’39-40 LaSalles have a much more upright grille position than the 36 Ford has, so it was/is not an easy grille to adapt.¬†
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-westergard-38Harry Westergard loved to use Packard grilles, but he also used a few LaSalle grilles on the cars he restyled. For Norm Milne he reshape the hood and hood sides, and created a new grille surround to be able to use 1940 LaSalle grille on his ’38 Ford.
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Nash Grilles

Custom pioneers as¬†Harry Westergard,¬†George Barris,¬†Dick Bertolucci¬†and others started to experiment with other grilles on their customs. Grilles that usually had a more vertical feel than the stock grilles of the cars they were restyling. Grilles from a 1939¬†-’40 Nash for instance was another very popular grille. Not really a more exclusive or expensive feel, but it just looked right on many other cars. ¬†Both year grilles had similar styling, very narrow, tall with horizontal grille bars. The ’39 model was a a bit more robust, with heavier and fewer grille bars than the 1940 model. One thing that made the Nash grille a little harder to adapt in a good way to other car, was that the nose of the Nash was angled forward towards the top. If the Nash grille was adapted to other cars that had an angled backwards front of the car, the horizontal grille bars appeared to angle down in the new position. Later pioneer restyles found they could flip the grille upside down to prevent this problem.

ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-03Frank Sandaval’s 1936 Ford shows a flipped upside down 1939 Nash grille in a hand shaped none molded surround. What makes the Nash grille on this car really stand out is the¬†us of a modified ’36 Ford grille surround trim.¬†Mid 1940’s photo fro the Howard Gribble Collection.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-04Oregon base ’36 Ford Phaeton custom also uses an 1939 Nash grille, but the owner opted to use the grille in the stock position. 1942 photo.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-05Close up reveals that by using the ’39 Nash grille in the stock way, the grille bars are not flowing with the Ford lines. This is cause by the forward angle of the grille on Nash cars, while the Ford have a slight leaned back grille. The Nash grilles work better upside down.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-g-barrisGeorge Barris used a 1940 Nash grille inside a custom created grille opening on his personal 1936 Ford Convertible. George molded the new grille surround solid with the fenders for an ever smoother look.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-06Bob Gill’s 1936 Ford uses a 1940 Nash grille¬†in a custom grille opening. This grille also has slightly dropped grille bars, indicating it was¬†not flipped upside down. Interesting to see in this photo is the extra air scoop added below the bumper to make sure the grille would be cooled after the hood sides were filled, and the grille opening was drastically reduced with the new custom grille. Bob was good friend with Jack Calori.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-37-chevy-021940 Nash grille installed in a new front section on this otherwise mildly restyled 1937-38 Chevy sedan. The narrow grille makes the front of the car look very tall, and the hood a “mile” long.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-kippwinward36fordPossibly one of the best ever installed Nash grilles is done by Kipp Winward who used an upside down 1939 Nash grille in his ’36 Ford 5-window Coupe. The photo of the car was taken in 2016, when the car was mostly finished on the outside.¬†
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Modified grilles

Other methods to customize grilles was to modify their appearance. The aftermarket had produced partly cover panel that would be bolted on. And you could create panels yourself that covered up parts of the stock grille, to make them look longer, narrower, or just shorter. ’38 and 39 Fords used stamped metal grilles with only a small plated trim ring as extra decoration. These were grilles that could easily be modified without having to replete the grille. It was very popular to cover up the top portion on this type of car, which gave the car a new look. Many ’40 Fords used special cover plates to cover up the side louvres, and the ’41 Fords looked stunning when the center grille was replaced with a smooth filler piece. And it was even better if these filler panels were not just bolted on, but actually welded, and blended in with the rest of the body, for a much smoother look.¬†With the newer car models after WWII customizers started to experiment with other brand grilles as well. Grilles that tarted to make the cars look wider.


ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-38-ford-01
Very popular modification of 1938 and ’39 Ford was to fill in the top portion of the louvered grille section on the hood sides. It changed the look of the car, but unlike the earlier style of creating Tall small grille it made the front appear to be lower than stock.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-41-ford-011941 Ford with filled in center section. A very popular treatment especially after the aftermarket companies made filler panels for this available. The owner of this Custom took it a step further and molded in the panel for a ultra smooth look. The car also appears to have an sort of air-scoop below the bumper for extra cooling. The Ford side grille have been remained.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-40-ford-02A 1939 Buick grille was used in a heavily reshaped front end on¬†Jim Chapkis’ 1940 Ford Coupe. Going more towards the modern, wider and lower horizontal look.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-ed-jaquesThe Valley Custom Shop in Burbank California was known for their exquisite craftsmanship and attention to details. For Ed Jacque they created a really wonderful horizontal bar grille insert to fit a stock 1941 Ford grille opening. 
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-ferhuson-36The Montrose Body Shop created this stunning looking all custom grille for¬†Gene Ferguson’s 1936 Ford coupe. The grille design shows how the Customizing style is changing from¬†vertical grilles towards the modern look of horizontal grilles.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-collage-01A few more samples of Custom Vertical grilles.
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And even more variations of the Vertical grille.

The new cars that had low and wide new lines were introduced and became available. The tall grilled cars from before the war were still popular for some time, but for those who could get their hands on the newer model cars to restyle, low and wide was the way to go for grille designs. In part two we will take a closer look at the horizontal grilles in Custom Restyling. Stay tuned….

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History of the Chopped Top part 1

 

CHOP TOP HISTORY part 1

 

The most transforming of all custom body changes, if not the most beautiful, is lowering of the top. Better known as the Chopped Top.


One of the best known, perhaps most desirable Custom techniques of them all is chopping a top. For this CCC-Article I will concentrate on the history of chopping metal-tops from coupe¬†or¬†sedan¬†models of cars typically used for¬†customizing 1933 and up. It is generally accepted that chopping the windshields of convertibles and roadster style bodies ‚Äď with or without a matching padded top ‚Äď was done earlier than chopping¬†the metal topped coupes and sedan’s. The reason the convertible tops were done earlier¬†is obviously, the relative easy modification of removing a few inches from a ¬†straight¬†window pillar compared to removing a few inches from a cone shaped top of a coupe of sedan. But who was the first to tackle the coupe or sedan chop, when and where was it done first on a custom.¬†In this first part we will concentrate on the early beginnings of chopping tops, done mostly on cars from the 1930’s up to 1940, restyled¬†in the period till¬†around 1950.

Influences

I think it is fair to say that we most likely will never find out who actually chopped the first top on a custom. Customs as we see them are based on the 1933 and up cars. And as far as I have found out it took a few years before the first body guy started to experiment with lowering the top on one of these cars. So far the first chopped metal top custom I have been able to find was a 1937 Ford sedan that had a lowered and reshaped top to be a mix between a sedan and coupe. The top portion of the roof was covered with canvas making it looks a bit like a padded top custom, but it was in fact an all metal top. We do not have an exact date when this car was build, but from the things we have found it looks to have been done 1-2 years after it came from the factory. Sadly in those years not many photos were taken. The work done on the early customs was not considered to be very special, worth documenting, or even remembering. Still it is interesting to see how much we can find out, how far we can go back. And perhaps, or hopefully some of our readers will remember more and will fill in some gaps, and add details to the story.

CCC-early-custom-37-ford-sedan-a-drakeOne of the earliest cars with a chopped top we have been able to find was an 1937 Ford sedan with a cut down and vinyl wrapped top. We are not 100% sure when this car was chopped, but it was most likely in either 1937 or ’38. More photos of this car can be seen¬†HERE.
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Coach-building and design studies
There are several direction we can look at that inspired the early custom car builders to start chop the top on cars. One of the directions is the design sketches from designers from the 1930’s. Both¬†independent¬†as well as those working for the big car¬†companies. The design sketches made to find directions the next model was hinting to were often drawn with low stance, long wheel-base, and small size windows with low tops. This way the car looks more sinister, longer, more powerful, faster, and above all more attractive. When the designs were approved the design was mostly adapted to the real life situation and more than often the request was to create an automobile in which the owner could keep his hat on, demanding¬†a tall top. The beautiful design sketches however did have its influence, and the designs¬†on them were often combined with the real life cars¬†for the sales ads, and brochures, to make the cars look more¬†attractive.

CCC-chopped-top-history-art-ross-designsArt Ross created many design sketches for the Duesenberg and other high end automobiles in the mid 1930’s. Many of his sketches show car bodies, coupes and sedans with vary small side windows and raked back windshields giving the designs a what we now would name a chopped look. Many other designers¬†came up with similar chopped top designs in the mid to late 1930’s.
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Cars that did not have to meet public standards were Coach-build cars. These however were mostly based on high end cars, like Duesenberg, Packards and Cadillacs. When these cars were special ordered by the mostly rich clients, the finished looks were often more important that the practical effect of the cars. Designers working with the Coach builders could create new more streamlined roof tops, much lower and more atractive than the production stylist from the bigger car companies. The Coach-builders only had to please one client. In was in the early/mid 1930’s that these coach-builders started to come up with cars with smaller windows, leaned back windshields and more streamlined rear portions of the roof.

Since the car¬†bodies¬†were mostly build from scratch we cannot really call these chopped cars, but they sure had the looks of what we later would call chopped cars. These low roofed streamlined cars looks so wonderful, and must have influenced many young car enthusiast in the mid to late 1930’s. Most of this coachbuilding happened in sunny California where the people were more car loving than in other parts of the US at the time. One of the reasons was of course the great all year round weather, but also the great new roads that did not¬†suffer from strong winters causing many holes and bad surfaces.¬†However the year-round decent weather in California did not make the choice of a coupe or sedan to be your next Coach-build or Custom a logic step. Perhaps financial reason might have played a roll in choosing a sedan or coupe, which were cheaper than the more desirable convertible and roadsters.

CCC-chopped-top-history-b-s-32-duesenburgThis Duesenberg was originally built in 1932 as a short-wheelbase four-door sedan. The owner Dr. Seeley Mudd sent the car to Bohman & Schwartz for a complete new body. it was finished with the new chopped looking top inn 1937. The design of the car employed aerodynamic principles that were only experimental in the 1930s. Body panels were covered with leather-like Zapon cloth.
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CCC-chopped-top-history-LeBaron-LincolnThis is what LeBaron came up with in 1937 when they did coachwork on a Lincoln Model K chassis. It looks very much like an oversized chopped 1935 Р36 Ford 3w coupe. (thanks Per Webb)
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CCC-chopped-top-history-phantom-corsairBohman & Schwartz also created the Phantom Corsair. This very streamlined car finished in 1937 had a wonderful chopped like roof and small windows.
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Sales Illustrations
Another influence for the first chopped tops on customs most likely were¬†the sales ads and car brochures created for the mid/late 1930’s cars. In this period, up to the late 1940’s (and even later) most of the car magazine ads and sales brochures used illustration of the cars rather than actual photos. One of the reasons to do this was that it was easier to slightly alter the cars in the illustrations to make them look longer, lower, more attractive than in a photo. Today all this is done in Photoshop, but back then creating an better than real life illustration was the way to go. Many of the¬†illustrations used back then show cars with a much lower top than the actual production car. The low top gives the car a much longer, and lower appearance, which makes the car look more attractive than when the illustrator showed¬†the actual height of the top. Most likely this lower look must have influenced the young car-builders from the late 1930’s early 1940’s in experimenting with the cut down tops.

CCC-chopped-top-history-car-ads-01This sample shows an ad for the 1935 Ford coupe and the 1936 Ford sedan. Both image illustrations show the cars with a much lower top than the actual production car. The low top give the car a much longer, and lower appearance, which makes the car look more attractive in these sales ads than when the illustrator had used the actual height of the top.
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Padded topped convertibles
The Carson Top Shop created the padded Frensh top design in 1935, and around 1937 the first chopped padded top was produced by the Carson top shop. We will come back on the chopped padded top in a separate article at a later time. As mentioned before lowering a convertible top was a lot easier than to lower an all metal top. But the looks of these lowered padded toped customs might have inspired the first person to lower the top on the metal top cars.

Carson Top Shop

Dry lake racing
In the early 1930’s there were a lot of young guys who took their model A’s to the California dry lakes to go racing on the immense lake beds that turned out to be absolutely perfect to go fast, and faster. Some of the cars racing there had cut down windshields to reduce air flow and make the cars faster. Some of these cars even had their convertible tops cut accordingly creating a nice low profile. The lowered windshields gave these cars a whole different, more tougher, longer, powerful look. This looks most likely helped some of the customizers later on when they started to think about lowering the top on their metal top coupes and sedans. Perhaps at first to use them on the dry lakes to increase¬†speed, and later for the looks.

CCC-chopped-top-history-35-ford-ed-hagthropEd¬†Hagthrop’s chopped 1935 Ford Coupe at one of the mid 1940’s dry lake events.¬†
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About chopping tops in early publications

The earliest publications I have been able to find listing the lowering of the top on¬†Custom Cars technique dates back to¬†1944. Dan Post published a series of typed “Mimeographs” in the 1940’s names Remodeler’s Manual for Restyling your car¬†Informal Notes and Observations of Body Alterations to Bring Your Auto Lasting Style. The first one of these was published in 1944. The technique was however not named Chopped Top yet, at least not in the publications. It was named Lowering Hard Tops, meaning metal tops in contrast to lowering convertible tops. The first time the technique was named Chopping Tops¬†was published¬†in 1949 as far as I have been able to find it. Edgar Almquist also produced a series of Custom Styling Manuals, and the first one he did in 1946 has a nice write up on the technique as well. As far as I have been able to find out the name Chopping Tops¬†has been used since around 1946, perhaps even earlier, but the first time it can bee seen used is on the early photos of the Barris Compton Avenue shop from around 1946.

CCC-chopped-top-history-dan-post-1945-01The first time chopping the top on customs was described in a¬†publication was, as far as I have found out, the Dan Post Remodeler’s Manual for Restyling your Car first published in 1944. The above sample comes from the 1945 version of this manual which had a few minor corrections added. The technique was not yet listed as “chopping”.
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CCC-chopped-top-history-Almquist-1946-01Edgar Almquist published a series of Custom Styling Manual’s in the 1940’s. In the 1946 edition of this Manual he described the Lowering Metal Tops technique. The picture 9 mentioned in the text showed a Barris build 1941 Chevy coupe with filled in rear quarter windows. We will discuss this car in part two of this series.
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CCC-chopped-top-history-dan-post-1947-03This written description of cutting down the top comes from the 1947 Dan Post “Master Custom-Restyling Manual”. The “Photo 10 mentioned in the text is shown below.
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CCC-chopped-top-history-dan-post-1947-01Photo 10 in the¬†Dan Post “Master Custom-Restyling Manual” shows a 1934 Ford Vicky with chopped top, an unknown Mopar sedan in the back and an unknown 1939-40 Mercury coupe with chopped top very vague in the foreground. It appears that the Mercury coupe in the foreground has the windshield raked back, a different technique than listed in the text.
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CCC-chopped-top-history-dan-post-illustrationThe Dan Post “Blue book of Custom Restyling from 1949 shows this illustration guiding the reader how to cut the top on a “hard-top” coupe. This is the first time I have found that the technique was named CHOPPED in a publication.
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CCC-chopped-top-history-george-barris-1950George Barris was interviewed for the April 1950 issue of Motor Trend magazine about Custom Restyling. This is what he said about chopping tops.
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CCC-chopped-top-history-barris-40-ford-chop-01A photo of a heavy top chop in progress on a Barris created 1940 Ford coupe was used to illustrate the Chopped Top technique in the April 1950 issue of Motor Trend magazine. The car in the photo has the windshield angled back a lot and looks to be far from finished in the back.
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CCC-chopped-top-history-custom-car-an-1951In 1951 Motor Trend magazine produced the first of the Custom Cars Annuals. Trend book No. 101. To describe chopping the top technique they used the George Barris text from the Motor Trend April 1950 issue, with more explaining added to it.
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CCC-chopped-top-history-dan-post-collageThis photo collage of customs appeared for the first time in the Dan Post Blue Book of Custom Restyling published in 1949. Most of the photos had already been used in his publications from 1947. It shows how few metal topped cars were actually chopped, compared to the convertible chopped and non-chopped cars.
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One of the things I have noticed in my research on the chopped top subject is that in general the chops on the early customs is less radical than those done¬†in later years, more towards the end of the 1940’e and early-mid 1950’s. The main reason for this I believe is because of balance. From the early beginning of customizing, at least customizing with the reason to improve the looks of an automobile, there has been the realization that the customizing needs to be done in balance with the rest of the car.¬†There is a balance between the amount of chop and stance of the car. Early customs usually had a higher stance, so¬†the top was lowered proportional. Later in the 1940′ the cars were often more lowered, which could be done because the roads got better. Therefor to stay in balance with the side view of the car the top needed to be chopped a bit more than before. Of course there are always exceptions to these rules. But over all the chop amount on the early customs was a bit less than later on.

Another thing that I noticed is that in most cases the cars that have been chopped have remained the drip rails. In some cases the drip rails were shortened and ended just after the door openings. But they were rarely completely shaped as we are so familiar with from the late 1940’s early 1950s. Another thing that I have noticed is that the early chops appear to be a bit more boxy, less streamlined than how they were done in the later part of the 1940’s and early 1950’s.



The 1936 Fords

From all the photos of the early chopped custom cars I have come across it looks like the first chopped metal topped body must have been a 1936 Ford. There are early samples of the 5-window coupes as well as the two door sedan bodies as chopped customs. It looks like, and I’m not sure why this is, that the now more popular 3-window coupe was not amongst the first body styled that were cut.


Santa Monica ’36 Ford 5-window Coupe
The earliest chopped Custom Car I have been able to find that can be dated with a license plate is an beautiful restyled 1936 Ford 5-window coupe build in the late 1930. I know of two photos of this car, and both show the car with 1940 California license plates. According Dean Bachelor who took one of these photos of this car has mentioned in the past that the car had been restyled by the Santa Monica Body Works company. We have not been able to find out anything about this shop, but most likely it was a regular body shop and the owner of the Ford might have requested the shop to perform the custom body work. A common practice on early customs. The car has the top lowered a few inches, well balanced with the stance of the car, not to much, just perfect.

CCC-36-ford-5-window-1941-02Santa Monica Body works restyled this 1936 Ford 5-window coupe in late 1930’s or early 1940 with a chopped top, removed running boards, smooth hood sides, narrowed grille and separate grilles in the front fenders. One of the most beautiful ’36 ever done.
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CCC-36-ford-sedan-mark-murray-00Mark Murray shared this photo of a¬†1936 Ford Sedan from his grandfathers photo albums. Mark always heard his grandfather say that this one might have been the first 1936 Ford sedan to be chopped. This side profile shows how much the top was chopped.Sadly we cannot see a license plate or date on the photo to help us identify it. It does look to have been done in either the late 1930’s or early 1940’s.
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CCC-chopped-top-history-murray-chop-progressMark Murray also shared these two photos of an 1936 Ford coupe getting chopped. Pretty rare photos, since there are not to many early photos of these cars getting worked on. These two photos were taken around 1948.
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Tommy Jamieson ’36 Ford 5-window Coupe
Howard Fall restyled this 1936 Ford 5-window coupe (below) for Tommy Jamieson in 1939-1940. The car is much more radical than most of the custom from this period. The body has been channeled over the frame and 1937 Ford front fenders raised so that the bottom edge would be level with the lower parts of the main body. The hood was replaced with an modified 1938 Ford hood, top chopped with vertical pillars and rather upright rear of the top. Custom made grille and sollid hood sides. The rear fenders are stock and use 1938 Ford teardrop taillights, the license plate is set in in the rear valance and the bumpers are replaced by 1940 Mercury units. Howard Fall painted the car two-tone green.

CCC-chopped-top-history-tommy-jamiesson-01Tommy Jamieson heavily restyled 1936 Ford 5-window coupe with chopped top in 1941.
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CCC-chopped-top-history-tommy-jamiesson-02Tommy’s ’36 Ford is an unique custom with a lot of restyling going on, especially for the time it was created. Notice how upright the rear of the top is. This was done before the streamlined¬†style would be favored.¬†
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Bob Fairman / Jimmy Summers ’36 Ford coupe
Bob’s ’36 Ford 3-window coupes with the full fade away fenders is one of the first chopped coupes I have been able to locate. Together with George Barris his ’36 Ford 3-window they both appear to have been build in 1941. We are not sure if it was Jimmy Summers who chopped the top on Bob’s Ford, or if he perhaps did it himself¬†or together with Jimmy while he worked in his shop. The chop on Bob’s coupe was a relatively mild chop, especially if you compare it with some of the others¬†like George Barris or Bob Pierson’s coupes.

CCC-fadeaway-fenders-summers-03Bob Fairman’s 1936 Ford chopped 3-window coupe with full fade away fenders was created when Bob worked for Jimmy Summers. The earliest¬†plates we have seen on this car are from 1941.
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CCC-chopped-top-history-36-ford-filled-windowEven thought these photos were taken in 1949, the car in the photos very much appears to have been restyled in the early 1940’s. The chopped top is rather square, with is further enhanced by the filled in rear quarter windows. From what I can see no part on the car is newer than 1941.
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George Barris ’36 Ford Coupe
The first real full custom George Barris created for himself was a 1936 Ford Coupe in 1941. It shows a typical Nor Cal style we often associate with as the Harry Westergard Style. Long, sleek, high small nose and a speed boat stance. However I do not think we have ever seen a early chopped coupe of sedan done by Harry Westergard. George chopped the top on his personal ’36 Ford a few inches, nothing really radical, but from the photos we do have of the car it looks to be very well balance. with the highpoint in the center of the door.


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Jack Calori Ford
One of the most influential chopped ’36 Ford’s ever is the the chopped coupe Herb Reneau created for his friend Jack Calori. It is another car done in the typical Harry Westergard style, but on this car we are not even sure if the owner, or builder have actually ever been in contact with Harry, nor any of the customs he has created. The Calori Coupe did however have a huge impact, and one of the reasons was because it was featured on the cover of the November 1949 issue if the Hot Rod magazine. A very popular magazine at the time. Inside the car had a massive three pages including an incredible x-ray drawing by Rex Burnett. The one thing a bit odd for a custom around this time were the black wall tires, but that was how Jack liked it, he was a Hot Rodder, not so much a Custom Car guy. ¬†The car was restyled in Long Beach California in 1948 by body man and good friend of Jack Calori Herb Reneau. ¬†As far as we know this was Herb’s first chopped top on n all metal top. Most likely the picture in this issue of Hot Rod magazine has inspired many young guy to start working on a chopped 36 Ford Custom all over the US.


CCC-chopped-top-history-calori-1949-01

CCC-chopped-top-history-calori-1949-02The set free photos and the X-Ray drawing show the real beauty of the car very well and how much impact the chopped top has on the ’36 Ford coupes.¬†
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Bob Pierson ’36 Ford Coupe
Another very famous 1936 chopped Ford Coupe was the one owned by Bob Pierson. The car was originally build as a mildly restyled street custom in 1947 But in 1949 it was decided to chop the top to enter it in a different category at the dry lake races. However the car was not only build to race, everything was made to look really good as well. Bob and Dick Pierson and Harry Jones chopped the top on the car. Harry was a body man from Inglewood who also painted their 2D coupe. The chopped top coupe was well traveled in SoCal in the late 1940’s early 1950’s.

CCC-chopped-top-history-pierson-bros-36-ford-01Bob Pierson’s 1936 Ford how it was originally restyled in¬†’47.¬†DeSoto bumpers, Appleton spots, a bull-nose, ripple disc hubcaps, and solid hood sides and teardrop skirts. (This photo was given to the current, 2016, owner of the car by Dick Pierson.)
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CCC-chopped-top-history-pierson-bros-36-ford-02By 1949 Bob drove the car around with a wonderful chopped top.¬† (photo from the Bob Pierson’s personal scrapbook)
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CCC-chopped-top-history-michican-36-ford-02We do not know when this photo was taken, most likely in the early to mid 1940’s. It shows a rather badly chopped ’36 Ford 5-window coupe with the rear quarter windows and roof top filled in from Michigan. The engine was replaced by a Cadillac flathead engine1
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Other early chopped customs

The 1936 Fords might have been the first coupes and sedans from which the tops were cut and lowered. But they sure were not the only ones. In the early years the FoMoCo cars however were dominating the custom scene. But from early one all year models ended up with chopped tops. Some model years turned out to be more popular than others. The 1939 and 40 Mercury coupes have been very popular candidates for the chopped top from around them mid 1940’s. The almost hard-topped looking top was extremely high on the coupes, making it look very odd, and a prime candidate for a haircut.

We have noticed that quite a few of the early chopped cars had kept the drip-rails in place. In some cases the drip rails were shortened, especially on the cars that had the rear quarter windows closed, which was another popular custom style in the early years. Most likely the closing of the rear quarter windows was inspired by the padded tops created for the chopped convertibles.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-01Dick Fowler’s 1938 Ford Coupe was another early chop done at the Barris Shop. The shop was done most likely around 1946. The amount¬†removed from the top was more than on most in this period. The car was also lowered a little more than other. And Barris shaved the drip rails on this one for an ultimate smooth look.
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Earl Bruce 1940 Ford Coupe
Earl Bruce bought his 1940 Ford DeLuxe business coupe on September 15, 1939 at Al Stuebing Ford on Cahuenga Blvd in L.A. According the story in American Rodder magazine he drove it straight from the dealer to the northwet corner of Melrose Avenue and Fairfax where Jimmy Summers had his shop. He ordered a full chop and filled quarter windows from Jimmy. There are also stories that Roy Hagy chopped the top on Earl’s Coupe for first owner Tommy Winship, not sure which story is right. The fact is that the car was chopped in late 1939 and the first images we have found of it are from¬†October 4th 1940 when the car was¬†filmed¬†at an scta event.

CCC-chopped-top-history-earl-bruce-01Movie clips from the October 4th 1940 SCTA event show the Earl Bruce 1940 Ford with the fresh chopped top and fog lights used as taillights. Notice that Bruce used a set of 1939 Ford headlights on the car early on.
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CCC-chopped-top-history-earl-bruce-02These two photos were take a little later in the 1940’s. It shows that the car was now outfitted with rear fender mounted Buick taillights. The headlights are now replaced with 1940 Ford units. Notice how small¬†and high located¬†the rear window is.
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CCC-chopped-top-history-earl-bruce-03This side view taken a little later, gives us a good look at this early chopped coupe top. The whole top has taken on a quite different shape than the stock top, and appears to have been stretched in the center. The rear quarter windows are filled in and the door top corners have been rounded. The drip rail was shortened to a few inches behind the door.
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Another early chopped coupe styled in a similar way as the Earl Bruce coupe was the Bob Creasman 1940 Ford coupe. Bob’s coupe was chopped in 1943 by Bob¬†Creasman and¬†the Brand Brothers Body Shop in Los Angeles. Four inches were removed from the top. The top was extend four inches to make sure the A-pillars and the rear of the top would line up after the top was lowered. The rear quarter windows were filled in, just as on Earl Bruce his coupe. Later in the 1940’s the car was outfitted with a set of full fade away fenders.



John Williams ’40 Ford Coupe
The Olive Hill Garage on Sunset and Vermond in Hollywood, which was run by Art Lellis and Jerry Moffatt created some very fine restyled customs in the early years. One of those cars was¬†John Williams 1940 Ford coupe that was chopped in either late 1939, or early 1940. The car was done really beautifull with some very nice well designed restyling including peaked hood, Lincoln bumpers, smoother body and a very good looking chopped top. Two photos of the car appeared in the first Custom Car annual from 1951, and show the chopped and finished car with 1940 California license plates. One other photo was used on the February 1949 issue of Hot Rod Magazine. Unlike several others John’s coupe was chopped with the rear quarter windows still in place.

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CCC-chopped-top-history-40-ford-coupe-01Unidentified 1940 Ford chopped Coupe from the Bart Bartoni collection (Don Montgomery books) is very interesting. The car appears to be mostly stock, except for 1946-48 Ford bumpers, a bit lower suspension, and a wonderful proportioned chop. It looks like it just rolled out of an 1940’s magazine ad illustration.
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Don Lee ’40 LaSalle
Don Lee created a few restyled cars for his clients. They do not really fit the Custom theme we discuss here per-see, but I feel they need to be mentioned here anyway. These were also done very early. The 1940 LaSalle shown here was done in 1940, and shows how the windshield remained stock height, but leaned back to create a lower roof prifile. The rear quarter windows had been filled in and the whole top smoothed. Don Lee also created a similar styled Cadillac based on a 1941 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe for Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.

CCC-chopped-top-history-don-lee-40-lasalleDon Lee’s 1940 LaSalle Coupe with chopped top and leaned back windshield. Chrome rock shields and teardrop shaped skirts. Created in 1940.
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Chopped sedans

The majority of the early chopped metal top cars were based on coupes, or coupe turned cars. The coupes and convertible body style was always a more¬†preferable¬†style, if you could afford it. These styles were a bit more expensive than the family 2- and 4-door sedans.¬†Overall the coupes and convertible had better lines, longer doors and a wonderful flowing top design, making them the number one choice for customizers as well. But there were also a number of good looking¬†custom sedans. I’m not sure if these cars were based on sedans because the owner wanted it specifically to be a sedan, or if that was all the budget allowed at the time. Either way, quite a few sedans were chopped in the golden years of customizing, and with great success.

There are a great number of samples of chopped sedans that have really great improved lines and have become stunning looking customs. And the plus of course is a lot of space inside, a comfortable ride for four or more. Chopping a custom sedan was most of the time a bit harder to do that a coupe. Especially if the rear of the body was slanted forward. Then often the whole rear of the car needed to be reshaped to flow with the new roof shape. But the end result, when performed right, looked stunning.

CCC-chopped-top-history-38-ford-sedan-barrisBarris Customs restyled this 1938 Ford Standard sedan with a heavy, beautiful flowing chop, smooth hood sides and Packard Clipper grille. The rear of the body had to be reshaped, angled forward to make it flow with the new roof shape. The work was done in 1946-47. These photos appeared in a 1947 published Dan Post booklet.
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CCC-39-40-fomoco-sedan-customs-02This great photo from the Bart Bartoni Collection (courtesy of the Don Montgomery books) shows a 1939 Ford 2-door sedan in the mid 1940‚Äôs. Wonderful early style custom with a heavy chop. The chop on this one appears to be a bit more “boxy” than the 38 Ford above. Most likely indicating that the roof on this one was actually¬†lengthened¬†with an added “band”.
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Eldon Gibson 1940 Oldsmobile
Eldon Gibson 1940 Oldsmobile 4-door sedan had been damaged in a fire when it was still brand new. Modern Motors, a Glendale, Ca. a Cadillac/Oldsmobile dealer, repaired the damage and lowered the top at the same time. To make this work on the sedan body the top was dropped with the B-pillars lined up. The top was not streched, and to make it all work, the stock height windshield was leaned back, and the rear window leaned forward, and the A- and B-pillars reshaped to make it all looks like it belonged there in the first place. The photos below were taken in 1941 in Downtown Burbank and shows how radical the car was compared to the other cars in the street. It was very unusual then, and still is today to perform a chop like this on a 4-door sedan.


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CCC-chopped-top-history-eldon-gibson-olds-02The Oldsmobile was finished in medium blue with dark blue on the top. The hood and truck where shaved and a set of teardrop fender skirts, stainless rock shields, and single bar flipper hubcaps added. 
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1939-40¬†Mercury’s
The Barris shop has played a huge role in the development of the chopped top. Early attempts sometimes worked fine, but we also know about quite a few of early chopped cars that just had odd proportions and could hardly be called an improvements over the stock look. However the Barris shop managed to get the looks of their tops always on the money. Sam and George did learn a lot from the work they did, and you can see a clear learning curve if you compare the early chops with the later one.

Supposedly¬†Sam Barris¬†chopped the first one around 1946 on¬†Jim Kirstead‘s 1939 Mercury. There are several photos of this car in progress, and the work done on the top looks pretty rough in the early stage, indicating the Barris Shop was experimenting and learning how to deal with the Mercury coupe top shape. In the early days the shops did not use pre-shaped panels like they would do in the later parts of the 1940’s. We know that sometimes the body man¬†would use spare body parts and shape those to fit the new lower c-pillars.

CCC-chopped-top-history-Kirstead-39-barrisJim Kirstead’s 1939 Mercury coupe is said to be one of the first, or perhaps the first 39-40 Mercury’s ever chopped at the Barris Shop. These in progress photos show how the c-pillars received a lot of cuts to be able to form¬†the metal into the right shape. This was clearly done before the Barris shop worked with the California Metal Shaping’s preformed panels to redo theC-Pillars after the chop. Notice how small the windshield was after the roof came down.
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CCC-chopped-top-history-bill-spurgeon-barris-01In 1946 the Barris shop restyled another ’39 Mercury, this time for owner Bill Spurgeon. The top was chopped, but far less extreme as on Jim Kirstead. The windshield looks to have been chopped just mildly, or perhaps it was even raised into the top. The rear of the top shows a very much factory line, just lower, and a bit more streamlined. But not blended in as much as would be done later on.
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CCC-chopped-top-history-bill-spurgeon-barris-02The back of the photo on Bill’s ’39 Mercury gives us a bit more info on the car, build in 1946, finished in 1947.
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Comparing the ’40 Mercury chop
On the 1940 Mercury’s we can do a good comparing using the 1940 Mercury of Johnny Zaro build around 1948 and the late 1940’s, early 1950 chopped 1940 Mercury of Nick Matranga. Both cars are based on the same 1940 Mercury Coupe, but have a completely different look and feel, and have been built only two years apart from each other.

CCC-chopped-top-history-40-merc-zaroIn progress photo of the Johnny Zaro 1940 Mercury. The work has all been done and the car is in primer around 1948.
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Below is an image of two 1940 Mercury’s, the top one is the Johnny Zaro Mercury, and the bottom one the Nick Matranga 1940 Mercury. The Johnny Zaro Mercury has a much more conservative chopped top. Very much styled along the lines of the original car, but then with a lower top and sliglty more streamlined with the rear portion of the top molded to the body to make the body and top a one piece affair. The chopped top done like this gave the car a completely new more aggressive look and with a low stance the proportions looked a lot better than original. To be able to get the side windows the right proportional size, the top needs to be chopped quite a bit, leaving the windshield very small.

The Barris shop learned from this, and when they did the 1940 Mercury for Nick Matranga Sam Barris cut the windshield less than the top itself, moving the windshield up into the top a bit. This way the windshield was now in line with the side windows. When Nick’s Mercury was restyled, it was the late 1950’s and the styles had changed and the urge for more streamlining made Sam experiment with the chop.¬†Sam wanted to make the top flow much nicer on Nick’s car than what he had done on previous merc’s. He used pre-shaped metal panels from California Metal shaping to create the right curves to make the top flow much nicer into the catwalk. The new shape of the top made it look like a one piece body, while the original top was a separate component separated with a small chrome trim piece. The low top with flowing lines gave the car a very modern look.¬†The Barris Shop¬†made it look even better when they replaced the straight side window posts with elegantly curved hand made chrome plated channels. ¬†The Nick Matranga Mercury is considered the ultimate chop for the 1940 Mercury, although in more recent years some of the high end builders have even improved on the looks of this. We will get back to that in the next part on the history of the chopped top.

CCC-chopped-top-history-40-merc-coupeThe stock 1940 Mercury Coupe had a hard-top looking rather high top.
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CCC-chopped-top-history-40-merc-compared-01Johnny Zaro’a concervative chopped 1940 Mercury on top, and the Nick Matranga streamlined ultimate chopped 1940 Mercury on the bottom. Both were chopped by Sam Barris at the Barris shop.
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Here ends the first part of the History of the Chopped Top article. We are far from done, there is a lot more to tell and share. The next article will cover the cars from 1941 and up that have played an important part in the history of the Chopped Top. In the meantime, please comment with any additional information you have on the subject, and if you have any more proof of early chopped top customs pre 1940. Please let us know and email Rik at the CCC.
Stay tuned for part two…


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