Top Chop: Model A Ford Coupe
Adam Barton is a Santa Cruz-based tattoo artist. Extremely talented, he travels the world in pursuit of his craft. He’s also a hot rodder who has owned an impressive succession of traditionally-styled cars. His latest is this full-fendered, flathead-powered ’31 Ford coupe. Adam, screen name xadamx, is a regular contributor to the HAMB. When he first posted photos of his new coupe, he also posed the question “should I chop it?” An overwhelming majority of the respondents cried “leave it alone!” Conformity and herd mentality are obviously not part of his character, so Adam, true to his hot rod roots, launched plans for a haircut.
In our humble opinion, four inches is the ideal chop for these coupes. Any more and the car gets cartoony: the corners of the quarter windows loose their graceful flow, and the proportions begin to look squashed. Any less just isn’t worth all the work.
Adam’s car presented a unique challenge: it was fully painted and upholstered. Our plan was to strip the interior and work carefully from the belt line up, so only the top would need repainting. We pulled the garnish mouldings, felt channels, side glass, windshield, dash rail, seat, and the vertical upholstery panel liner inside the top. We left the headliner and windlace in place, and lifted (with hernia-inducing effort) the entire top off as a unit once it was cut free. We also pulled out a zillion tacks. Model A Fords had a lot of wood in them. Adam’s wood was in great shape – and remarkably unrelenting. The sheet metal attaches to this wood every few inches and it took an entire afternoon to liberate the tacks. The wood had to be carefully saved as it would get chopped along with the sheet metal.
Note here that Henry Ford attached his wood in a couple of pesky secret spots: with two large nails in the upper door post channel when the body was assembled — now both invisible and inaccessible. There were also a couple of screws buried in Bondo at the end of the drip rails. We’re not sure if the latter were OEM, but they did their best to eluded us.
Once stripped of upholstery and wood, a reinforcement structure was welded in to keep the body from collapsing once the top came off. To save the paint, we bolted tubing to the dash rail mounts and welded the support structure to it.
We ground the paint (and a substantial skim coat) from our work area, sprayed it with dye-chem, and scribed our layout. We opted to cut the windows at their most vertical and parallel points, but cut the body lower, near the belt line, for rigidity. This allowed us to eliminate the vertical relief cuts in the top’s corners that a straight, around-the-horn chop often requires.
Adam, with his artist’s eye and fine motor coordination, made the first slices. With large and small cut-off wheels and an air-driven hacksaw, the top was soon released from 80 years of bourgeois captivity.
Don’t let anyone tell you these Model A chops are simple. Every post, frame and garnish is subtly sculpted and tapered. There’s a lot more work still to come, we’ll keep you posted, but here’s a peek at the new profile.
I’m leaving the comments open – in spite of the young slutty teen porn spam we seem to be attracting. I’m doing my best to delete this crap, but you guys know who is real.