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Chopped pickups

Q. I'm looking for information about chopping the roof of a 1981 Chevy pickup.

- Aaron Jesso
via E-mail

I love those direct, to-the-point questions! Late model trucks, with their short rooflines, relatively vertical back panels, and sloped A-pillars present some unique considerations when planning a top chop; so much so that I decided to illustrate some of the possible alternatives for this issue's "Tip of the Month."

Removing the top from a model truck and shortening the pillars is easy. Putting the pieces back together in a visually appealing manner is the tricky part. Before you cut, picture what the finished chop will look like, particularly in the area of the A-pillars. First, decide what kind of slope you want at the front of the truck. That will determine how the roof will be reconstructed. Do you want to retain the stock windshield angle or would you rather have a more aggressive rake on the A-pillars? Remember your decision will also effect the front glass reconstruction.

While the windshield and side windows will obviously be narrowed, the back glass (since it's located on a relatively flat plane) can be narrowed or totally reshaped, too. Dropping the lid will also affect the alignment of the corners. Relief cuts will have to be made in the pillars so the connection points will line up, or the top itself will have to be quartered and stretched so it lines up with the original locations.

Once the top is put back together, the kit glass will have to be addressed. Flat pieces on the sides and in the back can be trimmed and sanded to the proper shape or replaced with clear styrene or thin acetate sheet. Lay a piece of card stock (or a small filing card) inside the body against the window and trace the opening onto the card from the outside. Cut out the resulting shape and use the card as a template for cutting the new glass, keeping in mind that the rear window will probably need to be slightly larger than the opening depending on how the window will be mounted. The windshield is another matter.

If you've retained the stock A-pillar angle, you may be able to remove material from the top of the windshield until it fits the new opening. You probably won't have to trim the bottom because the width of the bottom should remain the same. If the stock glass won't fit - even after trimming - you'll have to create a new piece using thin, flexible acetate and the card stock template method we mentioned.

Here's a tip for reconnecting the A-pillars in a way that will increase the strength of the glue joint: Instead of just creating a butt joint, overlap the posts as shown in the illustration.

Visual aids are useful in illustrating all of these points (which is another reason Aaron's question appears to as our Tip of the Month), so study the drawings before you get started.


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