Chopping a VW for the SOCALOOK!


Step One - To begin, find the centerlines of the roof and the windows. Cut window opening templates that will then be used to determine the amount of chop you desire.


The size of the window openings is what determines the look of the chop- will it appear mild or radical?

Step Two - Cut new window opening templates. Besides providing a preview of the finished chop they can be used later to make plywood supports and patterns for the new side windows and windshield.

Step Three - Use layers of roll tracing paper to determine where to make the cuts and determine the "rake" from back to front. In this case we chopped 2 1/2" in the front and 1 1/2" in the back.

Step Four - We chose not to chop through the rear window which is standard practice for most chops. The surfaces of the VW are too complex in this area and we wanted to keep the oval window shape intact. From the rear window cut straight back to the rain channel and then follow the channel downward.

Step Five - Start by making the upper cuts at the posts. Use a Skilsaw with a 7"carbide blade. It is the most accurate and gives a straight flat cut. On other cuts a Sawzall with a long blade will be useful.

Step Six - Now remove the top and make the lower cuts.
There's no turning back now! Note the spare in the background. It will become the new roof. We also have another set of doors.

Step Seven - Setting the roof back on gives you an idea of the amount of chop initially planned for. You can still lower it even more at this point but I suggest caution. VW's have a sweet spot for chopping and less is generally better than more. Too much chop and the nice gentle curve of the roof is lost. (To align the posts again sheet steel is added which stretches and flattens the roof lines.) The gently curving arc is a critical feature of the Beetle.

Step Eight - This view illustrates how you cut through the firewall to drop the roof. For this car we had to add a new 1/4 panel as the old one was too damaged. All welding was done with torch and a mild steel rod. Cold dam was used to minimize warping.

Step Nine - Here's how you approach the cuts along
the rear 1/4 panel/deck lid area. Cutting below the rain channel doesn't disturb the window or the arc of the roof. The wheel well areas have been trimmed See Construction Photos.

Step Ten - With a "rake chop" less material is added at the back. It also means we didn't get into cutting the oval window which would have meant custom glass to fit the new opening-very expensive!

Step Eleven - The top was split into quarters and sheet metal added to widen and lengthen the roof. We also added a canvas sunroof structure. Doing so meant less welding and possible warping. The last step is completing the door frames.

Step Twelve - With additional doors on hand the welding is reduced to 2 cut and weld areas per door.

Step Thirteen - Almost ready for leading! We used lead for it's long term stability. The roofs of most cars are prone to vibration and plastic filler will eventually crack and lift.
Caution! lead is extremely toxic- always wear protective clothing and the proper respirator when using lead.




For reference, Tex Smith's How to Chop Tops is invaluable. Available from

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