At the 51st Annual Darryl Starbird National Rod and Custom Car Show over the February 20th-22nd weekend Darryl Starbird and Star Kustom Shop chopped a 1956 Lincoln Mark II. The chop began Friday when the show gates opened and ended when the gates closed Sunday afternoon. The event was held to showcase and educate the public on how master customizers lower the lid to enhance the profile and look of automobiles.
Being the subject on hand was an ultra rare Lincoln Mark II Darryl Starbird and Star Kustom Shop wanted to be sure and nail the chop. Instead of just chopping a car to chop a car, Darryl and Star Kustom Shop’s Dakota Wentz laid out a chop that would make the Lincoln look as if that’s how it should’ve been done. They decided to go with a classy and elegant chop that took the bulk of its drop by removing 2 ½-inches from the A-pillar and 1 ½-inches from the B-pillars. To maintain a full back glass, and to keep the rear glass in its stock upright position, it was decided the best option was to slide the rear glass opening and trunk area forward to mate up with the lowered lid; as oppose to adding a filler metal across the roof or between the trunk lid and rear glass. By doing this the chop would not only lay out nicely, but give the car a tighter buttoned-up look as well. The plan was also to shave the drip rails, and since they needed to be cut free to do so it was very simple to remove the cap completely to allow everything to literally fall into place. Along with removing some meat from the pillars the crew also took out 1-inch from the cap to lower the lid just a bit more. Beyond that, by strategically planning out the chop, they were able to keep all of the glass in the car the same size, and on an even profile, which gives the look of the Mark II that extra kick. The end product is a multitude of cuts and movements that alter the profile of the car in various ways. However, through all of it the top looks like that’s the way Lincoln intended it to be. Darryl and Dakota felt that the chop was along the lines of what a factory concept car’s top may have looked!
Follow along and see just how this chop played out as Darryl Starbird and the Star Kustom Shop team of Dakota Wentz, Jerry Rehn, Gary Meyers and Jim Oldaker attack the Lincoln with an arsenal of Eastwood tools!
The man himself, Darryl Starbird, spoke throughout the chop on a mic explaining what we were doing and why we doing each cut and such.
Before any cutting was done, the car was braced up in all sorts of locations. It’s always a good idea to brace everything up that way things don’t shift. The back window opening and the trunk opening were also braced that way things didn’t twist and the counterparts would still match.
The “chicken foot” thing in the middle of the windshield opening is a center mark. It gets tacked to the bottom of the dash and just lies against the top. This way it’s easy to locate the center of the roof when you lower it down.
Before we get to cutting, here’s a look at the 1956 Lincoln Mark II in what will be its last un-altered condition!
The top is really being cut into three pieces. The first agenda is to separate the back glass and trunk area. Darryl makes the christening cut down the quarter panel.
Gary Meyers and Jerry Rehn then finish off making the cuts down the quarter panel and across the bottom of the trunk sill.
Dakota Wentz uses a cutting torch to cut the bracing between the trunk and the rear wheel wells. At that point the rear of the car is pretty much cut free.
Next, the crew concentrated on removing the cap from the roof and the rear glass. Dakota Wentz began cutting the sail panel out, and cutting the rear glass loose around the outer edge of the yellow tape.
Jim Oldaker focused on cutting the cap loose around the front of the car. To cut the cap loose, all ya gotta do is trim off the drip rail and it will pull off.
Gary Meyers and Darryl just finished making a horizontal cut between the sail panel and the quarter panel cut. That’s the final cut to pull the back half apart.
Using the Eastwood spoon Dakota went around and massaged the roof cap loose.
The crew could then remove the roof cap, and put it aside until its needed.
Here’s a look at how the cap was removed. Notice the cut around the rear glass and horizontal cut across the sail panel.
The factory roof skin bracing will prevent the team from being able to drop the cap down a bit; therefore Gary and Jim cut the bracing out.
Again though, before the bracing was cut free the area was braced up again to make sure everything remained true. Notice the yellow tape around the A-pillars. This area will be removed and that is how the front of the entire top will fall down 2 ½-inches.
Here you can see how the roof structure has been removed from the car. The area below the yellow tape on the A-pillars was left in tact. The crew are now working on removing the rear trunk and back glass section of the car.
The point of no return! There’s not much left of the car at this point with the entire roof section being cut into three separate sections. It looks like a lot of work to put it back together, but reality is it will fall in place like a paint by numbers picture!
First up the structure of the roof is placed back in position. The center of the structure is lined up with the chicken foot, and once that happens it will be apparent that the A-pillars won’t just mate up. The inside bottom corners will get cut and the pillars will pull in to mate up with the roof structure. Once they’re in place, Dakota then tacked things in position.
When it comes to chopping a top, you can plan and plan and plan, but often times until you see something with your eyeballs its the present look that is the only thing that matters! For instance, when the Star Kustom team removed the roof structure, all we did was cut the B-pillars loose. The plan was to cut the B-pillars 2 ½ inches as well, but when the roof structure slid forward and dropped down into the car it was apparent the roof was “laying back.” Using the measure twice and cut once moniker, we decided not to whack the B-pillars at 2 ½ inches right off the bat, and see how things played out. It’s a good thing too because we only ended up taking 1 ½ inches from the B-pillar. Once we were satisfied with the slope of the chop we tacked the B-pillars in place.
With the roof structure tacked in position, we placed the cap and the rear section of the roof back in position. Here you can see how much roofline has been lowered, and just how far it has slid forward from the back glass!
There are all kinds of ways to chop a top, we choose to “button up” the look of the Lincoln and slide the roof forward instead of adding metal to the top, or the area between the trunk lid and the back glass. Here you can see Jerry and Gary discussing making the cut in the quarter panel to slide the rear of the trunk area forward. Along the tape measure is where thing were cut, in order to clear some room for the trunk to slide forward. In total the area went forward five inches.
With things taking shape, Dakota welded the A-pillars solid while Darryl got the rear of the chop in alignment.
Using the Eastwood Clecos, Jerry centered the roof skin so it could be tacked back into position. The nice thing about shaving the driprails on these old cars is once you remove the drip rail the top and bottom skins mate for a simple bead of weld.
The nice thing about chopping the Lincoln the way the Star Kustom team did is no filler metal has to be added. Instead the rear skin of the roof cap will hang past the rear glass mark and the excess meat will have to be trimmed off. Here Dakota and Darryl slowly trim away the extra meat with the Eastwood Electric Metal Shears until it mates up with the top of the rear glass structure.
Before the top was removed, a centerline was marked to show where the cap and the rear roof section originally met. Here you can see things are lining up.
Once the skin was aligned Dakota and Gary began tack welding the skin to the rear section of the roof.
The pinch weld where the original cap and sail panels met was full of lead from the factory, more than a ½ inch of lead thick was present! Instead of patching things back up, the entire sail panel was cut free and a new one was fabricated. Using the Eastwood butt-weld clamps the new sail panel was tacked in position.
Here things are all tacked back together! In total the A-pillars were whacked 2 ½ inches and the B-pillars were whacked 1 ½-inches. The rear of the roof was slid forward five inches, and the back glass was able to retain its stock height! The roof cap was also lowered down an inch. As you can see, the top looks as if that how Lincoln should have made it! But compared to the stock height it’s a great deal different. Notice the gap between the trunk and quarter panels; this is due to the rear section being slid forward. It will be filled in later.
Here are some close up shots of just how everything mated back up to one another. With a little bit of planning things can really fall into place with some precise cuts and execution!
-Words and Photos courtesy of Dakota Wentz