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Pencil, Paper and a Plan – Laying out a chop top on a 1953 Pontiac Chieftain

Laying out a Custom or Hot Rod project before you start cutting and welding

This is the stage of the design / idea conception process where you could go one of two ways. First, you could get all carried away and have CAD designs and 3D renderings done in Solid-Works or Inventor. A process that can in it’s self be more expensive than many want to spend on a fun ride. Or you could forgo this step entirely and “wing it”. I really don’t recommend either route, you cant go spending $10k on renderings for every “idea” you have but you really need a road map to reference throughout the build.

You don’t want to be building a Shoebox Ford in your head and end up with a Pinto because there is no concise plan.

You could get pen/ink drawings done much cheaper but if the artist isn’t also the builder, connecting concept of the drawing with the reality of of the build is not always easy. After I PhotoShop some rough ideas together, I like to get out the old drafting table, a pencil and an eraser and start sketching. Its not as tough as it sounds, if you take your time. You can always add precision with some templates, straight edges and a french curve. The biggest thing to do is measure the car or measure a photo and get everything to scale.

Check out the beginnings of a plan Part 1 and Part 2 to see how I use photos to get the basic plan for the chop.

1953 Pontiac Chieftain project layout - Beck Speed & Design

1953 Pontiac Chieftain project layout – Beck Speed & Design

Just a simple sketch can tell you a lot about proportion where the domino’s fall when they start to tumble. Once I lowered the roof line, I could tell the ride height was way too high. Once ride height came down the fins looked weird. Each modification effects the rest of the car vastly so it helps to see it all in black and white. Now you can now see the real direction where this is going and use your drawing as reference to keep the project on track and accurate when you are done.

If you have questions, ideas or would like a quote for building or chopping your own car please feel free to email me any time with the contact form on the sidebar. I will gladly quote full builds or complex one-off parts to assist you in your build. I’m here to help so lets go!
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