Carson Top Shop

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Carson-top-shop.jpg
A Carson Top Shop ad from the back cover of Motor Trend December 1949.
Ray Giovannoni's 1936 Ford Roadster of Washington, D.C. Ray's roadster was restyled by Bud Unger, and the build was completed around 1947/1948. Shortly after the build was completed, Ray drove the to California to have Carson Top SHop fit it with one of their famous padded tops.
Robert Fulton's 1936 Ford sedan convertible of Hollywood, California. Robert owned the car from 1947 to around 1949. The top was supposedly made by Carson Top Shop. This is not confirmed though.
Neil Emory's 1937 Dodge Convertible of Burbank, California, was started in 1940 and completed in 1941, featuring a padded top by Carson Top Shop.
George Bistagne's 1938 Ford DeLuxe Convertible Sedan
Norm Milne's 1938 Ford convertible sedan of Sacramento, California. About 1940 Norm drove the Ford to Los Angeles to have Carson Top Shop chop the top and make a padded top. The rest of the car was restyled by Harry Westergard.
Bill Pearce's 1939 Ford Convertible of Hacienda Heights, California. Bill's Ford was restyled in the late 1940s or early 1950s. The windshield frame of the car was chopped and fit with a padded top by Carson Top Shop.
Jerry Moffatt's 1939 Ford Convertible of Los Angeles, California. Restyled by Jerry at Olive Hill Garage, the build was completed in 1946, featuring a padded top by Carson Top Shop.
Gene Garret's 1940 Ford of Sacramento, California. Gene was a member of the Thunderbolts auto club, and his custom featured a padded top by Carson Top Shop.
Link Paola's 1940 Ford Convertible was customized before the new 1940 Ford was introduced to the public in in 1939.
Jimmy Summers' 1940 Mercury convertible of Hollywood, California. The build was completed in 1946, featuring a padded top by Carson Top Shop.
Dick Owens' 1940 Mercury convertible of Redondo Beach, California. Dick's Mercury was restyled by Barris Kustoms, and the work was done sometime between 1945 and 1947. After Sam Barris had chopped the top on the car, he brought it to Glen for a padded top.
James Cambis' 1941 Ford featured a padded top by Carson Top Shop.
Sam Barris' 1950 Buick Sedanette, restyled by Sam Barris of Barris Kustoms was completed in 1953 featuring an upholstery by Carson Top Shop.
Chuck DeWitt's 1950 Ford Convertible was fit with a padded Carson Top in 1953.
Tommy Thornburgh's 1947 Studebaker of Gardena, California was restyled by Barris Kustoms. The build was completed late in 1952. The dark blue padded top was made by Carson Top Shop.
Lloyd Marshall's 1948 Oldsmobile 98 Convertible was restyled by Brownie's Body Shop in Los Angeles, California, and fit with a top from Carson Top Shop.
Mel Gerrard's 1950 Oldsmobile 88 of Whittier, California. The car was restyled by Gil's Auto Body Works in the early 1950s. The total cost of the restyling was close to $700, and the work was spread over an eight-month period. Mel's Oldsmobile was upholstered in maroon and off-white Co-Hide plastic interior by Carson Top Shop.
Fred Rowe's 1951 Mercury Convertible, of Los Angeles, California was restyled by Barris Kustoms. The build was completed in 1953 featuring a padded top and a custom upholstery by Carson Top Shop. A second version of the Merc, restyled in 1954 was featured in the movie Running Wild along with Bob Hirohata's 1951 Mercury.
Clark Gable's 1952 Jaguar XK 120 of Hollywood, California. The car was mildly restyled by Barris Kustoms in 1952 before it received a padded top by Carson Top Shop. This photo shows Gable in front of the Jaguar at Barris Kustoms. Because Gable was 6.2, the height of the top was raised 2 inches.
Ed Sloan's 1953 Plymouth Cranbrook Belvedere


Carson Top Shop was an upholstery shop opened by Amos Carson in 1927. The shop was located in front of the Vermont Auto Works on 4910 South Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles, California. After closing his pool hall in Salinas, California, Amos decided to migrate south and open an upholstery shop. The first non-folding padded, smooth lined top was built by Carson Top Shop employee Glen Houser in 1935. The top was built for a 1930 Ford Model A Convertible. The design's popularity quickly grew and the Carson Top Shop was busy making Carson Tops for countless customs and hot rods. At the peak in the 1940s the shop produced an average of 15 tops per week, for a total of more than 5000.


Sometime between 1941 and 1945 Alex Xydias brought his 1934 Ford cabriolet to Carson Top Shop. In the foreword of Ken Gross' book the Art of the Hot Rod Alex mentions that he vividly recalls the first time he took his '34 Ford to Glen Houser; "That was like going to a giant car show. The cars sitting there were all so beautifully done. The last thing guys generally did was get that Carson padded top. The cars all had sunken license plates and smoothed noses; it was a wonderful experience to go there. Their turnaround was fast. Cars came in on Monday and Tuesday, and they were finished on Thursday or Friday. It was about a week, and boy, that was like waiting forever. Once you'd saved up the money to do it, you couldn't wait for it to be done. I don't remember what it cost, but for those days it required most of us to save money for it. That was expensive by the normal standards."[1]


In 1942 Amos died, and he left the business to Glen Houser.


A Bottle of Whiskey

In the mid 1940s, circa 1944 - 1945, Glen Wall of Whittier, California bought a restyled 1939 Ford convertible from Art Ironfield. The car was beautifully chopped, it ran a padded top from Carson, and in 2016 Glen told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that it was Art's Ford that got him started customizing cars “Everyone wanted to buy it from me. It was really popular, and I didn’t have it that long before I sold it off.” After that Glen started buying mainly 1939 Ford convertibles that he customized to sell and earn a profit on. “I liked the 1939 Fords, and they were very popular cars with the young guys. I cut the posts using a saw. I always took 2 inches out of the top. My chops were all the same. I welded the posts together with welding rods, laying a small bead as I could around the posts. Then I would take it down to a guy that would lead in the posts. He would also grind it down and put primer on. I always finished it off with a Carson Top. Sometimes we would take the cars to Carson Top Shop before we painted them. Other times after they were painted. Glen Houser usually made a top for me in a day. A day and a half at the most. A lot of the guys had to wait for a week, up to 10 days. I got them real quick. Glen put other cars aside to do mine. Glen was a young guy, and I knew that he liked to take a drink once in a while, so I often brought him a bottle of Whiskey. He was a real nice guy, and him and I got along real good,” Glen remembered. He used to pay 125 dollars for a padded top back then.[2]


In 1948 Glen's son Bob Houser joined the firm. Bob began by welding top frames. In the late 40's early 50's the Carson Top market began to wane but that didn't harm the business at all, as the shop made up for the loss by doing custom interior work.


In 1954 Glen moved the business to a new location at 4717 South Crenshaw. Through the '50s fewer and fewer Carson Tops were built. The last Carson Top that left the shop was a padded top Glen and Bob made for George Barris in 1965 who used it on a Ford Galaxie show car.


In 1969 Glen passed away, and Bob inherited the shop. By then the shop specialized in vinyl tops for late model cars. Bob ran the shop until the mid 1970's when he retired.


Cars Featuring Padded Tops by Carson Top Shop

Alfred A. Berton's 1932 Ford Roadster
Alex Xydias' 1934 Ford Cabriolet
Ray Giovannoni's 1936 Ford Roadster
Robert Fulton's 1936 Ford Sedan Convertible
Neil Emory's 1937 Dodge
Bill Faris' 1938 Ford
George Bistagne's 1938 Ford DeLuxe Convertible Sedan
Norm Milne's 1938 Ford Convertible Sedan
Ellis Taylor's 1939 Mercury
Bill Pearce's 1939 Ford Convertible
Jerry Moffatt's 1939 Ford Convertible
Al Beckman's 1940 Ford Convertible
Gene Garret's 1940 Ford
John Geraghty's 1940 Ford Convertible
Link Paola's 1940 Ford Convertible
Ralph Jilek's 1940 Ford
Dick Owens' 1940 Mercury Convertible
Jimmy Summers' 1940 Mercury Convertible
Sam Barris' 1940 Mercury
George Barris' 1941 Buick Convertible
Vic Grace's 1941 Buick
James Cambis' 1941 Ford
Joe Graffio's 1941 Ford
Spencer Murray's 1941 Ford Convertible
Ronny Green's 1941 Ford Convertible
Tommy Jamieson's 1941 Lincoln Continental
Hal Peterson's 1941 Mercury Convertible
Chuck Porter's 1942 Buick
Clark Gable's 1952 Jaguar XK 120
Pete Brock's 1946 Ford Convertible
Tommy Thornburgh's 1947 Studebaker Champion Convertible
B. H. Martin's 1948 DeSoto
Al Garcia's 1948 Ford
Tom Piantkoski's 1948 Mercury Convertible
Lloyd Marshall's 1948 Oldsmobile 98 Convertible
Vern Gillingsprud's 1949 Chevrolet
Don Roach's 1949 Pontiac
Chuck DeWitt's 1950 Ford Convertible
Fred Calvin's 1950 Ford
Bob and Dick Palhamus' 1951 Mercury
Fred Rowe's 1951 Mercury Convertible
Jim Musil's 1951 Mercury Convertible
Frank Airheart's 1951 Oldsmobile 98 Convertible
Bill Uniack's 1952 Chevrolet Convertible
Dick Simoni's 1952 Chevrolet Convertible
Bill Carr's 1955 Chevrolet


Cars Upholstered by Carson Top Shop

Tom Hocker's 1940 Ford Coupe
Nick Matranga's 1940 Mercury
George Barris' 1941 Buick Convertible
Earl Wilson's 1947 Studebaker
Dan Landon's 1949 Chevrolet
Johnny Zupan's 1949 Mercury
Louie Bettancourt's 1949 Mercury
Sam Barris' 1950 Buick Sedanette
Fred Calvin's 1950 Ford
Mel Gerrard's 1950 Oldsmobile 88
John Dietrich's 1951 Chevrolet
Larry Ernst's 1951 Chevrolet - The Bel Air Royal
Bob Hirohata's 1951 Mercury
Fred Rowe's 1951 Mercury Convertible
Frank Airheart's 1951 Oldsmobile 98 Convertible
Jim Skonzakes' 1953 Lincoln - The Golden Sahara
Ed Sloan's 1953 Plymouth Cranbrook Belvedere
Liberace's 1954 Cadillac
John Benson's 1956 Chevrolet


Magazine Features

Motor Trend April 1953
Rod & Custom August 1991


Sources

The American Custom Car

Rod & Custom August 1991

  1. Art of the Hot Rod
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named gw


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