Was the Carson a Kit or Was the Kit a Carson?... [PIC]
This formulaic Mercury 'lead sled' has all the elements I remember as a kid seeing on all the old Hot Rod covers. Chopped, channeled, nosed and decked with 'frenched' in lamps front and rear with grill elements taken from period cars like the DeSoto with the kitschy 'fuzzy dice' around the mirror. The souped up flat head V8 exhausting through 'lake pipes'. The one thing I just noticed after all these years is that the windscreen is actually tinted. In the 50s, you couldn't drive this car in New Jersey as tinted windows were banned including the strip applique across the top ( a cheap alternative to a visor in an age where air conditioning was still unaffordable to most). People bought those as after-markets anyway. The one thing I know nothing about is the removable "Carson Top". Was it made to fit the Merc when the top was removed or did the customizer fit the top to the car?
Great shots of a fabulous model. Thanks, Rich
A Carson top is a one-piece, padded, upholstered, removable top. The design was invented by Bob Houser in 1935 when he worked for Amos Carson at Carson Top Shop in Los Angeles. The first Carson top was probably made for a Ford Model A convertible and nowadays it is mostly used on hot rods and customs.
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;
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.
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.