When I was a youngster, my dad, Robert Strongman, was a commercial photographer who drove a 1946 Ford woody station wagon as a work car. I remember being captivated by the beautiful wood and dark green paint, and that is probably why I have such a soft spot in my heart for woodies today.
By TOM STRONGMAN
Woodies have an interesting history. Oldwoodies.com reports that woodies date back to the earliest of vehicles, including a sailing chariot that carried 28 people over 42 miles in two hours nearly 400 years ago.
Early in this century, the first woodies were basically a combination of a railway station hack and a light-duty truck. In Britain, they were called shooting brakes. Brake was another term for a wooden horse-drawn wagon meant for off-road use, and wealthy aristocrats used shooting brakes for hunting.
It wasn’t long before custom body makers were creating wood station wagon bodies for passenger car chassis. Woodies, as we call them today, never were built in large numbers.
As crude wagons evolved into fully closed vehicles whose main bodies were made from wooden planks, they became popular with lodges, inns and country clubs because they were practical for hauling guests, luggage and supplies from the railway station to the resort. The concept was a precursor to today’s sport utility vehicle.
American Woodie station wagons generally date back to the 1930s, although there were a few built in the 1920s.
Wooden bodies required maintenance, and many deteriorated badly over time. By the 1950s, manufacturers were using mostly steel bodies with wood appliques.
Marshall Miller of Kansas City has a rather unusual 1948 Oldsmobile Woodie Series 66 Deluxe Wagon. It sold for $2,297 new. Only 553 Deluxe woodies were built in 1948. His car was built in Lansing, Mich.
“I always loved woodies. Their unique look that reminds me of the 1920s and 1930s,” he said. “When I was a kid growing up in Prairie Village, I never saw a real one. The only woodies I knew were the later model Fords with wood decals.”
The 238-cubic-inch, six-cylinder engine produces 100 horsepower and drives through a four-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission. Miller says the car has a top speed of 85 miles per hour, gets 16 to 18 miles per gallon and accelerates to 60 miles per hour in about 30 seconds.
“I found this car sitting in a dark corner of Mark Hyman’s classic car shop in St. Louis,” he said. “I liked it immediately because it was not a Ford. GM’s woodies were not as popular as the Fords,” so there were far fewer of them. The chrome dashboard and beautiful interior, with the wood ceiling, were also attractions.
The Olds also has a lighted hood ornament, an electric clock, a push-button radio and a remote spotlight.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. To read other Gallery stories, go to tomstrongman.com.