As a variable to body-on-frame construction, the woodie as a utility vehicle or station wagon which began from the early practice of building the
passenger area of a vehicle from hardwood. Woodies were popular in the United States and were built as variants of sedans and convertibles as well as station wagons,
extending from basic to luxury. They were most often built as third-party conversions of regular vehicles—some by large, reputable coachbuilding firms and others by
local carpenters and craftsmen for individual customers. They could be austere vehicles, with side curtains in place of roll-up windows (e.g., the 1932 Ford)—and sold
in limited numbers (e.g., Ford sold 1654 woodie wagons). Eventually, bodies constructed entirely in steel replaced wood construction—for reasons of strength, cost, safety,
In 1950, Plymouth discontinued their woodie station wagon. Buick's 1953 Super Estate Wagon and 1953 Roadmaster Estate Wagon were the last production American station wagons to retain real wood construction. Other marques by then were touting the advantages of "all-steel" construction to the buying public. By 1955, only Ford, Mercury, joined in 1965 by Chrysler offered a "woodie" appearance, evoking real wood with other materials including steel, plastics and DI-NOC (a vinyl product). As the appearance became popular, Ford, GM, and Chrysler offered multiple models with the woodgrain appearance until the early 1990s.
Columbia Pictures' top-grossing film for the 1940s--director John Stahl's 1945 "Leave Her to Heaven" starring Gene Tierney and Cornel Wilde--features a
"woodie" station wagon early in the film. Many other American movies from the 1940s also featured woodies. The woodie was also closely associated
with Surf-rock, e.g., “I bought a ’34 wagon and we call it a woodie" from the classic Surf City by Jan and Dean or the 1963 instrumental "Boogie Woodie"
by The Beach Boys. In 1995, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 15 cent stamp commemorating the woodie wagon .
The AMC Eagle used a proved Jeep 4x4 system that made it unique among car offerings in the 1980s. It also foreshadowed the SUV craze of the 1990s and today's mad rush for AWD crossovers. Fitted with vinyl "wood,
1933 Buick Series 50 Woodie
1940 Buick Estate Wagon
1942 Buick Woodie
1947 Buick Woodie
1949 Buick Super Woodie
1953 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon
1976 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon
The Roadmaster is the quintessential good American road trip car. It's a slightly later, non-woody version of this that stole the show in Rain Man. A trip up the
PCH in a Roadmaster woodie would be just about perfect.
1941 is the first year of any information on Cadillac Station Wagons. Actor Charles Starrett, a star of western movies, owned a '41 Cadillac Station Wagon built
by Coachcraft Ltd of Hollywood. Cadillac Automobiles
1928 Chevrolet Woodie
1931 Chevrolet Woodie
1932 Chevrolet Woodie
1939 Chevrolet Master Deluxe Woodie
1941 Chevrolet Master Deluxe Woodie
1947 Chevrolet Woodie Roadster
1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster Woodie
1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster Woodie Back
1949 Chevrolet Woodie
1953 Chevrolet Woodie
1950 Chevrolet Highlander Suburban Woodie
1954 Chevrolet Suburban Carryall Woodie
1966 Chevrolet Woodie
2010 Chevrolet Spark Woodie
Fisher Body produced the wood bodies for Chevrolet and Oldsmobile from 1946 to1948 only. Two colors were available for these vehicles from the factory: Oxford Maroon
and Live Oak Green. The maroon color was the more popular choice, so fewer examples survive in the original Live Oak Green. Based on statistics from the National
Woodie Club, it is estimated that less than 100 1948 Chevy "woodie" wagons are in existence today, out of only 10,171 produced .The bodies are framed in
ash with mahogany side panels and were factory finished with varnish as a protective coating. The wood bodied wagons were labor intensive to build by hand and were
discontinued in favor of all-steel bodies during 1949.
There was a time when having a Chrysler Town and Country automatically made you the guy all your neighbors noticed on your street. Make it a woody and a convertible,
and you were the guy all your neighbors' wives noticed.
1938 DeSoto Woodie
1949 DeSoto Woodie
1950 DeSoto Woodie
1951 DeSoto Woodie
1951 DeSoto Woodie
Though Chrysler was busy selling the Town & Country, relatively few bought a similar but lower trim DeSoto–these cars were never common even when new. Today they’ve become so scarce that if you’ve heard of them, it’s likely you either own one of the handful left, or you’ve never seen one in person and know it well.
An interesting data point: the 1941 Ford V-8 DeLuxe woody wagon was the first factory-built Ford of any kind to break the $1,000 base price barrier.
There were woody wagons well before Ford, however - there was a 1931 Dodge Series DH Six woody station wagon, for instance. The first official factory Plymouth station wagon appeared in 1938 (the P6 DeLuxe Westchester Suburban wagon, although the bodywork was still done out-of-house by U.S. Body & Forging). Chevrolet's first woody was also a 1940 model (the Special DeLuxe).
Two significant wagon milestones were recorded during this time:
- In 1938 Dodge/Plymouth introduced the P6 Westchester Suburban, the first station wagon that was classified as a car rather than a commercial truck. This was an evolution of the earlier (1933-1937) Westchester Suburban (also built by U.S. Body & Forging Company) that was built on a Dodge 1/2-ton commercial chassis with the front clip coming from a passenger car.
- In 1941 Chrysler introduced the Town & Country station wagon, which was based on a four-door sedan (rather than being built on a separate body). Interestingly, it was originally introduced as being a more versatile car, not a station wagon.
On April 25, 1929, Ford Model A station wagons with maple and birch bodies built by the Briggs Body Company (later acquired by Chrysler), the Murray Corporation and
Baker-Raulang became available. Ford was taking a step toward controlling woody production by producing wood sub-assemblies at their own Iron Mountain plant in
northern Michigan and shipping these out for final assembly. While the production process was, at best, a half step toward a true factory body, the four-door styling
with three rows of seats and a tailgate was much more consumer-friendly than the plain high-roof hacks that preceded it.
The wood-sided Sportsman convertible, supplied by the Ford Iron Mountain Plant, ended the year with just 28 built, and the all-wood bodies on the woody station wagons
were replaced with steel for the 1949 season. The Ford and Mercury woody wagons came to an end with the 1951 editions, which achieved an all-time high in FoMoCo woody
production. Though they were still the most expensive models in their respective lines, they had the poorest resale value.
GMC traces its history to the 1902 founding of the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company in Pontiac, MI. In 1909 William C. Durant gained control of Rapid Motor Vehicle Company and made it a subsidiary of his General Motors Company. In 1908 Durant gained control of Reliance Motor Car Company, another early commercial vehicle manufacturer. In 1911 General Motors formed the General Motors Truck Company and folded Rapid and Reliance into it.
Hudson was not known for their station wagons. Their early wood-bodied cars were created by outside contractors, such as J.T. Cantrell, and done a per-client basis. The
first wagon in the company catalogues appeared in 1936 where it was listed as a 'Business Car' in the Terraplane line. The early Hudson wagons were bodied by Baker-
Raulang. From 1937, most of the work was handled by U.S. Body & Forging Co. of Indiana. By 1939, a wagon appeared in Hudson's entry-level 112 series.
The Wagon would become a stronger part of the Hudson line-up during the 1940s. A long-wheelbase Bid Boy sedan was substituted for a station wagon in 1940. The following
year it moved up-market to the mid-sized segment where it was built atop a 121-inch wheelbase, offered as a Super Six or Commodore Eight.
In 1902, The merger of McCormick Harvesting Machine Company with the Deering Harvester Company brought about the creation of the International Harvester Company (IH), which over the following seventy five years became a diversified producer of farm equipment, construction equipment, gas turbines, buses, trucks, and related equipment. Amid World War II, International Harvester manufactured M-series military trucks to the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval as weapons cargo transporters, weapons carriers and light artillery movement. Today, Navistar manufactures International brand military vehicles through its Navistar Defense affiliate.
Jeep Woodies (1950-
The presence of mass-produced all-steel Jeep station wagons did not prevent specialty body manufacturers from building real wood wagons on the Willys chassis. Mid-
States Body Co., of Waterloo, New York, installed their Campbell Highlander body on this 1950 Willys Jeep pickup/station wagon cowl and chassis.
1952 Henry J Woodie
1952 Henry J Woodie
The Kaiser-Frazer Corporation came into being during early August 1945 as a joint venture between the Henry J. Kaiser Company and Graham-Paige Motors Corporation. Henry J. Kaiser, a California-based industrialist and Joseph W. Frazer, CEO of Graham-Paige, both wanted to get into the automobile business and pooled their resources and talents to do so.
Mercury Woodies (1941-1951)
The Ford and Mercury woody wagons came to an end with the 1951 editions, which achieved an all-time high in FoMoCo woody production. Though they were still the most expensive models in their respective lines, they had the poorest resale value.
Nash Woodies (1946-1948)
After WWII, Nash wanted to produce a car that would really pop, and get people into their showrooms. They had a Michigan-based company make the panels out of ash,
then used real mahogany for the trim on the Nash Ambassador Suburban Nash produced only 1,000 Suburbans between 1946 and 1948. All were 4-door sedans. The car had a
six-cylinder 234 cubic inch engine producing 112 HP with a three-speed manual transmission plus overdrive. Interiors were leather with Mahogany door panels. The rear
seats folded down and converted into a sleeping area that extended into the trunk.
1940 Oldsmobile Series 70 Woodie
1947 Oldsmobile Special 66 Woodie
1948 Oldsmobile Series 60 Woodie
1949 Oldsmobile Woodie
1950 Oldsmobile 88 Woodie
Those wanting a station wagon from Oldsmobile during the 1940 model year had but a single choice: Purchase the base, Special series wagon, built on a 116-inch
Though the Special and Dynamic series models shared a 230-cu.in. inline six-cylinder engine, the latter models rode on a longer 120-inch wheelbase. Available body
styles in the Dynamic range included four two-doors (convertible, business coupe, club coupe and sedan), and a single four-door in a sedan body style. Those wanting
a wagon on the longer wheelbase platform had just one option: Buy a Dynamic model and ship it off to be rebodied by a company like Waterloo, New York’s, Mid-State
Body Company. Oldsmobile Automobiles
1940 Packard Woodie
1940 Packard 120 Woodie
1941 Packard Woodie
1948 Packard Station Sedan Woodie
1949 Packard Station Sedan Woodie
1951 Packard El Paso Woodie
The Packard Super Eight is the classic pre-WWII American car, with a fantastic straight eight engine and plenty of luxury. One can only imagine what it must've
been like pulling up in the woody version. Packard
1937 Plymouth Westchester Suburban Woodie Wagon
1940 Plymouth Woodie
1940 Plymouth Woodie
1946 Plymouth Woodie
1950 Plymouth Woodie Suburban
1978 Plymouth Voyager Woodie
Before 1934, Plymouth station wagon bodies were built to customers' orders by various body builders. When someone wanted a wagon they bought the bare chassis from
their favorite dealer and had it shipped to a body builder where the body was added. The first official Plymouth station wagon wnr on sale in April of 1934. This time
the factory got involved -- they shipped the chassis to the U.S. Body & Forging Company plant at Tell City, Indiana. There U.S.B.F. built and installed a station
wagon body on the Deluxe PE chassis. Made up of cottonwood panels, red gum, oak and ash, it was a handsome creation. Unfortunately none have survived today -- there
were only 35 built the first year. The price was $820 FOB Tell City. Body color was (like Henry's "T") your choice of black.
Make no mistake: if your family drove a Pontiac Streamliner Woodie estate in the late 1940s and 1950s, your family was doing A-OK. Large, powerful, luxurious, expensive, and finished in enough brightwork to make a B17 Flying Fortress jealous and more bark than the Redwood National Park, the Pontiac Streamliner Woodie was the epitome of American excess when American excess was something to be proud of, guilt free.
1946 Studebaker Pickup Woodie
1947 Studebaker Champion Woodie
1950 Studebaker Woodie based on a 1950s Ford
For 1947, Studebaker featured a new look from the Raymond Loewy Studios that included a wood-bodied station wagon. A prototype was built and was displayed at several
automobile shows - then pulled from production. A wood-bodied station wagon was included in the initial model lineup for Studebaker in 1947. However, it was dropped
just before production began. This prototype station wagon was kept by the engineering department as a run-around vehicle until around 1955 when the body was removed
and left to the elements. The body was discarded in the infield of the companies test track, a usual procedure in those days.
Keep Your Car Looking New
Woodies Through the Years
Reviewed by Gene Wright on