Monday, September 19, 2005


Pretty cool piece in the NYT about these:

click for larger graphic



Here's the ubiq-cerpt™:

"You have to remember woodies were just the original station wagon," said Bob Solheim, a National Woodie Club director. "They were the original S.U.V., used at dude ranches, train stations, estates and so on, to haul people and luggage. In the 50's and 60's, they were just cheap used cars."

The wood bodies creaked, flexed and leaked, even when new. Held together by dowels, bolts and glue, an old woodie groaned so loudly going down the road it was difficult to hear the Beach Boys crooning surf tunes on the radio, Mr. Trulson said.

Wood has been an essential ingredient in cars, either as a structural material or for decorative purposes, since the early days of the industry. Indeed, the first cars were little more than wood carriages or coaches with engines attached. Wood was supplanted only as auto manufacturers learned how to better shape steel sheets into the complex contours of fenders, hoods and doors. Many vehicles were built entirely of steel by the 1930's but wagons retained their wood framing until 1948.

The next year, automakers started to simply bolt wood pieces onto steel bodies, a practice that lasted just a few years before man-made materials took over entirely.

The 1953 Buick Roadmaster and Super Estate wagons, with trim of white ash and insets of mahogany, were among the last vehicles to use real wood body panels. Other popular types were birch and maple.

"Hardwoods were necessary to give it structural integrity," Mr. Solheim said.

A popular misconception was that the wood was steamed to make it conform to the curves of car bodies. In fact, the curved swaths of wood over a wheel opening would usually be made of three or more separate boards stitched together with glued joints. This permitted a gentle arc in the finished piece while keeping the grain as parallel as possible to the body line.

Most wood car bodies were done by specialists who received bare chassis from carmakers. Manufacturers offering woodies with bodies by independent builders included all divisions of General Motors and Chrysler, Packard, Willys, Hupmobile, Graham, Hudson and Studebaker. A notable exception was Ford; in 1929, it started producing Model A woodie wagons manufactured entirely within its own factories - Ford even owned the forest. The 1953 Country Squire still featured birch exterior framing from Ford's own Iron Mountain, Mich., timber stands, but its fake woodgrain insets leave some collectors sneering that it is not a true woodie."


From Surfer S.U.V. to Classic Treasure
NYT, September 12, 2005

Posted at 09:48 AM in Automobiles | Permalink


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