DEARBORN, Mich. – Few classic Fords have the mix of nostalgia and cool factor as the Ford Woodie – those wood-framed and -bodied wagons that were most often found at hotels, country clubs, national parks and in the driveways of affluent American communities from the late 1920’s through the early 1950’s.
Historians will tell you that at the beginning of the 20th century, most every form of transport was made of wood – including horse-drawn carriages, boats and planes. With the advent of the automobile, many early examples were wood-bodied. As steel-stamping techniques improved, steel gradually replaced hardwood in the manufacture of autos. Even though the use of steel vastly improved body strength and durability, many owners liked the look and charm of wood.
Ford Motor Company used wood in the manufacture of the Model T, and conversion companies made truck beds entirely of wood when converting a Model T into a pickup or flatbed truck. In June of 1920, Henry Ford purchased some 400,000 wooded acres in the Michigan Upper Peninsula’s Iron Mountain Forest as critical source for hardwood lumber to build wood-bodied Ford cars, trucks and wagons.
Eventually, wood bodied cars proved more costly to build for automakers and more expensive to maintain and repair for owners, so by late 1950, the mahogany paneling on Ford wagons was replaced with Di-Noc plastic vinyl sheeting bonded to the car’s steel body panels. By the 1960’s and into the late 70’s, a Ford “Country Squire” wagon wore woodgrain vinyl to replicate the look of the wood paneling.
In the late 1950’s when original Woodies entered the affordable used car market, young surfers on the West Coast began to buy them up, customize and hot-rod them as surf wagons. Those now iconic examples – along with surfer lingo and music – make the Woodie Wagon an integral part of the 1960’s California surf culture.
The National Woodie Club was formed so that Woodie owners and enthusiasts may exchange information and share experiences with other members. The club produces a monthly magazine called the “Woodie Times” and has organized some 18 chapters all across America. During the 2017 Woodward Dream Cruise this past August, Ford Performance offered free parking for those Ford, Mercury and Lincoln vehicle owners who didn’t qualify for space in Ford’s mega “Mustang Alley” show because – well, they didn’t drive a Mustang. That’s when we spotted a beautiful, historically significant Ford Woodie owned by Cheryl Bassett, who happens to work at Ford World Headquarters. Cheryl tipped us off that the Central Region of the Woodie club would be hosting a first-ever National Meet in Dearborn over the Sept. 29 – Oct. 1, 2017 weekend.
In true Woodie fashion, the inaugural National Woodie Club (NWC) national meet was an informal event, centered on a “Woodie Show and Shine” on Saturday, Sept. 30, with no judging and no trophies. The NWC billed the Woodie weekend as a “low-key, casual event. There are no registration fees, no bus tours across town, and no banquets serving $40 rubber chicken . . . it will be fun before formality – no shirt, no shoes, no problem!” Informal gatherings included stops at Ford’s Garage, Buddy’s Pizza, The Henry Ford museum and Greenfield village and the Ford Rouge Factory Tour – even a photo-op at the Clara and Henry Ford Estate at Fair Lane.
We weren’t surprised to find out that our own Ford Performance roving car-show photographer, Ford marketing retire Bill Cook, attended the Woodie Show and Shine at Ford Field Park that Saturday. As is his practice, Bill sent us photos of some of the notable rides he spotted on display there. We’re happy to share his pics with you in the gallery below:
FORD PERFORMANCE PHOTO GALLERY / COURTESY BILL COOK