surfing & beach like woody
wagons. A cross between a sedan and a panel truck, nearly any kind of wood
paneled station wagon might qualify as one. First known as
"Shooting Brakes" or "Estate Wagons" used for grouse hunting on Great
Britain's country estates, they were called "depot wagons" in the United
States. Used to transport passengers and luggage at the
railway depot, they became "station wagons" when we later went to the train
Early station wagons were custom built vehicles. Ford
offered an optional station wagon body on the Model T frame in 1922,
but customers still had to order the body separately. The first ever production
station wagon was the Star Station Wagon, built by Durant Motors in 1923.
Popularity of the these vehicles reigned for several decades
until the postwar years saw the demise of structural wood bodies. Too expensive
to make and maintain, ash or oak frames were complex, precisely milled
shapes that required furniture grade craftsmanship. The wood had
to be varnished every year or two and did not compare with the durability
of increasingly popular steel bodies.
Wooden panels gave way to laminates used for ornamentation
and the prewar station wagons became embarrassing old wrecks, sold
cheap as a utility vehicle to haul surf lumber to the beach. Today, the
woody is a classic. You may see one in a garage or protected under a cover.
Rolled out for special beach festivals and car shows, the vehicles are
collectible and worth much more than they originally sold for. Most have
been restored with thousands of dollars poured into them to provide the
look and feel of an era when wood provided a statement of wealth and luxury.
Likewise, the accompanying classic surfboard you'll often see displayed
with a woody has run a similar course in history. But that's another story.