The woody is a truly an iconic American vehicle. This predecessor of today’s SUV conjures up images of fun and recreation, especially when a couple of surfboards are strapped on top. But the woody’s roots are more utilitarian, as the first production models that appeared in the 1930s were service vehicles that had wood bodies mounted on truck frames. Many of them were used by resorts to transport guests and their luggage back and forth between the resort and the train station. Hence the name, station wagon.
The real boom in woodies happened immediately after World War II when raw materials to manufacture motor vehicles were in short supply—that is, most materials except wood. Motor vehicle manufacturers were also required by the government to keep the prices of vehicles at their prewar levels, unless they had a new body. Thus the woody body style was adopted by the big three automakers, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, so they could sell them at whatever price the market would bear. These versatile vehicles found a ready market among the newly minted post-war families. In addition to transporting the children and groceries, they became a recreation and camping vehicle, much like the auto camps of the early twentieth century. As raw materials became more readily available, auto manufacturers switched to steel bodies and the resale value of woodies plummeted. Because of their low prices and their ability to hold lots of cargo, they became the vehicle of choice for the beach crowd. Nowadays, expertly restored woodies can command prices well over $100,000. Brad Boyajian owns this award-winning 1946 Chrysler Town and Country convertible woody. Photographed in Chatsworth, California.