Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ever Have a Woodie?

We've probably all admired them from time to time over the years. I'm referring to woodies. The main thing about woodies is, they're big. And some are bigger than others. But some say size doesn't matter. A woodie is a woodie.

If you've ever seen one, you would remember it. They were very popular during the fifties, and they remain so today. A lot of men wanted one, and a lot of them had one. You can still see them today, but not as often as you used to.

For those of you too young to remember the woodie, it is a type of car. More specifically, it is a station wagon. And I’ll explain where that name came from momentarily.

Woodies were manufactured in the United States as far back as 1910. During the 30s, 40s, and 50s, American car manufacturers continued to build them. The main characteristic of the woodie that distinguishes it from other types of cars is the rear portion of the body. It was made of wood.

Frequently this wood is visible, since it is covered in a clear finish, either over the entire wooden area or sometimes just on the framework with the interior panels painted.

Earlier cars generally had aluminium or steel panels bolted on top of the wood framing. Woodies were originally cheaper because they didn't need these panels. Since they were less expensive, railway stations used them for moving luggage and small shipments. Hence the name, station wagon. Notice the illustration at the very top which shows a woodie at a train station. The tradition of the woodie remains in the woodgrain decals and plastic beams attached to a structural steel body of many station wagons.

This car body style was popular both in the United States and the United Kingdom. Woodies were produced from all kinds of cars, from basic to luxury, but the most popular conversions in the US were large, powerful but not highly luxurious models. By contrast, in Europe early woodies were usually built on luxury car platforms such as Rolls-Royce.

The vast majority of woodies were produced before the end of the 1950s at which time safety regulations and changing automotive fashions meant the effective end of the style.

In the 1960s and to some degree the 1970s woodies were considered undesirable and old fashioned. California surfers, among others, saw the potential of these cars because they were cheap, large enough to carry a good number of people, surfboards and equipment. And when you're at the beach and you happen upon a bunch of young girls in bathing suits needing a ride, a woodie could be very popular.

Thus, the woodie became the vehicle of the surfer. The Beach Boys directly referred to them in several of their songs. There is probably a higher population of surviving woodies in California than anywhere else.

These days, woodies are highly desirable because they're not as common as they used to be. A good one can fetch a large amount of money. The photo at the right shows Clark Gable and his woodie.

If you've ever wanted a woodie, or if you used to have one, you can tell us about it by clicking that pesky COMMENT link at the bottom.

Today's video is actually from the early sixties, but I wanted to include it because Brian mentions his woodie. And the girls in the audience scream when he does. Apparently the girls liked woodies back then, too. The video quality isn't that great, and the audio is much less professional than their later recordings.