It was the most expensive Ford you could buy in 1947. The list price was $3,520, or the equivalent of $37,595 today.
Danville resident Tom Walsh has owned this 66-year-old car for 45 years. He paid a whopping $500 for it in 1967. When purchased, it wasn't running -- not a problem for a man who ran his own automotive service business. He soon had it running well enough for his wife to drive it to her job, and later his son drove the woodie to high school.
"I took two woodies to make this one," he said. "The outside exterior and the inside panels you see is what a 1947 woodie really was."
He explained that the entire passenger area of the vehicle is made of wood. Starting in 1949, Ford bolted wood panels to a metal body, and collectors sometimes referred to them as shoe boxes. But from 1941 (except for 1943, 1944 and 1945, when car production was halted because of World War II) to 1948, the bodies were made completely of wood.
The outside panels are made from mahogany and birch and the inside panels from mahogany. To redo the wooden panels, Walsh would take off the old panels, use them as patterns and cut, finish and install the new panels.
Since I'm a guy who can hardly change a light bulb, I was impressed. The interior roof is all wooden slats from front to rear, all redone by Walsh. It supports the padded vinyl roof. Boat varnish protects all the wood.
The owner had the leather seats reupholstered in the 1960s, and they still look like new. Considered luxury items at that time and included as standard equipment were arm rests on four doors, passenger assist straps, chrome window moldings, a horn ring on the 18-inch steering wheel and two inside sun visors.
There are three bench seats in the woodie, all facing forward. Surprisingly, even though the wagon is on the same 114-inch wheel base as the sedan, the woodie is 2 inches shorter and 310 pounds heavier. When the tailgate is open, the taillights and license hinge outward to remain visible from the rear.
"Originally, the wooden cars were farm orchard cars," Walsh said. "My understanding is they were less expensive to build because there were a lot of craftsmen back then, and wood was less expensive than metal."
When new, this 1947 Ford had a 239-cubic-inch flathead V-8 engine rated at 100 HP. It had a "three-on-the-tree" manual transmission. Walsh now has a 350ci Chevy V-8 engine with the matching 350 Chevy automatic transmission. I was surprised because looking inside the car, the gear shift is the original factory version with a dummy clutch pedal next to the brake. Walsh shifts his automatic transmission using the original gear shift level, but it is all by feel. There is no "PRNDL" indicator.
This maroon beauty is a driver and a show car. He estimates he has driven this car about 150,000 miles. Recently, Walsh drove it across the country, plus to the Los Angeles area a couple of times and to the Woodies on the Wharf gathering in Santa Cruz.
"Last year, I probably put about 8,000 miles on this car," he said.
"I do about 99 percent of the work myself," he said. "About the only thing I don't do is paint."
He lowered the car about 4 inches and improved the suspension system using two coil springs in front and two parallel leaf springs in the rear. There is no power steering or air conditioning, and while his modifications have been mostly mechanical, he did cave in for a Sirius satellite radio.
"It helps on those long trips," he said.
I'm not too sure he wants to know how much he's spent on the car, but it has provided recreation, entertainment and transportation for him and his family for 45 years.
"I have no idea what I have invested," he said.
He estimates the current value is about $125,000.
"Good cars always seem to bring good money, and for a while bad cars were bringing good money, but I think that is over with now," he said.
Retired from his automotive service business, Walsh still loves working on his half-dozen or so collector cars. He's never finished, it seems -- sort of like painting the Golden Gate Bridge.
Have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at MOBopoly@yahoo.com.