1949 Chevrolet Deluxe Woody Wagon

Chevrolet had been producing woody wagons since 1939. The wood coach building had been farmed out to companies such as Hercules, Cantrell and Ionia. There was a difference as to the wood used by the various coach builders.

1949 Chevy Deluxe Woody Wagon

1949 Chevy Deluxe Woody Wagon

Hercules built the wood paneling from mahogany and framed it in ash. Both Ionia and Cantrell paneled the wagons in birch. Coach builders actually made an entire industry of producing wood coaches out of automakers chassis and frames. Out of all the various automobile models built, the station wagon was the primary recipient of wood styling.

AutoMuseumOnline was fortunate enough to come across the 1949 Chevrolet Woody shown in this photo article. The car has been preserved very well and is mechanically functional. It’s a great find.

The 1949 Chevy Woody Wagon

The wagon shown in this article, the 1949 Chevy Woody Wagon, was significant in that General Motors Chevrolet Division stopped using real wood in 1948. The last authentic Chevrolet Woody Wagon was the 1948 Fleetmaster Wagon.

Long hood front end of the 1949 Chevrolet Wagon

Long hood front end of the 1949 Chevrolet Wagon

This was also Chevy’s most popular woody wagon since after the war. It’s recognized by most collectors however that the 1946 through 1948 models were essentially not too much different than the 1942 models. An interesting side note concerns Ford. During these late 1940 years, Ford constructed the car’s wooden body trim in its own factories. It’s competitors like Chevrolet were still outsourcing the wood crafting. The Ford Motor Company actually grew, harvested and milled the trees from northern Michigan forests.

The Rise and fall of the True Woody’s

In 1949, Chevrolet built their woody wagons with all steel bodies. Beginning in 1946, after World War Two ended, only the company Ionia continued building woody wagons for Chevrolet.

1949 Chevrolet Woody Wagon all steel body

1949 Chevrolet Woody Wagon all steel body

An interesting side note is that not all true woody’s were discontinued by General Motors in 1949. Buick as an example continued producing real wood station wagons through 1953. Plymouth discontinued it’s woody station wagons in 1950. By the middle of the 1950′s, the only two American automakers still offering woody’s were Ford and it’s Mercury line. The British Motor Corporation was known to have offered authentic woody’s until 1971.

The 1949 Chevy Woody shown here was made of a laminate wood trim over steel. Although woody construction dates back to the early 1930′s, Chevrolet started building these models in 1939 with their sedans, convertibles and station wagons. As the years progressed into the 1950′s, slowly but surely most automakers began cutting back on using actual wood in favor of the laminates. The downfall of the woody (real wood woody) has been attributed to the frequent maintenance required to keep it looking good and to prevent deterioration. As the years progressed, new highway crash safety regulations also dealt a blow to using real wood to construct car bodies, especially as true structural components as opposed to decorative uses.

1949 Chevy deluxe Woody rear

1949 Chevy deluxe Woody rear


Laminate Wood Design Station Wagons

“Woodies,” the wood paneled station wagons very popular in the 1950s and 1960s, were actually sided with wood grain laminate. The primary advantage in using this product on automobiles was the avoidance of the high maintenance required by real wood as mentioned above. It was discovered that the all steel bodies could handle the station wagon’s body flex as well if not better than the previous wood models.

Two additional links to AutoMuseumOnline photo articles you’ll find interesting are the 1949 Mercury and the 1946 Ford Woody Wagon.

1949 Chevy Woody Wagon dash and front interior

1949 Chevy Woody Wagon dash and front interior

1949 Chevy Woody Wagon Specs

All of the 1949 Chevy automobiles had a  factory-standard Thriftmaster 216.5-cubic-inch, in-line six-cylinder, valve-in-head engine. The engine put out 90 horsepower at 3300 RPM. The 1949 Chevy’s had a Fisher body chassis on a box girder frame.

Transmission on all passenger vehicles was a three speed Synchro-Mesh manual shift.

The 49 Chevys came with four-wheel hydraulic, internal expanding drum brakes. Front independent suspension was a short and long arm wishbone with rear suspension being semi elliptic carbon steel leaf springs. The Chevy Wagon’s body was 207.5 inches in length. 1949 Chevy Deluxe steel wagon weight averaged around 3,500 pounds.

1949 Chevrolet Deluxe Woody Wagon production was a bit over 6,000 units.

(Photos from author’s private collection)




1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special

General Motors redesigned their entire line of automobiles in 1959 and Cadillac was redesigned as well. The first thing that stands out with this automobile are the massive tail fins.

1959 Cadillac Fleetwood

1959 Cadillac Fleetwood

The year 1959 would be the year of the tail fins and Cadillac sported the largest of the General Motors fleet. The 1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special shown in this article represents the prime example of what an automaker can build using tail fins. Fins were in in 1959. The tail fins had a bullet shape and the bumper ends were squared off resembling a jet exhaust. You could say that the entire design had the effect of a jet engine.

The massive tailfins on the 1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Six

The massive tailfins on the 1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special

Designing the 1959 Cadillac

Some pass off the 1959 Cadillac as a car representing excess in design. The tail fins and the overall aircraft like theme is discounted by some as being too over the top and therefore don’t give credit to the car itself. The entire jet like appearance of the car was one in which people either liked it or didn’t. There didn’t seem to be a lot of people in the middle.The fact of the matter is that fins on cars were more prevalent each year during the 1950′s, mostly since the mid 50′s. Cadillac by all means was not the first with tailfins.

1959 Cadillac Sixty Special  front interior

1959 Cadillac Sixty Special front interior

The real criticism leveled at Cadillac pertaining to the 1959 models were the size of the tail fins, not the fact that the car had tail fins. General Motors could be credited with the tail fin idea in as much as they sent an engineering team to an airbase outside of Detroit in 1948 to study the details of a Lockheed P-38.

The body style itself for the Sixty Special was introduced in 1957 and held sway until 1960. The car body however was modified each year and 1959 represented the introduction of the large fins. Some observers point to the competition from Chrysler who had been outdoing GM in the tailfin department in the 1950′s as being the real reason for Cadillacs extra large tail fins in 59.

The 1959 Sixty Specials also came with an extruded aluminum panel that was applied to the rear quarter panel and about one foot forward of the rear door’s trailing edge. An identical panel was placed to the rear deck lid.

Buick Doors on Cadillac Cars

1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special

1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special

The Cadillac designers had their work cut out for them beginning in 1957. It seems that General Motors was looking for a way to scale back costs and in this effort used Buick doors on all C-models. The Buick door was designated as interchangeable. This did indeed save money on retooling. The Buick door unfortunately didn’t fit the Cadillac because of it’s slanted design and as a result the Cadillac engineers put a lot of work in redesigning that part of their automobile.

The Cadillac Sixty Special during the 1957 to 1960 period are also characterized as having plenty of chrome, as shown on the photo below, and an impressive large size to attract car buyers. In fact it was much of the chrome styling that differentiated the Sixty Sixes from other models.

The Cadillac was always meant to be a luxury automobile and with this in mind, the Cadillac buyer had many options to choose from. One such option of the late 50′s Cadillacs were a powered vent window.

The Coach Builders

Fleetwood was an old coach builder from the very early 1900′s which was acquired by GM when they purchased Fisher Body in 1925. The company built both wood and metal bodies. This was the time when car companies like Ford were building chassis and buyers would engage the services of a coach builder. When automakers made the entire car, not just the chassis, the coach builders had to merge in with the car builders. Fleetwood became a mark of quality in the GM line and thus in it’s Cadillac brand.

1959 Cadillac Sixty Special

1959 Cadillac Sixty Special

Another interesting fact is that GM had been using the name “Sixty Special” from as far back as 1938. The name was on lower costs cars from 1938 to the start of World War Two, but as history shows, the name was brought back by Cadillac and used on it’s most luxurious automobiles like the one shown here. Almost 18,000 Sixty Specials were produced from 1938 to 1941.

Here are links to two additional AutoMuseumOnline photo articles you’ll enjoy. The 1953 Pontiac Chieftain and the 1953 Kaiser Dragon.

1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special Specs

All Cadillacs in 1959 came with long 130 inch wheelbase. The car’s length was 225 inches.By the same token, the 1959 models were 3 inches lower giving the car a sleeker look.

The engine was a 390 cubic inch V-8 producing 325 horsepower.

Prices for the new 1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special started at a little over $6,000 and went up depending on options.

(Photos from author’s collection)