The woodie car, essentially a vehicle with rear bodywork constructed of wood framework with infill wood panels, was born in the early 1900s. Initially used for trucks and other hauling vehicles, wood eventually became popular on other types of cars as well, ranging from anything from convertibles to wagons. Detroit built both entry-level and luxury cars equipped with wooden bodywork for half a century, although the number of nameplates sold as woodies diminished significantly until their complete extinction in the 1980s.
Although woodie cars were extremely popular in the 1930s, they weren’t exactly pleasant to drive. Most of them were big and heavy, and maintaining the wood bodywork that made them special back in the day was a nightmare. Exposing them to weather had disastrous results because these cars don’t react nicely when hit by direct sunlight or humidity. The wood swells and/or shrinks before it eventually cracks, leaving its driver with a car that’s unsafe to drive. Not that they were safe to drive when brand-new since those wooden doors were way too thin to protect the car’s occupants in any way.
Still, woodies are an important part of the American automotive history and a culture a lot of enthusiasts still cherish. Maintaining and restoring these vehicles is a lot more difficult when compared to metal-bodied cars, which led to the establishment of several specialty shops for woodies. One of them is Hot Rods & Hobbies, which brought a couple of 1937 Fords to Jay Leno’s Garage. Both vehicles are light restomods, which basically means they appear stock except for the slightly lowered suspension, but feature modern underpinning and beefed-up engines. One of them, for instance, is powered by a Roush, 5.8-liter, V-8 powerplant, which definitely eliminated the laziness of Ford’s 1937 Woodie (these heavy cars had 60- and 85-horsepower V-8s back in the day).
Whether you like woodies or not, this is a video you definitely need to watch. Not so much for the cars, but for the extraordinary insight provided by Hot Rods & Hobbies’ Scott Bonowski on restoring woodie cars. Check it out by clicking the play button above.