“I have a great appreciation for woodies,” Ken Gross says.
His initial experience with a wood-bodied station wagon came when he was a teenager delivering groceries in Swampscott, Mass., in a Ford. In those days, he explains, the cars were called beach wagons or station wagons, but were never called “woodies.”
The grocer’s Ford was a 1948 model, which was virtually identical to a 1947, 1946 or even a pre-war 1942 station wagon. Gross never forgot the good time he spent wrestling the two-spoke steering wheel of that Ford.
At various times since then Gross has owned a series of wood-bodied Ford station wagons, including a 1940 model followed by a 1948 and a 1942.
“The craftsmanship appealed to me,” he says.
After each car was sold he regretted the sale. That’s when he decided that once he found another wooden station wagon he was never going to be without one again.
The search commenced more than a year ago and led to several disappointments, until Gross discovered a 1942 Ford Super DeLuxe station wagon for sale in Redlands, Calif.
He learned that a former owner had been Ken Brown who was an acknowledged authority on 1941 through 1948 Ford station wagons. With that knowledge, he says, “I bought the car sight unseen.”
Last December he arranged to have his 1942 Ford trucked cross-country to his Hamilton, Va., home. As the car came off the truck Gross was impressed by the Fathom Blue paint and the maple and birch wooden body. He knew the wood came from Ford-owned Iron Mountain in Michigan.
“It had been restored in the late 1970s,” Gross says. Since then the odometer shows that it had been driven 35,000 miles. Gross was told the car had been parked for several years before he purchased it. He says there were no surprises and he expected that the car would require some first aid after its hibernation.
“The shocks leaked and the brakes were pretty much gone,” he says. If anything on the car was wrong it was fixed. “It gives you something to do,” he says.
The old Ford received a new ignition, shock absorbers, hoses, wheel cylinders, brakes, fluids, wiring and lights.
Any kind of car built in 1942 is rather rare because 65 days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the U.S. government on Feb. 10, 1942 shut down civilian automobile production in order to produce war munitions.
The 3,468-pound 1942 Ford that Gross bought sold new for a base price of $1,125. The eight-passenger car is supported on optional 6.50×16-inch tires on a 114-inch wheelbase. Because of the capability to carry heavy loads each rear spring has an extra leaf that is absent in sedans. A 221-cubic-inch flathead V-8 engine delivers 90 horsepower.
Cosmetically the car has held up well, including the wood, both inside and out. Brown “boot topping” covers the roof while inside the car the ceiling is made of 19 longitudinal wooden slats. The Ford is equipped with a Columbia two-speed overdrive rear axle, an AM radio and a heater with three adjustable doors.
In case Gross is caught in a rainstorm the two-piece windshield can be cleared by the vacuum-operated wipers. In sunny weather the exterior Fulton sunvisor shades the windshield.
Because the metal-shrouded spare tire is mounted on the tailgate extra space for it must be provided in the bumper when the tailgate is dropped open. That is why the notched rear bumper from a 1941 Ford is used. Gross is amused that the rear gravel pan between the bumper and body was not included as standard equipment. The optional item was priced at $1.95.
As on a boat, every inch of space in the wagon is used, including a compartment under the second row of seats, which houses the tire changing tools.
Now that Gross once again is in possession of a wood-bodied Ford station wagon he says this one is here to stay. “I’m from the ’40s,” he declares, “and so are my cars.” — Vern Parker
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2008