The Woodie vs the Wooden Body Tub
In today’s world of carbon fiber, steel, and aluminum auto body parts, we often forget that real wood was regularly used. In the 1930s and 1940s, American car makers used actual wood to enclose the passenger compartments in style. These lovingly named “Woodies” had an interesting history. The first Woodies were custom crafted cars with attractive wood paneling, then as World War II cause the production of automobiles to stop, carmakers turned pre-existing sedans in to station wagons by using wood paneling to extend the length and usefulness of the vehicles. Today, the Woodie is synonymous with California surfing.
Falling from Grace
Eventually, the Woodie went out of style not because people did not like the way it looks, but because the cars required so much maintenance. The real wood paneling had to be cared for like wooden furniture or floors. Eventually, the wood was completely replaced by steel – which was easier to maintain and safer in accidents.
Body Tubs Made of Wood
While the Woodie is the most popular “wooden” car today, there was another car with a wooden body: the body tub style. This style was used predominantly in speedy European designs and is reminiscent of the style of car that Gatsby drove during the Roaring 20s. These designs were seen in the Austin Healey 100 in the 1950s and eventually in the MG TF from the same decade. The body tub style was made of wood and when turned upside-down resembled a bath tub. To make the car look regal and classic, car makers put sweeping fenders on the front, as well as wire grilles and wheels. While the Austin Healey and other MG models were instant favorites, the MG TF was shunned because it was not different enough from its predecessors.
Now, the two different styles of cars are highly collectible. Finding an original Woodie, like a 1942 Mercury or a 1939 Ford can set you back over $50,000 and in some cases over $100,000. If you want to buy a body tub style wooden car, like an MG TF, you can find nicely maintained models for around $20,000 or fixer-uppers for closer to $6,000.