1 Of 11 Left? 1956 Powell Station Wagon

Here’s one you don’t see very often. Or maybe never. Because only about 150 of the Powell station wagons were ever built. The Powell brothers had an interesting business model – using junkyards as a source of parts to build their vehicles, which was limited to station wagons and pickup trucks (called sport wagons). As such, the parts supply was eventually erratic at best. This 1956 station wagon was in a fire not long ago, but somehow the body seems to have survived without warping. An extensive restoration would not come easily, so the seller suggests it might best serve as yard art. This rare vehicle is located in White City, Oregon and available here on eBay for the Buy It Now Price of $1,000. Thanks, Darrun, for finding this unusual tip for us!

Hayward and Channing Powell were two brothers from Southern California who were small-time industrialists that found themselves in the custom car business after World War II. They had been making motor scooters before the war and thought that building personal transport vehicles with four wheels would be more profitable than two. Being sportsmen themselves, they thought there would be a market for a car for guys like themselves who wanted the utility of a Jeep but also wanted a more comfortable driving experience. In doing so, they may have created the first Crossover SUV.

Their business model was to build it cheap and sell it cheap. So, area junkyards would serve as a primary source for parts. The Powells settled on the chassis and drivetrain of the 1940-41 Plymouth as the basis for their vehicles. While these cars were long out of production, the scrapyards were ripe with donors. Powell’s peeps would scout around and collect the pieces needed and send them off to be refurbished and rebuilt. The reborn components then went to the Powell factory where they would be married together. Bodies were made of stamped steel and front-end clips were made of fiberglass. Bumpers and tailgates were initially made of oak wood, then later steel.

One cool feature of both the station wagon and sport wagon was an optional storage tube that slid out from a compartment between the inner and outer sheet metal. It was meant to safely store long thin items of the sportsman’s trade, like hunting rifles or fishing poles. The Powells decided to get out of the car business in 1957, not because business was slow, but because of supply chain issues. A business model that includes a smattering of junkyards as an integral component meant that this was not a long-term, sustainable strategy. In other words, they ran out of used parts. Over the course of nearly three years, they managed to produce at least 1,000 of the sport wagons and maybe 150 of the station wagons.

The seller was not only able to find this station wagon, but also a sport wagon which is in much better condition and now the focus of his attention. Out of just 11 of the station wagons he says are on the Powell Registry, only three of them are known to be driving examples. This relic was in a junkyard (poetic, huh?) in Napa, California that caught fire, but much of the Powell was saved. But it’s very rusty and missing its hood (the seller says you can make a pattern from his other Powell). All the glass is gone, but since it’s flat glass, it would not be hard to replicate. Adding to the misery, the doors are hard to open, the wiring is all gone (burned up?), the engine is seized, and the status of the transmission is an unknown. But an extra Plymouth (maybe Dodge) long-block with the head removed is part of the deal. For a look at what a finished Powell looks like, check out this one we covered a couple of years ago in Barn Finds.

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    One of my favorite Simpsons, ” Whether you’re going near or far, Powell makes a pow, pow, powerful car”. Looks like a treasure trove of parts for the one the other day. With all the fires, I hope it’s not the black one.

    Like 6
    • Miles Chappell

      Howard, you keep saying that, but I can’t find that episode. Can you post a link?

      Like 3
      • Howard A Member

        It’s hard to find Simpson stuff as it’s all copyrighted. After Homer ruins his step brother Herb ( Danny DeVito) car company, Powell Motors, which many think was a mockery of the Big 3 in Detroit, he finds wealth in a baby translator, and sings his car commercial to Maggie in the episode, “Brother can you spare me 2 dimes”.
        https://giphy.com/gifs/season-3-the-simpsons-3×24-3orif8rld5Tw4Hv5tK

        Like 9
  2. chrlsful Member

    “…last left…”
    “No”, didn;t U just show a nice blk restored 1? (or was that ‘the other channel’?). Here’s hopin he gives the nxt owner the hood pattern & other prts to get this goin…

    Like 7
    • Miles Chappell

      Hi, Owner here ! The wrecking yard guy says it blew off in the wind. i guess it could have, it was near a large body of water. I have 2 others here to make patterns off of.

      Like 4
      • John Ruth

        How’s the “much better condition sport wagon” coming?

  3. Arby

    Their first names were Hayward and Channing?
    Definitely not from my neighborhood…

    Like 2
  4. Al

    I like the first photo. This vehicle comes with it’s own eaves-trough, too bad they were not filled with water before the fire.

    Like 7
  5. DON

    Looks like there’s only 10 now it seems ,,once steel gets in a fire, its all over. Even the carburetor has melted . The fact you have to replace everything on this car (and these parts aren’t going to be easy to come by) , You could probably buy a totally restored one and still have a ton of money left over. This one is crusher bait .

    Like 8
    • Charles

      Donor 1940-1 Plymouth and Dodges are cheap and easy to come by, and the sheet steel has no compound curves. Just have to have access to a steel supply house and some simple sheet steel forming equipment. Unfortunately I have equally challenging projects and Powells don’t trip my lid, or I’d look a little closer at it.

      Like 1
      • nlpnt

        So, basically use it as a template to build a new Powell from scratch?

        I’d rather have the old Plymouth, and if you want something with the Powell’s level of versatility, I can direct you to the late-model section and the class of vehicle that’s becoming the default car…

        Like 4
      • Howard A Member

        Actually, I believe it’s why Powell wasn’t a bigger success, because they actually ran out of Plymouths after the scrap drives and rather than retool, just closed the doors.

        Like 2
    • Miles Chappell

      The radiator didn’t melt and it was behind blazing fiberglass, explain that one? I have all the glass, of course it’s all on the floor in amazing artful shapes.

      Like 1
  6. Steve Clinton

    Looks like it backed into 2 freeway guardrails.

    Like 4
  7. Rob Hoover

    Matchbox has a 1/64 scale pickup in their current offerings!

    Like 6
  8. It's Not That Bad

    But, But, Guys, It Ran When Parked….

    Like 4
  9. Spridget

    I love weird, small-brand American stuff, Powells included. For a car company that made very cars and had very few parts, this is one of the most easily repaired. The running gear, dash, and chassis are 1941 Plymouth, the windows are flat glass, the front end is fiberglass, and most of the body is made from simple straight steel welded on.

    But there’s no telling what the fire did to the body’s structure, and it’s already pretty rusty. If all that is too much to overcome, think the best use for this one is donating some of it’s hard to find (and maybe savable) parts, such as the fishing rod holder, roof rack, trunk lid, bumpers, and doors to another Powell, and it’s easily worth $1,000 in that respect because of how rare these are. Of course, you’d have to actually find another Powell that needed donation, and that’s the tricky part.

    Like 1
  10. Darrun

    If it was 2500 miles closer, I would own it. I tried buying one in Texas, but the seller was moving in a few days, and said the neighbor would take care of it when the shipper arrived. I decided that one wasn’t for me. Someday, I’ll find one on this side of the country.

  11. Richard Haner

    after having been through 2 fires and exsperiencing what they do to anything 2 or 4 wheeled,thinking this doesn’t have warpage or that there is anything still useable within what’s left is a stretch at best,sorry to say…yard art is going to be about it….

    Like 2
  12. 6t7gta
    • Gus Fring

      Nice find 6T7GTA…that’s cool. Not my cup of tea but, cool.

      Like 1
      • 6t7gta

        Mine neither, but we now know where 2 of the 11 are, I guess.

    • chrlsful Member

      that’s the 1 I saw (chrome caps to the 2 drawers) Mr. ‘stang…

  13. Miles Chappell

    If you go to the Powell Registry you have a pretty good idea where all the Powells are. Only 3 drivers we know of. The blue one – sold recently, the black one – on eBay and there’s one in the LeMay Collection
    http://clubs.hemmings.com/powellregistry/

    Like 1
  14. Tom S.

    This would be just the thing to haul your Powell Challenger minibike. 👍

  15. chrlsful Member

    thnx for the powell registry connection. I like the l o n g WB station wagon…similar ‘notes’ from a chevy suburban, checker wagon, etc.

    Till the blk wagon a few days ago I was aware of the p/u only. Pretty kouwell !
    Thank you~

  16. HARM R SMIT

    I want one for my plumbing business.Those pull out trays sold it for me. No more bending down looking for a washer.

  17. Emanusa1

    I know of an original Powell truck in Tehachapi Ca. in a wrecking yard. been there for ever with 500 more cars.

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