Former Tin Woody: 1951 Chevrolet Deluxe Station Wagon

It is said that tigers don’t change their stripes, so I guess it’s true that wood doesn’t change its grain, unless it’s painted over as is the case on this ’51 Chevrolet Deluxe, formerly a “tin” woody, station wagon. Located in Washington Court, Ohio, this Chevy is available here on eBay for a starting bid of $6,500, no bids tendered as of this writing.

By 1951 Chevrolet, and most other station wagon builders eschewed real wood and went with painted wood grain over steel, designed to look like the real thing. The “wood” trim for this Deluxe was positioned along the upper belt-line and across the tailgate. The sculpted panel is clearly visible on each side of this wagon but is now painted the same color as the rest of the car.

No doubt about it, old station wagons are popular and Chevrolet wagons of this vintage are not that common. This one has rust problems and the seller is straight-up about it (but you have to read his listing carefully, it’s written like an e.e. cummings poem). There is rust in the doglegs and rocker panels but he adds that he has replacement doglegs. From my vantage point, it appears that the rust in the quarters is pretty significant too and it’s going to take a lot of metal work to rectify the ruin. Additionally, the front and middle floors have “problems” too but there is no further explanation as to how big a problem. There are also cracked side windows to add to the shopping list. The seller claims that the frame is “great” but there is no verifying documentation provided.

The exterior appearance has a sort of Desert Storm vibe going on with the bland, beige paint job. Unfortunately, the paint job got carried away and there went the wood grain. It could be reproduced but it would be pretty low on the list of things that this former woody really needs.

The interior is rough. The seller indicates that the plywood side panels need some work, yeah, like replacement. I was confused about what he was referencing at first but he means the door cards. It’s a bit ironic that a woody in 1951 has real wood but it’s on the inside and not the outside. As for the front seat, fuggedaboutit. The rear seat, however,  appears to be more intact. This Chevy has the obligatory detritus of other odd parts, including a second steering wheel, positioned in posed locations throughout the interior.

So, what powers this former woody down the road? Chevrolet’s 216 CI inline six-cylinder engine, good for a middling 92 HP. How’s it run? Well, the seller states, “was running and lot driving [shifted ok, brakes stopped, engine smoked a little]but now starter/wiring/battery is bad and it wont start[6 volt]”. Translation: It doesn’t. It sounds like initially, there is an electrical problem with other things to follow. Typical for the era, this Chevy has a three-speed manual transmission.

Old station wagons are cool but I don’t think this one is $6,500 worth of cool and with no bids at this point, I would imagine there are others who would agree. How about you, if you were in the market for an old station wagon, what do you think would be a fair price for this former woody? Or, knowing what you now know, would you just pass regardless of the price?


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  1. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    A desirable wagon but lots to do here. The interior needs everything and there’s a lot of rust to tackle. Then there’s the mechanical problems to address to get it up and running. The color is about as boring as you can get but if you could replicate the faux wood finish, that would help. These aren’t particularly rare so considering the condition and the starting bid, I’d be inclined to look for a more solid wagon to restore.

    Like 9
  2. local_sheriff

    I seem to observe so many variations over the tail light theme on bomb era wagons – single center mount, dual flanks, single flank, and here single center with teardrop flanks. Anyone old enough to remember whether this was due to state specific regulation or simply up to the manufacturer / owner…?

    Like 2
  3. Roger

    This was my first car. My older brother gave it to me when he left for Vietnam. Fortunately, he did return and let me keep the car. He bought it for $150 back in 1966. Lots of good memories with him and the tin woody wagon. Too bad this one needs so much work. I will wait for a more solid example to appear. Single taillight and all.

    Like 3
  4. The one

    A bit on the crusty side fer sher

    Like 2
  5. Robert White

    The asking price is bang on IMHO. I seriously don’t see a problem with the pricing at all.

    Nice resto project with everything required over the whole thing so it could be quite the project for someone that likes long term rebuilding & frame off rotisserie.


    Like 1
  6. Charles Moorehead

    Nice parts car !!\
    Nobody wants to be in a old Chevy wagon for $40,000 thats what its gonna take at least!!

    Look for something COOLER FOR SURE!

    Like 1
  7. Lance

    I think you meant to say it’s location was Washington Court House, Ohio

    • Jim ODonnell

      Right! The “House” part fell off.

  8. canadainmarkseh Member

    Anyone that thinks you have to spend $40k to do up this car is clearly getting someone else to do there work. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again a good scrounger / diy guy could get this looking and driving great for under $10k as for wood on the outside there’s this little thing called rapping a car it costs a fraction of the price of a custom air brush paint job, after all it’s a tin woody or should I say a fake woody anyway, and rap materials have come along way. As for that engine it would be out of there in favour of a 1960’s 250cid engine if it were mine.

    Like 2
  9. Little_Cars

    @canadainmarkseh — I believe you mean WRAPPING. Don’t think rapping will help this car in the least. Funny, I’m not sure if the paint on what little wood there was makes the car look better and possibly even preserve it….or conversely did it lead to the severe rust out over that passenger rear fender arch and bottom of the lift gate. Either way, a cool project that Rescued Rust could have cruising the streets in about two episodes.

    • canadainmarkseh Member

      I guess I didn’t make my self very clear the wood textured rap would come after body work and paint. I have seen this done before and it looks just as good as if it were painted on. Make no mistake this is a “ tin” woody and even the factory faked it on. My reference was for the average guy with no wood working skills. I on the other hand would use real wood in the form is cedar strips steam bent to conform to the shape of the car. That is a much more difficult process and much more time consuming. I’ve seen this wood effect done where wood grain rapping so put on first then real wood is used to border it. Now if it was a real woody it would be a whole new ball game. Note: the new vinyls being used today are of superior quality to what was being used by the manufacturers in the 60’s through 80’s. Lots of fake woodies made back then by the big three.

      • canadainmarkseh Member

        By the way little cars thanks for the spelling lesson I always like it when the spelling police come out to comment. I know I’m just a lowly old mechanic / welder you know us old trades men aren’t that bright. Funny how you were still able to understand my comment. Notice how I miss spelled wrapping again just for you.

        Like 1
      • canadainmarkseh Member

        By the way was makes the car look better should be would make the car look better. Maybe the grammar police should come out and pay you a visit.

      • Little_Cars

        Early Christmas gift for me, thanks for doing that just for me! Say, I agree with you on using the modern method to introduce wood back onto this wagon. I seem to recall on the woodies I knew growing up in the 1960s not only were the centers done with contact paper, but the trims were clad in a contrasting wood pattern over metal or plastic. So wrapping wouldn’t be too far from what the factory would have done if they had that technology in 1951.

        Yours truly, the Grammar Police

        Like 1
      • Robert White

        Is Miss Spelled available for dates?

        Bob [Church Lady of spelling]

        Like 2
      • canadainmarkseh Member

        I believe miss spelling is available for a date as is her sister miss management who will date anybody. Let me no how your date goes. As for you Mr little cars may you have a Merry Christmas

        Like 1
  10. Del

    Another non runner for big bucks.

    One day to go and no bids.

    The market has spoken again

    Like 1
    • Robert White

      All hail price discovery & free markets.


      Like 1
  11. Puhnto

    People keep mentioning the faux wood trim being painted over. It’s my recollection that the cheaper versions of these old Chevy wagons were just painted one color. No wood grain. Only the more expensive models had the wood painted on. And somebody correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t remember the “wood” being painted with realistic grain back then. Just a wood-like color. The fancy graining is something done on modern, over-the-top restorations, isn’t it?

  12. Robert Routson

    I would like to thank the canadian fellow who has a great eye for turning something a little ragged into something cool. I recently purchased this car for a fun little fixer up project i can do with my sons (13&10). The frame turned out to be completely solid! i have ordered new floor pans and will be installing them shortly since i done have to pay anybody to do my work. The thin wood door panels are smoked but an easy fix if again, you do the work yourself. Once i got it home we had it running and driving in about 2 hours. The previous owner wired it up like a 12v system and not a 6v. Replaced the generator with a new one $73, Fresh charge on the battery and correct wiring and it starts right up every time. I have less that $6500 in the car including the parts i have mentioned. So to all of you boyd coddingtons on here with the “sunshine and 75” cars, stop and rethink why you got into cars in the first place. and ps. if anybody knows where i can find a couple parts for this thing, please email me. Thanks and happy trails!

    Like 2

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