In Summer Shape: 1954 Mercury Monterey Woody Wagon

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For summer and beyond, here’s a stylish option primed to haul those bathing suits, surfboards, and picnic baskets – a 1954 Mercury Monterey woody wagon on craigslist. The asking price is $34,000 and the new owner can drive it home from Castle Rock, Colorado. Henry Ford was the first to generate a production run of wood wagons, inspired by Durant Motors’ 1923 Star, the first woody on the market. Ford believed in vertical integration – the idea that a manufacturer should own and do nearly everything required to transform its widget from raw materials to final product – so he purchased hundreds of acres of timberland in upper Michigan to supply his factories with birch, maple, and sweetgum. Boards were made into siding, trim, headliners, and roofs, while the leftovers were packaged into charcoal briquettes and sold under the “Kingsford” brand name. The first wagons were utilitarian but by the early 1930s, the woody had gathered an upper-crust clientele – they’re the folks who had staff to strip and re-varnish all that wood once a year. By the 1950s, manufacturers had figured out that buyers would go for faux wood trim – fiberglass with decal inserts on this Monterey. The new look was much cheaper to build and to buy, and much easier to care for. The “faux” fad had legs – we were buying “Squires”, “Estates” and Pintos and Town & Country’s well into the 1980s. In fact, I found a vehicle made from 2002-2004 with faux woodgrain sides – anyone know what it was?

Ford wasn’t the only maker pursuing the woody market, but despite the proliferation of models, production numbers remained limited. Aside from the extra care a woody required, they were expensive and heavy enough to sap performance. The advent of Ford’s 256 cu. in. Y-block V8 was helpful, boasting an output of 161 hp- up substantially from the flathead V8 at about 125. This example is equipped with a Merc-O-Matic three-speed automatic from Borg Warner. The motor and transmission were rebuilt in the last few years, and the radiator, exhaust system, and many other components were replaced. A disc brake upgrade was performed – a beneficial swap from the original drums given the unruly traffic we all live with these days. The seller has receipts for the work performed. The odometer stands at 64k miles, stated as original, and the wagon “runs perfect”.

The two-tone interior is in nice condition, with minor fading, wear, and mismatched colors on the upper dash. The cargo area is especially spiffy. The seller suggests restoring this wagon or driving it as-is; I don’t think any feature is bad enough to warrant a restoration. I love the funky gauges, and the aircraft controls above the steering wheel for the ventilation system.

The underside shows off the new-ish exhaust and otherwise testifies to a reasonable level of care throughout this wagon’s life. If this woody seems familiar, we wrote it up in January, when it was languishing on eBay at a starting bid of $20k with no takers. Just as woodies were a niche market when new, they’re not everyone’s cup of tea today either. Thanks to T.J. for spotting this one for us again!

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  1. RayTMember

    The 2002-2004 “woody” was a model of the Chrysler PT Cruiser, yes?

    I think the $34K ask is a couple of bags of Kingsford too high; in all probability, the seller is trying to get all the money for his service/upgrade work, and that’s reaching. Looks like the fiberglass needs some work, and new Di-Noc is definitely called for.

    Still, looks like a fun cruiser, and I wouldn’t kick it out of my garage.

    Like 8
    • Michelle RandAuthor

      You are absolutely, perfectly correct – the PT Cruiser. Does anyone know if any “woodies” were made after that date of any other make/model? I couldn’t find one, but I didn’t look exhaustively.

      I agree on the price. This wagon didn’t get a bid at $20k when I wrote it up last time – that should be a clue of either market disinterest at that price, or just the wrong venue.

      Like 9
  2. Mike

    Another car on the list that should be pulling a canned ham trailer.

    Like 2
  3. MKG

    I remember in the late 50’s being at the Drive-In Theater(anyone remember those,lol)in the back seat area(seats down) and falling asleep. It was this exact model.
    I love wagons to this day.

    Like 8
    • MKG

      O BTW I was 5yo at the time.

      Like 5
  4. JTHapp JTHapp

    This model Mercury wagon, (in the same livery), was featured to comedic effect in 2023’s Wes Anderson movie “Asteroid City” … a film that disappeared rather quickly…

    Like 5
  5. Marshall

    Not a bad little wagon. Price to to high. Come down to earth an it will sell to the right gal or guy..

    Like 4
  6. Mike Fullerton

    I remember driver in theaters. I was born in ’53. My first driver in was when I got my license in ’70. Took my gang of friends in my dad’s ’66 Plymouth Belvedere wagon. Good times. Maquoketa, Iowa still had an operating Drive-in last summer, not sure about this year.

    Like 4
  7. donilo antonio UDTFROG

    WISH i had seen this before, I live next to Castle rock, it would be in my driveway now.

    Like 3
  8. rabadooMember

    Come on good people! Little pricey….but the Hula Girl is worth a grand, yes??

    Like 4
  9. John PrillMember

    Great write-up, Michelle !! I have always wanted one, and the price seems right to me, By the way, every year there is a “Woodies on the wharf ” car show in Santa Cruz, CA, with at least 100 woodies parked on the pier, with some rare stuff (most memorable was a Packard woody that I saw there). Happens once a year on a Saturday (one day only in the past) in June.

    Like 3

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