Rare Woodie: 1949 DeSoto Deluxe Station Wagon

Wood-bodied station wagons were on their way out by the end of the 1940s. They were expensive to build relative to the number that were sold. Steel-bodied wagons were starting to materialize and would be the way to go starting in the 1950s. DeSoto produced a Woodie for two short model years, 1949-50, with as few as 1,000 being built across both years. This 1949 edition has been in storage for many years and could be used as a display piece or become the subject of an expensive restoration. It’s offered in Hiwassee, Alabama and available here on eBay where the bidding has reached $4,650 but the reserve has not.

Station wagons made with wood were beautiful, well styled and crafted machines. Their fine woods required almost as much maintenance as a wooden yacht. Proper care meant yearly varnishing, and yet the wood could still rot and sections would need replacing. Also, the wood was subject to changes in temperature that would cause wood to expand or contract. Screws and bolts had to periodically be tightened to avoid squeaks and rattles. Construction of these wagons was laborious and expensive process in additional to the rigors of maintenance.

For whatever reason, DeSoto got into the fray with other Chrysler divisions and built a Woodie wagon for the second half of 1949 through the middle of 1950. The seller indicates his 1949 edition is one of about 850 made, although other resources suggest 1,000 is the total number for both years. DeSoto would switch to all-steel wagons by late 1950. The Desoto Deluxe Wagon looked very much like the Chrysler Town & Country.

Back in the day, this ’49 DeSoto Woodie must have been a beautiful sight. But the hands of time have greatly impacted the wood pieces, which are the main selling points of a vehicle like this. The white ash and mahogany doors are faded and cracking with misses falling off or missing. Beyond dealing with any rust on the metal portions of the wagon, recreating this wood will be time-consuming and costly. But don’t discount the cancel in the fenders, fore and art, and the holes that can also be on the undercarriage. Portions of the interior looks good, all things considered, although we can’t tell about the front seat as there is a blanket covering it.

Under the hood resides what is likely the DeSoto’s original 237 cubic inch inline-six which would have been good for 112 hp back in the day. Reports are that the engine was more response than the numbers would suggest, saying it was a smooth performer. Perhaps that’s because it has a high-compression head, good ignition system, and low-friction internal parts designed to reduce wear. A 3-speed manual transmission was standard on these wagons. The seller says the motor turns freely and the wagon will roll, steer and stop using the emergency brake.

It will need a complete restoration, but at what cost? Certainly this would be at least a mid-five figures classic once brought back the way it should be. But you’d have to raid a lot of piggyback to come up with the scratch to get it done. It this too ambitious of a project or should it be purchased to sue as some sort of display or advertising gimmick? For more on this limited production Woodie, you can consult articles in Hemmings and Consumer Guide.

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Comments

  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    I love this wagon. But I am constantly baffled as to why ChryCo seemed to invent so many cars that they would only sell in small numbers. Certainly this trend continued through the 1960s. How could they afford to tool up and build the Imperial, and only sell less than 10,000 cars year after year?

    Maybe unlike Ford, who goofed with the Edsel in spectacular but quick fashion, perhaps Mopar’s folly occurred one year at a time. I suppose the answer is that they were selling enough cars to absorb the losses?
    I have a lot of questions, but not too many answers!

    Like 6
    • Steve Clinton

      I have a theory about the Imperial. To remain viable as a member of the ‘Big 3’, Chrysler had to have a prestige line to compete with the Cadillac and Lincoln.
      I’m just glad they offered them, as every one of the vintage Imperials is now a valuable collector car!

      Like 5
    • Bob K

      Sorry, there are two bits of unclear thinking in your comment. (I was trying to find a way to phrase it more kindly excuse me)
      1. It’s easy to build a DeSoto station wagon to satisfy DeSoto dealers when the whole car is nearly the same as either the Chrysler or the Dodge until you put on the fronte end and the dashboard im final assembly.
      2. Certainly they expected to sell more Imperials when they created the body for 1957. And certainly they did not have the money to invest in the ’60s to make a whole new body shell to possibly not sell much more than they would by revamping the old one. there was never a chance that they could build up the name to sell even probably 25% of what Cadillac sold

  2. Had Two

    Bragging rights at any Woodie Station wagon get-together!
    Mine? Mine is that Desoto!
    WOW!
    Looks great. If only there was room in the garage……sob

    Like 2
  3. Bob C.

    112 horsepower from a flathead six is kick @$$! The Ford V8 was still at 100 at this point.

    Like 2
  4. Steve Clinton

    Does this car come with a termite inspection?

    Like 2
  5. robert lewis

    a lot of work to restore this 1…i do like the “air”conditioner on top of the steering column…i remember them now with the rubber blades…cool

    Like 1
  6. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    What a great view from the rear! That bumper and sculpted spare tire surround. This is practically in my back yard, perhaps I’ll swing by for a look.

    Like 2
  7. Jon

    I love that spare tire enclosure. Really cool. Was that a one year only design? Have never seen that before.

    Like 1
    • Larry Member

      Yes, the rear spare was in 1949 only. 1950 models did not have the rear spare. I might also bring up another thing also. There were only 750 1949 and 1950 DeSoto Woodie Wagons produced. I am by no means an expert, but I have a restored 1949 DeSoto Woodie Wagon with a little over 51,000 original miles. Tomorrow I will be listing mine for sale here on BarnFinds

  8. Jon Hilker

    Hey guys,

    Not to be critical, but this listing ended yesterday evening at 7:19 PM and this had just hit my email box/posted today at 10:13 AM. Too bad as I was interested.

    Like 1
    • NW Iowa Kevin

      Jon Hilker, reserve not met so maybe they’ll relist it…….for you.

      • Jon

        Yeah, I saw that shortly after I made my comment. I’m also guessing that the seller could be a flipper, since the car is on a car trailer.

  9. chris

    Owning several woodies in the past and a 51 Buick now, it is my experience that most woodworkers interest is in Fords. Restoring-replacing the wood will likely be a long and expensive process. For some reason woodie prices are unusually low right now so would recommend join the woodie club and find one where all of the very hard work has already been done! Once you do, it is very rewarding to own one!

    Like 2
  10. Kenn

    For a woodworking craftsman with time, this could be a really satisfying collector car without spending any more dollars than someone hiring out the restoring to a shop. Wish I had the time.

  11. Rex Kahrs Member

    My brother-in-law has several degrees, including a master’s in nursing. He also has a master’s in furniture design from RISD, and is a master woodworker, creating beautiful furniture that you wouldn’t believe. He even has a piece in the Smithsonian. He also restores cars! A woody would be perfect for the guy.

  12. Bob K

    This is an interesting car. As mentioned by Chris most of the interest in Woodys is Fords because they were the surfer car.
    To me an obstacle to the expensive restoration is that no matter how much you spend it’ll never be worth a decent fraction of what the Chrysler Town & Countrys go for. It will always be interesting but never iconic

  13. HC

    This Desoto woodie wagon is in way better shape than previous woodies youve had on BF. Rather do a Tin woodie instead, but this one is in pretty decent shape. Oh, if I only had the room and the money.

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