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Tin Woody: 1952 Chevrolet Station Wagon

The wood-bodied station wagons, referred to as “Woodies,” wouldn’t be embraced by the major automobile manufacturers until the late 1920s. Ford introduced their first production Woodie in 1929 while it was another 10 years before Chevrolet joined the fray. They were expensive to produce and seldom made money, so a shift began in the 1950s to go to all-steel bodies for all wagons. This 1952 Chevy Woodie was likely produced at the end of the run and located in a garage in Soquel, California. Available here on craigslist, this rusty example is offered for $6,000 OBO. Thanks for the lead on this one, MattR!

Most early woodies were built as estate cars and would be favorites with the rich and famous. The term “station wagon” was coined when resorts and the like would use them to transport patrons to and from train depots. These wagons were labor-intensive to build with a lot of hand assembly required. Ford even bought a track of forest known as Iron Mountain in Michigan as a source for lumber, while other carmakers would simply buy the lumber and have third parties build the wood bodies. Production would grind to halt during World War II and picked up again afterward, but the pent-up demand the buying public had largely ignored the wooden wagons. They would begin disappearing in the early 1950s.

This 1952 Chevy “Tin Woody” (as the seller calls it) sat for many years and water was able to get into the wagon, ruining the floorboards over time. They’re virtually see-through now and would only be of use to guys like Fred Flintstone. The Chevy wears its original green paint and sheet metal. While the floors are a mess, the exterior of the vehicle is in surprisingly good shape. There are some minor dents and a bit of rust on the bottom of the tailgate. The interior is going to need a complete makeover.

We’re told the car runs and moves under its own power, indicating that the original 216 cubic inch inline-six and 3-on-the-tree transmission are still functional. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some ills to be found under the hood, and no mention is made if the car stops on its own. The seller had planned on fixing the obvious things and then cruise around because they’re only original once. But time and likely other projects are working against this wagon and someone else needs to take the lead on this last of a dying breed (Chevy stopped building them at the end of calendar 1951).

The title is missing, and the car is no longer in the California DMV system (according to the seller), so it will be sold only with a Bill of Sale. In primo condition, wagons like this can fetch in the high five-figures, but the cost of restorations are expensive, particularly where wood is involved. A serious buyer might want to first consult with a shop that rebuilds these woodies to see what’s involved in bringing one back up to snuff.


  1. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    Yabba Dabba Do!

    Like 3
    • 370zpp 370zpp Member

      Frequently enjoyed words and expressions noted on Barnfinds that I enjoy:

      “Ran when parked”
      “just needs a recharge”
      “Yabba Dabba Do”
      “I know what I have”
      “What is he smoking?”

      Like 3
  2. Fred W

    If a repro floorpan exists, I hope for the sake of the new owner that the sedan pans fit the wagon, because other wise you will never find it!

    Like 3
  3. angliagt angliagt Member

    Nice to see this without a stupid surfboard hanging out the back.

    Like 11
  4. James Martin

    Bill of sale, and tin worms devouring this tin woody, 6000 is a bit over zealous. You would have to have pics of under carriage to se what else the tin termites have eaten.

    Like 2
    • chrlsful

      not for the location. Plenty rich in that area, just wish he would not keep calling it a woody. Its a paintie or steele or something like that…

      Like 1
  5. Eric_13cars Eric_13cars Member

    Comment failed to load after pressing ‘post’ so I’ll repeat it. Russ, you might check your information on when Chevrolet had a woody. Your definition might not be the same as mine, but when I was a kid, our next door neighbors, the Dugans, had a 1928 Chevrolet ‘woody’, metal front and running boards/fendors, and a wooden rectangular body. Pat, the dad, would fire it up every now and again and take all of us kids (they had 6 and us 3) for a ride up and down the road. It was a 4-banger with a 3 speed floor-mounted shift and mechanical clutch and brakes (no power steering or A/C :-)) and no glass windows except fo the windshield (it would have had canvas/plastic inserts). His brother-in-law, Mike, took it at some point after I left home and restored it. Never saw the restoration or knew what happened to the car ultimately.

    Like 3
  6. Hot Rod Lincoln

    I worked on one a few years back adding power steering to one that was hot rodded with a 350/350 combination. Beautiful car with the green and faux wood combination but a pain to add the p/s kit in.

    Like 2
  7. Bob the I.C.E man

    Oh my! A potential buyer needs to look beyond the Swiss cheese floor pans. The frames on these woodies were well made and could take a lot of abuse, but from what I can see through the floors, it is very likely the corrosion in the frame may be at a very expensive level of decay. No matter what, if you are a die hard woodie fan and want a solid dependable and presentable “driver”, be ready to dish out between $30,000.00 and $40,000.00 to do a frame off rebuild. They are not complex cars, but the scope of mechanical, body and electrical work warrants the aid of a well experienced shop. There are dedicated folks out there who may have the skills and resources in their own garage to put this woodie back in shape, time will be a factor right along with having sufficient funds in order to get things back in shape.

    Like 0
  8. Robert Thomas

    Looks like floor pans are available. https://www.hotrodssheetmetal.com/19chshme4.html

    Like 1
  9. hank

    WAY over ambitious on the price.
    First step would be to put it on a frame machine, square it up, and build a cage in it to hold the thing together. Hell of a project, definite hole in the garage waiting for buckets of money to be poured in,
    More like an 1800 barely together car.

    Like 1
  10. Bullethead

    Ford’s model A depot hack was built from 1919 to 1923, so the woody was embraced a good bit earlier than your timeline. At least as a work vehicle.

    As to this thing: GROSSLY overpriced. Realistic number is more like sub $2500 and that being generous. In the early 2000’s I helped a buddy build one as a period style rod, hopped up 235 straight 6 with all the vintage goodies. Think he paid $5,000 for a nice running car with minor rot, except the tailgate. Apparently they’re notorious rusters.

    BTW, the woodgraining was almost easy, the rubber tools are available to do it just like the factory did, and the results were terrific!

    Like 2
  11. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    Ah, the late 50s, early 60s. My father was a mechanic and machinist. He would buy early 50s Chevy and Pontiacs for around $50/$100. Do a little work on them then sell them at a profit. We had tons of ’51 and ’52 Chevy, but, never a station wagon.
    The family car was a ’53 Chevy. Have no clue as to what happened to that one. I think it was retired by 1959 because I remember Mom driving a ’53 Mercury, a ’49 Plymouth (how I hated that car!!!) And a ’56 Dodge station wagon. Then in 1964 we got a new ’64 Ford Fairlane.

    Like 1
  12. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    I have the Pyro “Table Top Series” plastic model of this car in 1/32 scale. One of my favorites. And it has floors and body parts that will never rust.

    Like 1
  13. Charles Sawka

    You guys crack me up. If this was a Mustang,Camaro,Challenger, etc. with no floors you’d be all over it. Easy fix , worth the money. This old banger will never be worth a lot but the labor to put new steel in its bottom is not much different. These old Chevy wagons have a cool vibe. Fix it and enjoy. It’s sometimes about the fun not the profit.

    Like 1
    • Ned D

      Well said Charles!

      Like 0
  14. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    Charles. For me it’s always about the fun. Never the profit.
    This car is one year older than I am. I’d love to have it and replace the floors. If I only had a place to keep it

    Like 0

    Beautiful potential. Floor pan still available stitched one into a convertible with the same problems. A lot of dirty work however.

    Like 0

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