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Wood Bodied American Icon: 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster Woodie

The wood-bodied station wagon has become an American icon.  Something about them connects Americans back to the pioneer days, the surfing movement, and Hollywood during its heyday.  While that market has cooled a bit, there are a few good buys out there for collectors who can maintain one of these iconic vehicles.  For example, this 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster wagon is for sale on eBay in Antioch, California.  While not a frame-off restoration, this very presentable Chevy has been bid to $25,100 with just three days to go.  What figure do you think it will end at?  Thanks to T.J. for this Fleetmaster find!

As previously stated, woodie wagons bring back memories of an America that has long since passed.  Wood-bodied vehicles harken back to when wood and iron were the primary materials to build wagons with.  From there, early cars were formed with bodies primarily made from wood sourced in the virgin forests surrounding the Detroit area.  As the ability to create accurate metal stampings progressed, those panels were attached to wood frames.  Then, as the technology matured, wood all but disappeared from production lines.

Despite this supposed progress, customers still clamored for vehicles with wood bodies.  Depot hacks and station wagons carried passengers and their luggage to and from train stations.  Sportsmen used the cavernous cargo areas of these vehicles to haul tents, fly rods, and other play toys out into the wilds of America.  In Hollywood, studios used these vehicles to drag around the lights, props, and cameras that made all those classic motion pictures possible.  As time wore on, used woodies were the vehicles of choice for surfers looking to hang ten on the nearest beach.

Yet, like many vehicle categories that have come and gone, interesting this once-hot section of the market has waned over the past decade.  Part of the problem is that the folks that coveted these distinctive vehicles when they were new have mostly passed on.  Another issue is that many of the folks who specialized in reproducing the wood needed to restore such vehicles have abandoned the marketplace for various reasons.  Even if you can get the wood reproduced, the number of potential craftsmen who specialize in wood-bodied cars is small.  If the wood is sound, then it still requires an occasional refinishing to keep it in good shape.  That is a lot to ask of some folks it seems.

If you are buying a woodie because you love them and aren’t too concerned with long-range investment planning, then this 1948 Chevrolet may be the ticket.  The seller tells us that the car was their grandfather’s vehicle and that he was the first owner.  It has been garaged its whole life, and that shows in the condition.  The seller believes that the car has the original paint and interior.  It is advertised as rust-free and has accessories such as a spotlight and a heater/defroster.

There is surface rust underneath the vehicle, and that is to be expected on an original car that was used as normal transportation.  Whether the stunning maroon paint and light brown interior are original is up for debate.  What is not debatable is that this running and driving woodie is a very nice looking, useable vehicle that would be a star of any collection.  There may be a decline in the prices of vehicles such as this, they still are an awesome sight to behold.  Hopefully, this one finds a good home and stays protected for another few decades.


  1. "Edsel" Al leonard Member

    An American icon….one you don’t see very often…Henry Ford owned thousands of acres of timber in the U.P. of Michigan to supply his factories and others for wood frame components on bodies..This Chevy is a fine example of the quality of wood and craftsmanship necessary to produce a remarkable car..there are still craftsman around today that can recreate the wood body parts…but they are few and far between..and expensive. As Jeff says, the market for these 40’s car are rapidly drying up with the elderly population checking out..If I had the room I would pull the trigger…would look nice next to my 1928 Willys- Knight.

    Like 9
  2. Skip Good

    Not original carburetor, original was a Carter W1 with a glass sediment bowl.

    Like 3
  3. Tbone

    I’m confused. Where are the obligatory pictures of surf boards on the roof or sticking out the back of the car? Seriously, I hope they get top dollar because of the lack of that nonsense. Yes, I am officially becoming a carbon copy of my late father, who was, without a doubt, A GRUMPY OLD MAN!

    Like 12
  4. Maggy

    If I lived out in a rural area slower paced environment down south I’d love to own it. Up north here people are crazy on the roads which are congested already and getting worse by the year.I’d like to drive it every day for basic errands not just a go to the car show car which is what people around here do with classics like this.The inside looks like being in a boat.Really cool beautiful car.Wonder why it has a newer vin tag? Did they not have vins when this car was made.Just asking because I don’t know.Never had a 40’s car.If it was my grandpa’s car I wouldn’t sell it but I’m sure some circumstance is forcing a sale or maybe a lack of interest in it? Who knows. Glwts.

    Like 8
  5. "Edsel" Al leonard Member

    You can get replacement titles, and replacement VIN tags from the DMV with certain restrictions and conditions…..

    Like 5
  6. TheOldRanger

    I love this “woodie” and I saw quite a few as a kid. I was 6 years old when this one was on the streets. I liked the “wood” when it was polished… smelled nice and was shiny. If I owned this or something similar, I would have a tough decision…. to be cremated or to be buried in this one… LOL
    Beautiful car…..

    Like 8
  7. William W Nietsch

    Amazing car!! Being a retired Union Carpenter, that wood work is absolutely fantastic, incredible labor involved. Love to see it in person.

    Like 6
  8. chrlsful

    these are some of my fav.s When the roofs started to ’round’ & have perimiter steel. If not woody I like the P. Suburban esp if one was a ‘steel woody’, it’s look-a-like the wolwo Duette and of course the Binz wagons for mercedes~

    Like 1
  9. GitterDunn

    It’s in really impressive condition for original. By its presentation, I would have assumed it to be a fine restoration with modest mileage. Stunning car! I’d guess an easy $50k for the final price.

    Like 4
  10. Marty Parker

    Looks like a 47 to me.

    Like 0
    • GitterDunn

      I can’t tell ’47 and ’48 Chevrolets apart – what’s the difference?

      Like 1
  11. 64 bonneville

    Every 4-5 years, lightly sand and put 3 coats of marine spar varnish on the wood, inside and out to preserve it. Just like owing a wooden boat.

    Like 3
    • maggy

      …or a picnic table. I do the same thing. Man o’ War marine spar varnish.

      Like 0

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