Revisit The Woodie, America’s Popular Family Station Wagon

The wood-paneled station wagon isn't seen on the roads nearly as much anymore but used to be very popular
The wood-paneled station wagon isn't seen on the roads nearly as much anymore but used to be very popular
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Many people have distinct memories of their first car. But they sat in the passenger seat before taking the helm as a driver. And that car, where they rode with others, has memories of its own. One popular family car that baffles people today and insights nostalgia for others is the wood-paneled station wagon. Or, simply put, the Woodie.

Did your family drive around in a Woodie? This unique design’s style mingled old and new, organic with artificial all in one vehicle. The front and overall shape belonged to a car, certainly. But around the body, large wood paneling made things interesting. What was with the Woodie? What made it so popular for a time?

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The woodie stood out even among other wild decorating fads

Woodie cars, wood-paneled station wagons, followed a trend for unique car detailing for a practical reason
Woodie cars, wood-paneled station wagons, followed a trend for unique car detailing for a practical reason / Wikipedia

Over the years, cars experienced a lot of wild treatments. Many got psychedelic paint jobs. But even among all that elaborate detailing, the Woodie remains unique. To some, the wood paneling looks bizarre, but it has a relatively practical backstory. During the advent of cars, they started as horseless carriages (though still had their power measured by a horse’s strength). Manufacturers became very familiar with building up these wood frames and appreciated the acceptable price tag they required to make.

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Industrial revolutions and evolutions made metal more commonplace, however. And with the metal came speed, ease, and hazards. Companies gradually transitioned over from wood to metal out of necessity, The News Wheel writes. But the wood stuck around in a different way. Why? Well, some things are consistent between now and decades ago. In this case, wood became desirable as a sign of prestige. Think back on the look of a wood steering wheel or detailing on the inside front of a car. Consumers liked that, even on the outside. So, manufacturers met the demand with wood decals.

All good things come to an end

Eventually, manufacturers offered a simulated woodgrain look to meet demand
Eventually, manufacturers offered a simulated woodgrain look to meet demand / Flickr

A lot of automakers took up options of wood paneling for some time. These include names like Plymouth, Buick, Ford, and Chrysler. Plymouth dropped out of Woodie production in the ’50s followed by Buick’s 1953 Super Estate and Roadmaster Estate Wagon.

And, even then, it wasn’t always the real deal. Eventually, companies take a cost-benefit analysis. They found they could simulate the woodgrain look (through means besides decals and the real deal) and offered that as an option. Consumers responded well enough, but by the ’90s, the woodgrain look saw less promotion and presence on American roads. But in the time before its final throes, it became a truly unique, iconic symbol of decades gone by. Did you ever drive in a Woodie? Would you want to see this style again?

What do you think?

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