HISTORY OF THE PLYMOUTH WOODY

1934-1937 1938-1942 1946-1948 1949-1950
(Most of the following information came from an article (copyright) by Jim Benjaminson and was first published in the Plymouth Bulletin)

1934-1937
The first woodie was the 1934 Plymouth. They shipped the chassis to the U.S. Body & Forging Company plant at Tell City, Indiana. and installed a station wagon body on the Deluxe PE chassis. wood body was constructed of cottonwood panels. Only 35 were built and unfortunately, none survive today. The price was $820 FOB and the only color offered was black. The same configuration was used in 1935 and 1936.

They were called called 'station wagons' because they worked primarily around train depots as taxi cabs. The modified back ends of the woodies were ideal for carrying large amounts of luggage. They were also called 'depot hacks', 'carryall's' and 'suburbans'. More details and pictures of the 1934-1937 woodies can be found HERE

1938-1942
1938 was another year of big change in the Plymouth wagons. The body moved back to the passenger car chassis and the wheelbase shrunk to 112". Production fell slightly to 555 units, not bad considering that the Recession of '38 sliced Plymouth production by nearly 50 percent. And in light of the price hike to $880 per unit.

The spare tire, which had normally ridden in the front fenders, was now mounted on the tailgate itself. Side mount fenders on the passenger car line had ceased with production in 1936. With the one year ride on the truck chassis the tire had to move when the body returned to the passenger car line. The wagon now rode on the deluxe P6 chassis.

Wagon production leaped in 1939 despite a price hike (the rest of the Plymouth lineup saw a price reduction in '39). The Westchester commanded a whooping $970 when equipped with glass windows all around ($940 for the side curtain version). 1,680 were built on the Deluxe P8 chassis while another 97 were assembled for export sales on the P7 Roadking chassis.

Throughout the year, the wagon saw a great deal of advertising, often in combination with the convertible coupe and convertible sedan models as the "New Plymouth Sportsman." Sportsman was a name used only by the advertising agencies--it never appeared on the cars themselves. The spare tire again returned to the front fenders on both the station wagon and the sedan delivery models. Wheelbase was 114".

The wheelbase increased to 117" with the 1940 P10 Deluxe models while the price remained the same as '39. Production totaled 3,126 units on the P10 chassis with another 80 built again for export on the P9 Roadking chassis. This year the spare tire found a home on the inside, mounted in the center of the front seat back, while glass windows became standard equipment. As in years past the wagon had three seats, with the two rear sets removable. One set of seats was narrower than the other, allowing for an aisle along the right side of the vehicle for rear most seat passengers to gain access to their seat--however the seat mountings allowed either seat to be interchanged.

A major change came with the wagon offerings of 1941. For the first time the buyer had his choice of finishes to be applied to the outer wood work. The frame was made of white ash but the wood work panels could be finished in either white maple or Honduras mahogany.

The war-shortened 1942 model year saw only 1,136 wagons built at a price tag of $1,145. The buyer again had his choice of wood finish and this year a full length piece of chrome trim adorned the body. The wheelbase remained at 117"--it would stay at that figure until the end of P15 production after the war's end and the "warmed over" post-war models through 1948. More details and pictures of the 1938-1942 woodies can be found HERE

1946-1948:
Following the war as automobile production again got into full swing the post war buyer had to contend with car shortages, strikes and a seller's market. The P15 station wagon in 1946 listed for $1539-- if you could find a dealer to sell you one for that, or any other price. By 1948 the same wagon was selling for $2,068 The two tone wood treatment was still offered but the application of chrome trim amounted only to the hood and the cowl. More information on the 46-48 models can be found HERE

1949-1950:
The high cost of production of the wooden bodies, plus the nearly constant upkeep required, were distinct disadvantages of the station wagon. The all steel body was stronger, safer, required less upkeep and was cheaper to build. So why not apply those principles to the station wagon? it was a good idea, or so the production people at Plymouth thought. And for 1949--they acted, introducing the industry's first all steel station wagon. They called it simply the Suburban. By 1950 these metal bodied station wagons were out selling the woodies ten to one.

1950 was the last year the woodie was built. Essentially the same as the previous years offering, with a wheelbase of 118 inches and a price tag of $2,372, only 2,057 were built. With the end of the woodie so ended an era -- the last of the wood bodied cars. Progress had marched ahead several steps and the woodie wagon could no longer compete effectively in the market place. The cars were expensive to build, and expensive to maintain. More information on the 1949-1950 woodies can be found HERE

Maintenance, or the lack of it, is probably the reason so few woodie wagons remain today. The factory recommended redoing the wood work yearly--for most owners that was a service procedure that was ignored. Dry rot, termites, fire--all took their toll on the wooden bodies. An auto accident -- forget it, most body shops wouldn't touch a repair on a wooden body for love or money.

The woody had probably survived longer than it really deserved but they were--well, the only word to describe them was "cute." They had a certain charm, a certain elegance that far outweighed their utilitarian purpose and design. For a bottom of the line, qualsi-commerical-passenger vehicle they were seen in the best of places. Somehow the all steel wagon never enjoyed that status.

1934-1937 1938-1942 1946-1948 1949-1950
First Plymouth wagon 1934. None are known to exist today

Testing area of a Plymouth plant in 1948

Engine assembly line 1948

A brand new 48 going through its final test runs

Magazine ad for a 49
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Magazine ad for a 39
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