Woodies Car Show at the Beach
By Robert Bernstein
Woodies were back at the Beach again on Saturday! Not sure how long we can enjoy such events before things are shut down again due to people not getting vaccinated for COVID.
Here are my photos.
Actually, it was at Santa Barbara City College West Campus, not quite on the beach.
But you could kind of see the beach from there.
The event was completely free and was a labor of love of the National Woodie Club. Members converged from around the Western US for the occasion.
I enjoyed talking to some of the participants and learning the story of their Woodies and of Woodies in general. These guys Howard Minnick and Tom Parsons shared some of their stories and information and I could relate to them as fellow engineers. The car in this photo belongs to Howard (the guy on the left) who was up from Newport Beach.
He said that he spent $100,000 just having the wood restored by a skilled craftsman. He did much of the rest of the restoration himself.
Most car companies in the early 20th century made Woodies at some point. The car in the foreground of this photo is a Packard. Behind it is another Woodie from "The Blueberry Inn" of Newburyport, Massachusetts. It was for sale for about $60,000. Given what Howard spent to restore his Woodie it is clear that restoring these works of art is not a way to make money!
Howard and Tom explained that not one car company ever made money selling a Woodie. The fabrication of the wood was very labor expensive.
They explained that Henry Ford partnered with Edward Kingsford to buy a forest in Michigan to supply wood for Ford's cars back in 1919. Kingsford used scraps of the wood from Ford's production line to make charcoal briquets. Yes, the same charcoal briquets that are still used today for outdoor barbecues! They are still made from industrial scrap wood.
I had mistakenly thought that Woodies were originally meant to save money. But Ford always intended them to be a luxury item. What is true is that old Woodies that had fallen into disrepair were cheap buys for surfers in the 1950s and 1960s.
I took a look inside of Howard's Ford and was in awe of the restoration. I was curious how he got the gauges to look like that. He said they are all original. He just carefully cleaned them up. He said the hardest part was recreating the fake wood on the dashboard. It required using a stencil roller with the wood grain pattern and carefully rolling paint to create the pattern. It required great care to be sure all of the individual panels had fake grain that lined up properly.
Some people made their own fake Woodies with modern materials, like this guy and his Smart Car.
This 1929 Ford was chopped in two and a Boat Tail was added on the end to make it a rather unique Woodie!
I overheard this woman in blue talking about cycads and I asked her if she knew about the cycads at Lotusland. She said she knew all about them. And she invited me to take a good look at the cycad in the back of her Woodie and to note the artwork she had made on the ceiling of the car. She lives now in Las Vegas, but she stores her car in Oxnard.
Here is the front view of her car. Note the amusing license plate "PLYWUD". You can see many such Woodie puns in my photos.
Here are a couple more such plates.
Another special treat was meeting local resident Paul Fritz who keeps this 1914 Ford Model T with a Touring Body running like new! Some of the Woodies at the show looked original on the outside, but they had updated innards. This one has the original engine and quirky transmission. It still needs to be cranked by hand to start it.
He admitted that the carburetor is not the original 1914 unit. No. It was a 1912 unit that replaced the original! It also had an add-on transmission at the rear differential to allow it to climb hills better. But the main transmission remains.
It has just two speeds and it is shifted with a floor pedal that combines clutch and shifter. And it has to be coordinated with the hand brake when starting up. The "gas pedal" throttle is a lever on the steering column. The steering column also hosts a lever to control the timing of the spark. It is not the same as driving a modern car!
I will leave you with a few more of my photos.