Woodie Club celebrates vintage cars

Sep 16, 2019

Sunlight gleamed off impeccable cars on Saturday at the A.D. Makepeace property on Tihonet Road. The crowd hadn’t gathered for just any vintage car show, however. All the cars on display were Woodies: cars manufactured with wood bodies. 

The event was organized by the New England Chapter of the National Woodie Club, and members from as far away as Long Island drive to Wareham for the show.

Bob Nelson, the Long Islander, said that working on his car, a 1946 car, is therapeutic: “I go in the garage, work on it, and solve all my problems.”

He has put hours and hours into fixing the Woodie, which needed a lot of work when he first purchased it -- something that the casual viewer would never guess. 

Part of what makes Woodies special is part of what makes them so challenging to maintain: They are, much more than other cars, made from living things. The wood, the leather, and the rubber are all natural materials, and, as such, are more vulnerable to nature’s whims. 

Nelson recalled getting stuck driving through a downpour during a cross-country road trip he took in the Woodie. One of the rear doors swelled with moisture and was stuck shut for days.

Another longtime Woodie owner, John Irving of Falmouth, spoke to the fragility of Woodie cars. To truly maintain the cars and keep them in good condition, owners must sand and varnish the vehicles each year — a process that Irving said takes two full days of work. If the car was poorly maintained in the past, that process takes even longer.

Irving’s Woodie, a 1934 Ford Beach Wagon, has been in his family since it was manufactured. The wagon was purchased by Irving’s grandfather, who drove it his whole life. After he died in 1959, the wagon went to his mother. Irving learned to drive in the Beach Wagon, and has since driven it across the country. He has only had to replace two pieces of wood on the wagon.

Irving was awarded first prize for his car, Mike Halter of Mattapoisett won second place, and Bob Nelson won third place and the long distance prize for driving the greatest distance to the event.