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A 1936 Chevy woodie wagon - hope to learn more about my car


John kiernan

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A 1936 Chevy woodie wagon purchased by my grandfather in the early seventies was passed to my father in the nineties. He started a restoration on it before his health failed. I have the car now So If anyone can assist me in obtaining historical and/or current information pertaining to this model vehicle, I have not been able to see any examples of this car. I am looking forward to returning it back to the condition it deserves. I am new to this forum and not sure if I’m posting in the right location so any advise would be helpful as well. 

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John, first I would join the National Woodie Club, P.O. 82886, Lincoln NE, 68501-2886 or membership@nationalwoodieclub.com. Dues are $40 and includes the "Woodie Times" magazine. They also send out a roster of members that lists the type of Woodie each member owns. That will give you access to other owners of your type vehicle. You have a fairly rare vehicle, as there is only one 1936 Chevrolet listed among the members. Can you post a few pictures?

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Hello John, Your car is almost certainly a custom bodied vehicle since Chevrolet did not sell station wagons until 1939. Is it a car chassis or a truck chassis? An outside body builder such as Cantrell or Campbell built the wood body on the Chevrolet chassis. This was a common thing to do back then but custom built survivors are very rare now. Like the previous posters suggested, join the National Woodie Club and post some pictures here. On this forum there is a National Woodie Club category at the bottom of the forum home page. Unfortunately, it does not get much traffic but there are a few knowledgeable people on it. I am restoring a custom bodied car like yours. Mine is a 1940 Lasalle woodie station wagon. The wood body was custom built on the Lasalle chassis in 1940 by the Meteor Motor Car Co. Of Piqua Ohio. I am aware of only one other Lasalle woodie built by Meteor. Depending on how complete your car is, you may have to do some research to do an accurate restoration. Is there a decal or nameplate of the body builder anywhere on the car? 

 

Before the car manufacturers started selling their own station wagons, the bigger woodie builders had standard wood body designs they advertised to install on common car brand chassis that the buyer would supply to them. Ford was the first car manufacturer to offer a station wagon in 1929 on the Model A. Most of the rest followed in the late 1930's. 

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If the car has a Cantrell ( built Huntington, NY) body the identification would be a decal on the interior center door post up towards the roof , or perhaps on the dashboard - but unlikely. Cantrell paid for advertisements in society magazines like The Spur and Country Life as they knew that , that was their market- people would buy their wagons to haul their dogs and transport them to train stations ( train travel to destinations was prevalent then not air travel) BUT most of their ads show their bodies on Dodge chassis, do not know of any on Chevrolet chassis. To the best of my knowledge Cantrell did not print and give out a sales folder on cars with their bodies , the only one I have in the later 1930s is for a 1939 Packard.

WG

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Thanks For the info Tom, I have a four door sedan parts car that has the same front end and frame. I will get photos up, it was a running complete car before dad started disassembling, I have a complex puzzle to work with. It’s back to rolling chassis but not setup in my shop currently (barn storage). I’ll get photos together and posted!

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One thing that's certainly refreshing is that people are restoring "Woodies". John and Tom, good luck with the restoration of your Chevrolet and LaSalle, as you probably know Tom, there is only one other LaSalle listed in the Membership Directory of the NWC. It's great to see unique Woodie body styles be brought back to life.

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What you have is a Station Wagon, commonly called a "Woodie", with wood construction from the cowl back. The Chevrolet Suburban has metal construction and was the predecessor to todays suburbans.

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2 minutes ago, 46 woodie said:

What you have is a Station Wagon, commonly called a "Woodie", with wood construction from the cowl back. The Chevrolet Suburban has metal construction and was the predecessor to todays suburbans.

Agreed.

 

This the Chevrolet Suburban.

10aths046.jpg

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Rocketraider,   Woodie body builders such as Cantrell or Campbell continued to build wood bodies for Chevrolet truck chassis into the mid 1950's even though Chevrolet was selling car based woodie station wagons at the same time. 

 

John Kiernan,   Yours is a car based woodie station wagon. Not a Suburban. Early Suburbans had sheet metal covering the inner wood structure. Remember to post picture or info about the body builder label. 

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  • Peter Gariepy changed the title to A 1936 Chevy woodie wagon - hope to learn more about my car
13 hours ago, John kiernan said:

60 flattop say” suburban with no metal skin”, mine looks like a car front end, I’m trying to absorb this but still a bit fuzzy!

 

Not quite, I meant that to someone unfamiliar might see a partially disassembled Suburban with only the wood framework and not know metal was supposed to cover it. They could assume it needed more wood.

 

Nice looking front end on those cars.

012.jpg.381c9443455e76628d843b92e87c1621.jpg

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Great advertisement posted by Graham Man. It complicates the definition of "suburban" however. Chevrolet produced a truck based vehicle with a wood framed body covered with a metal skin they called the Suburban model. It seems Cantrell called their all wood station wagon body placed on Chevrolet car chassis a suburban also. I conclude the term "suburban" was a generic term in the 1930's referring to a light enclosed utility vehicle, like "suv" is today. 

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The term "woodie" is one that current collectors call a station wagon that has a wood body. Most of the wood bodies  ( total not an add on trim ) were made in 1953 and earlier ( note I state most not all) .

Think of the name station wagon - it harks back when you took a horse drawn wagon to the train station - trains were the main transportation for masses of people next to a horse drawn vehicle. The term suburban was used by Cantrell even up into the late 1930s for its bodies. See the ad posted here. See the Cantrell history in Hemmings Classic Car magazine.  To my knowledge no manufacturer of station wagons ever sold their cars as "woodies" it is a modern term used by collectors. The definition and use of a particular body style name gets clouded as years go by and 'experts' then chime in and use a word that is a general /loose description and not what the builder or factory named it when it was new. When General Motors started to manufacture steel bodied suburbans ( first I see is for 1934 and on a Chevrolet chassis that they had a separate sales folder for) on a fairly larger scale number wise, they also used the term suburban.

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An old friend of mine (now passed) restored a '41 Cantrell bodied Chevy "suburban" that he purchased from "Mr. Chevrolet", Pinky Randall. Some of the engine components and engine casting numbers seemed off. Turns out Cantrell was sourcing at least some of their chassis from Oshawa,Ontario. Something to watch for as you get into it.

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John, I think that what you will find out is that "Woodie" Station Wagons are a truly unique vehicle. Where ever you drive it, will get thumb's up and honk's from everyone. It's a great community that I have found to be welcoming by all involved. What I mean is that when I drove from Long Island to California to Wavecrest, the largest Woodie show in the world, all wooden cars were welcome. I saw restored car's parked next to Woodie street rods and no one had an issue. The term that most Woodie" owners say is that, "It's all about the wood".

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Hello John, there is  a story on the history of Cantrell written by Walt Gosden in the April 2020 #187 issue of Hemmings Classic Car magazine. ( the same Walt G who posted on this thread). 

 

Also, are the pictures you posted of your Chevrolet woodie current? It looks like the original wood can be saved and refinished. That is tremendous. There is no such thing as an easy restoration but yours appears "easier". 

 

Your Ford and Nova look nice also. Palm trees?  are you in florida or california or somewhere in between?

Edited by Tom Boehm (see edit history)
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Yes John we do drive it, life is just too short to not enjoy it. I restored it once and God willing (I'm 73) I'll do it again when and if it needs it or the kid's can do it. The only issue we had on our trip from Long Island to California was on the return trip. We took the entire month of September and had three days of rain, from Cleveland to Long Island. Then, we pulled into our garage, unpacked the Woodie and took our modern car to HERSHEY the same day!

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And just to add more confusion to the historic meaning of a "suburban"? Let us not forget that some automobile manufacturers during the 1910s called their enclosed drive limousines a "suburban". Open drive limousines also often became called suburbans. Pierce Arrow I know did, a good friend has a 1915, and I have seen era advertisements for them.

The etymology of the word "suburban" is actually NOT "sub" as in below or beneath. However it means "nearby" (a lesser known old definition that rears its head from time to time). "Urbs" literally means city. So "suburban" as related to automobiles literally means intended for near city use, or often for transportation to and/or from outside the city. During the 1910s, a number of automobile manufacturers used "suburban" synonymous with "sedan". Center-door style sedans (as well as others) during the teens were often referred to as suburbans.

Over the years, use of the word altered the meanings and perceptions somewhat.

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Which makes me wonder if we (or the northeast in particular) was the only place where the population commuted to work on the train and live far enough from the station to need to drive. Hence the"station wagon" which I am sure goes back to horse drawn daze.

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