By Val Schoger; Photos by Jeff Pitts
Kent Forster, son-in-law Bill Bradford, and grandson Ben Bradford have a common hobby: Antique cars. They own several rare vehicles – among them a 1941 Plymouth Woodie Wagon which they bought in Massachusetts. “This car was owned by one family for decades and has undergone a complete restoration and looks exactly like it did the day it was originally built.” states Kent Forster. “Most of the wooden cars were sold to people who used them for recreation back in the day and there are probably only 100 or fewer of the Plymouth Woodies that are still driving around today.”
The first Woodie was the 1934 Plymouth. The chassis was shipped to the U.S. Body & Forging Company plant at Tell City, Indiana and a station wagon body was installed on the Deluxe PE chassis. The wood body was constructed of cottonwood panel . 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. 1938 was a year of big change in the Plymouth wagons. The body moved back to the passenger car chassis and the wheelbase shrunk to 112 inches. Production fell slightly to 555 units . Not bad considering that the recession of ’38 sliced Plymouth production by nearly 50 percent. There was a price hike to $880 per unit.
They were 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’, ‘carryalls’ and ‘suburbans’. 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 base price was up slightly at $1,031 each. Perhaps the impending war clouds in Europe aided sales–or the economy’s upswing or both–wagon sales increased to 5,594 units on the Deluxe P12 chassis with an additional 217 mounted on the P11 chassis.*
Old cars with character get Kent Forster‘s attention. “I am fascinated by all cars that were made in the ‘30s and ‘40s. They call them full fender cars because of the bulky looking fenders and the running boards. I particularly like the Woodies because they were handmade, and they are not made anymore. They are special, they are a piece of history.”
All of the vintage cars owned by the Forster and Bradford family have found a permanent good home. “We are car collectors and are not planning to sell them. We are passing the cars down to my grandson Ben, and I hope he will not think about selling them until he gets to be my age.” Kent Forster says with a smile.
The cars are kept in driving condition at all times. “All of us drive the Woody every now and then. We make sure to only use non-ethanol fuel in our cars and yearly oil changes are a must.”
The next addition to the collection will be a 1951 Jaguar, or perhaps an Austin Healey. “However, sometimes we will go to a car show or auction looking for a specific car but then we will fall in love with another car there and bring it home.”* Source: HISTORY OF THE PLYMOUTH WOODY, http://plymouthwoodys.com/history.php (accessed on June 28, 2014)