Woodie TrucksWhen someone says "station wagon,"
do trucks come to mind?
by Tom Brownell, Editor-at-large, This Old Truck™ magazine
Photos courtesy of James Duffy
I was giving my students a word association exercise trying to stretch their vocabularies. "Disparaging," I said. "At the disparaging remark his face blanched."
The truck-based woodie station wagons were ruggedly handsome, but also expensive, at least more so than a metal-bodied production counterpart, like a Chevrolet Suburban Carryall. The wooden station wagon bodies were combined with truck chassis for a couple of purposes: for use by resort hotels in remote scenic settings to transport guests to and from the nearest railroad depot, and for use as a medium capacity school bus, mostly by elite boarding schools. The station wagon body not only adapted the truck to a passenger load of eight or more, but the stiffly sprung truck chassis also supported the weight of hotel guests' luggage or a school athletic teams' sports equipment. Either could be a payload in itself, especially in the hotel setting where guests often stayed for an entire summer and packed their wardrobe in steamer trunks, which had to be stacked on the tailgate. To support the weight of the luggage, the tailgates were braced with iron strapping and suspended from chains or cables.
While truck-based woodie wagons never rolled down an assembly line, photos of completed production awaiting transit and delivery indicate the numbers ought to be substantially larger than the handful existing today. But, of course, life for such a vehicle would have been hard, and without care and maintenance-annual varnishing, indoor storage in winter, mending or repairing leaking roof fabric-the bodies would have deteriorated in short order.
The photos tell the story. Truck-based station wagons once existed in broad enough numbers that many people would have seen one-especially those who traveled to scenic resorts or lived near boarding schools. Chances are truck-based woodie station wagons have strayed into your peripheral vision too, if not in real life at least in magazines or books.
Let's try that word association again, only this time in reverse. Trucks. You got it. Station wagons.
Tom Brownell is a technical writer and Professor of Languages and Literature at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan USA. Tom is the author of more than a dozen books on trucks and automotive restoration and is Editor-at-Large at This Old Truck™ magazine.
This article was originally published as Tom Brownell's 'Reflections' column in the July/August 2001 (Volume 9, Number 3) issue of This Old Truck™.
© 2001 by Antique Power, Inc. Used by permission.
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