Nonsurfer’s Ford ‘shoebox’ woodie
May 17, 2013
Everyone knows that Ford woodies are the ultimate “surfer dude” car, made famous by the Beach Boys. So, everyone who owns one is or was a surfer, right? Wrong.
Some people, like Craig McGovern, just love the looks of these cool station wagons.
He got the bug for a two-door station wagon when he cruised around with a friend in his buddy’s ’56 Ford Ranch Wagon.
Like the more famous woodies and Chevy nomads, surfers loved them because they had plenty of room for their long boards without being a family-with-kids, four-door station wagon.
True, Craig and his friend were in college in Arizona so they cruised around the desert instead of the beach, but sand is sand.
However, for many years he could not afford to have a collectable car, as well as a daily driver, so his love went unrequited.
About 13 years ago, a different friend in Idaho told Craig that he was going to sell his woodie and wondered if Craig wanted to buy it.
Craig knew the car was in great condition and was ready to hop on a plane, cash in hand.
Then came a second call, saying, “Sorry, but my grandson wants it.”
Fast forward to 2010 when the same friend calls to tell him of a ’49 Ford woodie for sale in Visalia.
No doubt guilt caused his friend to try to make up for jerking the other woodie away at the last minute, but the car sounded worth checking out.
The owner had taken a hit in the financial downturn and decided to sell it to finish a ’41 Merc woody he was restoring.
A week after he first looked at it, Craig went back again on a Wednesday.
It was slated to be loaded on a trailer that Friday to be sold at the big swap meet at the Pomona Fairgrounds in SoCal, so he bought it and drove it home.
The Ford had been customized, but in ways that left the car looking fairly stock. The wood and paint were in great condition, as was all the upholstery.
The whole body had been removed from the original chassis and put on a 1980 Monte Carlo frame, with modern suspension and front disc brakes.
It was powered by a Chevy 350 CID engine trimmed out in polished aluminum and chrome, and mated to a Turbo 350 auto trans.
Much of the exterior chrome had been shaved for a cleaner look and the three-piece rear bumper had been made into a one-piece with the tail lights frenched into it.
In place of door handles, solenoids electrically opened the doors.
For comfort, it had Vintage Air air conditioning and a tilt wheel, as well as power steering, brakes, and windows.
All the VDO gauges had been frenched into the dash.
Everything had been done right and it all worked together beautifully.
Driving his woodie home, Craig had the only problem he has ever had with the car.
The intake manifold had a leak that had been patched up with silicon. When the engine warmed up, it popped out.
Not a serious issue, one easily solved by pulling off the manifold and reinstalling it when he got home.
Obviously, the previous owner had done the restoration competently.
Considering he has gone on a run to Woodies on the Wharf in Santa Cruz with fellow Roamin Angel and woodie owner Dick Teague and kept up with him (no small feat), Craig is more than satisfied.
So if you see a cool-looking ’49 Ford woody cruising through town, replete with numerous surf decals and a custom-made wood surfboard rearview mirror, don’t be surprised if no surfboards are hanging out the back.
It might be Craig and the main beach he grew up with — the sounds of the Beach Boys.
For more about Ron Cherry and his writing, see http://www.rlcherry.com. For more information about the Roamin Angels Car Club,visit http://www.roaminangels.com, call 530-432-8449, write to Roamin Angels, PO Box 1616, Grass Valley, CA 95945, or just stop by IHOP on Taylorville Road some Friday at 6:30 a.m. for breakfast.