Ford Deluxe Woodie Station Wagon
Relations between Ford Motor Company and Murray Corporation of America, builder of Ford’s station wagon bodies, deteriorated during 1939. There was some finger-pointing over quality problems, and Murray was experiencing labor problems, which rankled Ford. Despite labor difficulties of its own, Ford had not yet settled with the United Auto Workers. New presses had been installed at the Rouge complex, enabling Ford to do much of its own stamping, which greatly reduced the volume of work outsourced to Murray.
This background of events led Ford to consider in-house production of the station wagons. Discussion with the management of the Iron Mountain operation, which was then providing the wood parts to Murray for assembly, resulted in a proposal for all body assembly to be done in the northern Michigan locale, and that bodies be sent to assembly plants fully finished and trimmed. The change took place at the beginning of the 1940 model year. Two hundred were completed by the first week of August, 1939, shipped for assembly in advance of the new model’s September 29 introduction date. There were 18 assembly plants in 1940, but wagon production was highly concentrated at a few of them. After Dearborn, the largest producers of wagons were Edgewater, New Jersey, Richmond, California and Chicago, in that order.
The bodies took on a much different appearance. The roofline was subtly altered, becoming more rounded at the windshield header. Panel spacing was changed, such that the lower panel became narrower, and the rear quarter panels were consolidated into one piece. The rear doors, formerly hinged at the back, “suicide” style, now swung toward the front. Glass was standard all around. The spare tire, housed inside in 1938 and ’39, on the back of the driver’s seat, was returned to the tailgate, where it had been located from 1935 to 1937. Deluxe wagons were given the option of maple or birch framing, while Standards came in maple only. Darker-colored gumwood began to be used for panels, in addition to birch, in both series. The choice of material was random. Bodies were given three coats of varnish, hand-sanded between each application.
Deluxe woodies also got an adjustable front seat, the same assembly used in the convertible. Seats for the Deluxe had the cushions faced in genuine brown Spanish grain leather. Dearborn management was pleased. Quality increased over that of the bodies built by Murray, at lower unit cost, and sales improved, topping 11,000.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in August 2009 at the Portola Hotel & Spa and Monterey Conference Center, Monterey, California and in June of 2012 at the Dingman Collection, Hampton, New Hampshire.
85 bhp, 221 cu. in. Flathead V8 engine, three-speed manual transmission with Columbia rear end, solid front axle and live rear axle with transverse semi-elliptic leaf springs, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 112".
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel