(first posted 11/20/2016) From the 50s through the early 90s, nothing said success like a fake woodie wagon in the driveway. Like the vinyl roof on a Brougham or Limited sedan, it spoke of prewar elegance, without the cost and maintenance of genuine wood. Virtually every brand slathered DiNoc on the flanks of its premium wagon at some point in the CC era. But who did it best? And who did it worst? Before you answer, let’s take a short trip through the history of fake woodies.
Until 1949, all car-based station wagons were real woodies, but the new all-steel Plymouth Suburban proved a well-named hit with the flood of new suburbanites. And for most brands through the mid sixties, all-steel wagons were just that, with nary a hint of wood, real or fake. There was a brief transition period, with GM bodies stamped and sometimes painted to resemble wood panels, but by the mid-50s the mark of a high end wagon was two-toning and chrome, like this ’55 Town and Country.
Except for the wagonmasters at Ford, that is. Ford went all-steel with its ’52 wagons, but its top-of-the-line Country Squire featured DiNoc clad body sides with real, but non-structural wood framing, with a similar look on the high-end Mercury Custom wagon. Fiberglass replaced the real wood mid-1953 and the paradigm was set.
Still, it took awhile for the idea to spread across the industry. AMC was the first, featuring some interesting shapes outlined in chrome on its late 50s Country Club wagons, and by the mid 60s Chrysler and GM joined in as luxury became the new watchword for wagon buyers. From then the until the minivan and the SUV killed the American station wagon, fake wood told the world you’d arrived.
What type of fake wood, how it was framed, and where it was placed varied from brand to brand, and sometimes from year to year. Early 70s Dodge Monacos put it up top, while at the same time Plymouth Satellite Regents went down below. And if fake wood wasn’t enough, Mercury would gladly add a vinyl roof.
So when it comes to fake woodies, who nailed it, and who failed shop class? Fire away.