Though STREET RODDER magazine has run across folks who have built their rides in their home garages, it can be safely said this is the first time we've ever heard about a hot rodder who personally cleared a forest to build himself a woodie.
Kay Woodworth was a heavy-equipment operator in Illinois for many years. A typical job included building roads, and he'd have to clear out whatever was in the way in the course of laying out the route of a new highway, which sometimes included a bunch of trees.
At one particular job, Kay noticed he was about to clear a group of hard rock maple trees-the ones that feature a swirled tiger-stripe grain in them. Being an avid gunsmith-he builds his own black powder rifles-Kay knew the wood could be used for his rifles, so he asked if he could clear the trees on his own time and take them home with him. Permission granted, Kay set out with his chainsaw to take down each tree, cut them into 12-foot lengths, and take them home each day in the back of his pickup truck.
Well, that was more than 20 years ago, and the maple had since cured nicely up in his attic. After using some of the wood for his rifles, Kay decided to use the wood he'd collected to build himself a woodie-not that he'd built a car from wood before or had any plans or blueprints to follow, but it seemed like a good idea.
Locating a rusty Model A heap of a body (and only a body-no fenders, hood, and the like) got him what he needed first: a cowl. Kay and his wife, Sharon, live in Jacksonville, Illinois, and used the family room downstairs as a place to do the build. Kay laid out some plastic to cover the carpet, carried a chassis into the room, set the cowl on it, loaded up a bare Flathead block, and then began to figure out what he first needed to cut from his stockpile of maple.
He shaped the boards himself using mostly handtools (files and saws) and fitted each piece together using a pin and mortise method, hiding the screws wherever he could. The main design element was to make the body rounder than the original, square shape Ford had made its woodies. Over the next four years, the vehicle took shape in the family room, and when Sharon dusted around the house, she dusted the woodie, too. It eventually became a conversation piece when people would come by for a visit.
The Woodworths aren't the hicks they portray in this photo, but this is the body Kay start
In the meantime, Kay was out at swap meets and gathering more parts and pieces, such as the fenders and the hood, for his ride. One thing Kay always has to explain to folks is he calls his woodie a '29, though the cowl is a '30. However, the chassis, fenders, and running boards are all '29, and it's registered as a '29, so he doesn't get too tired telling everyone why it's a '29, even though it looks like a '30 at first glance.
Though he had placed a bare Flathead block between the framerails for sizing, he didn't assemble the "real" motor downstairs; that was done in the garage (like normal!). Starting with a '51 Merc 272, Kay hand-polished the aluminum heads he'd picked up from Motor City Flathead, added an Edelbrock dual intake with twin Stromberg 97s, then fitted the Red's Headers and Smithy exhaust before doing the wiring himself. The engine is backed to a Ford C4 transmission with the aid of a Flat-o-Matic bellhousing.
Suspension-wise, the woodie's needs were basic, so a parallel leaf system out back, provided by POSIES, used with a Chevy S-10 rearend (the S-10's 48-inch width was perfect for the project) worked great. A tube axle from Pete & Jake's and wishbones from Speedway Motors help make up the front suspension. For rollers, Kay chose 14- and 15-inch Vintage Wheel Works smoothies painted a light yellow, wrapped in 195/75-14 and 235/75-15 Coker Classic wide whites and topped with '46 Ford caps.
Kay handpolished the aluminum heads he got from Motor City Flathead before adding them to
Kay also decided to use a '36 Ford dash he'd found with this project, and he blocked and sanded his woodie before painting it in his driveway using a PPG Indigo Blue-he even used PPG spar varnish on the wood sections. The body's flat panels are 1/4-inch marine birch plywood, while the solid wood interior ceiling pieces are the tiger-stripe maple and bass wood slats, all of which was hand-carved by Kay. And, because he knew what he was doing, no screws or fasteners are visible anywhere; the hinges used for the fold-down tailgate can't be seen, either. He said the hardest thing about building an entire body from wood was making sure each side looked like the other one.
The vintage theme used on the exterior of the car was carried through to the interior with the installation of a '40 Ford column and '36 banjo wheel, and the covering of the Glide Engineering seat in blue velour was accomplished at H&H Upholstery, and about the only thing Kay didn't do on his vehicle. He and his wife also stretched and attached the waterproof top material in his driveway.
The whole assembly took about five years to complete, and the Woodworths drive their Model A everywhere (STREET RODDER found them at the NSRA Nationals last year) and have rolled up 24,000 miles on the odometer, none of them on a back of a trailer. Sharon and Kay enjoy the reaction of people who see their ride as well as the smiles it seems to bring to people's faces. They believe this car is evidence of what can happen when you have an "I can do it myself" attitude, and we couldn't agree more.