At this year's Grand National Roadster Show, the building dedicated to woodies and wagons confirmed what we already knew: that these cool lumber rods are still a much-loved segment of the street rod hobby.
Phil Becker grew up listening to the surf-themed music of the Beach Boys. Images of sandy shores, crashing waves, and woodie wagons appealed to kids in Dwight, Illinois, but it would be many years and many street rods (including the '32 three-window coupe that was Goodguys' 2011 Street Rod of the Year) before Phil and his wife, Debbie, found the wagon that would fulfill their vision of California-style cruising.
A couple of friends, Steve Hayes and Don Bickell, located this original, unrestored '46 Ford station wagon in Northern California. It had been owned by a resort hotel and winery in Napa Valley and used to transport guests to and from the airport. After talking to Don and seeing some photos, Phil decided to purchase the woodie. Don picked up the car and arranged the transportation that would carry a slice of California culture to the Midwest.
Look closely. The same color used throughout the wagon is
repeated on the "pool cue" point
Dave Martin's expert woodwork extends to the custom-made taillight housings. The lens and
Exterior mirrors are from the Bob Drake Reproductions catalog
All the original wood on the Beckers' woodie was replaced by Dave Martin at New Old Wood in Brussels, Wisconsin. Hard maple forms the structure pieces with Birdseye Maple for the panels. Arvid Anderson applied the urethane finish.
The wagon, with its newly completed wood, was back in the Beckers' garage when a tornado tore through Dwight, ripping the roof off the garage and blowing in the overhead door. Boards from a lumberyard a mile away were driven into the walls of the garage, as though they knew there was a family inside. The woodie suffered a few dings and scratches and flying mud, but Phil's '56 Nomad, which was parked behind it, took most of the damage.
In addition to the wood, custom exterior details include a V-butt windshield, power windows, and bronze-tinted safety glass. Trim and bumpers were re-chromed by Jon Wright at Custom Chrome Plating in Grafton, Ohio. The paintjob was trusted to Larry Seabert at Tech-Ni-Kolor Autocrafters in Dwight. We'd call the color aquamarine, Phil calls it Just Green. Whatever the name, it's a nice combination with the maple.
More Birdseye Maple was used for the inside door panels. Overhead, basswood slats create a great-looking headliner. At Schober's Custom Interiors in Sandwich, Illinois, the upholstery was chosen to blend with the tone of the wood. New seats were built using the stock frames, lowered 2 inches. Tan leather covers the front and rear benches, and Juliano's seatbelts were bolted in. Additional leather appears on the kick panels and below the dash, where Phil mounted the speakers for the Custom Autosound hidden sound system. German weave carpet covers the floor.
The stock dash was painted and restored with repro trim from Bob Drake. Aluminum trim for the gauge cluster and glovebox were made by J&B Microfinish in Pontiac, Illinois. A full set of gauges came from Classic Instruments. Vents for the Vintage Air A/C unit were fabricated by hand. The stock column is topped with a Lecarra Mark 10 steering wheel.
For power, Phil installed one of Ford's most impressive engines of the 21st century. The supercharged version of the 4.6L 32-valve Modular DOHC engine was created for the '03-04 Mustang SVT Cobra. These were iron-block engines, handbuilt by Ford's SVT crew. This may be the only aquamarine one, but the paint is only one of many modifications made to the engine. In order to fit, the air induction system was rerouted through the passenger-side inner fenderwell with the K&N air cleaner located behind the headlight. The GM alternator was flipped and mounted backward, and U.S. Radiator built a radiator specific to Phil's unusual application. Phil constructed stainless exhaust tubes from the stock Ford manifolds; they are corked with Stainless Works mufflers.
The Ford Cobras came with five-speeds, and running the engine with an automatic transmission required reprogramming the ECM for the application, handled by The Detail Zone. The original column-mount shifter also had to be adapted for the automatic. An aftermarket shaft from Wilkinson's Custom Drive Shaft in Lafayette, Indiana, ties the trans to a Ford 9-inch with 3.73 gears and a Posi.
The wagon rides on the stock Ford 'rails. Everett Gray and Phil boxed the frame for strength and installed a custom frontend utilizing Heidts Superide coilovers and stainless steel spindles, and a Heidts front sway bar. The stock steering has been replaced by a power rack-and-pinion setup. The front bakes are 14-inch Wilwood rotors, ball milled and drilled, and matched with six-piston calipers. The rears are 11-inch Ford drums. The Kugel Komponents pedal assembly operates the Kugel master cylinder and Wilwood proportioning valve. The rearend is suspended by Posies shocks and semi-elliptic springs, with a Chassis Engineering antisway bar.
Schott Cover-Loc rear wheels are mounted on Strange axles. Phil chose 18x8 versions of the Octane model for the back and 17x7s for the front, dressed up with three-bar knock-off centers. Michelin Pilot radials are sized 235/60R18 and 205/50R17.
The Beckers had their woodie on the road long before it was finished. Their most memorable experience to date (even more than the tornado incident) was taking their four grandkids out for the wagon's first ride afterward. With the whole family piled inside on cut-down milk crates, Griffin, Maxx, Chase, and Eloise got their first taste of California coast–style cruising on the streets of Dwight.
When the woodie was finished, Phil and Debbie took it to the 2012 Goodguys Nats in Columbus—where their little Deuce coupe made its big splash the year before. Grandson Chase was there to help keep the wagon clean in the winners' circle on Sunday.
Just the Facts
Model: Woodie Wagon
Owner: Phil & Debbie Becker