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Plymouth Deluxe Woody Wagon, Red, for sale in Warrensville Heights, Ohio, for $57,900.
This Plymouth is fully sorted and ready to enjoy, with great cosmetics and a wonderful demeanor on the road.
The writing was on the wall in 1949—the era of the woody wagon was drawing to a close. The reason was simple: all-steel bodies were a lot cheaper to build and far easier to maintain. Plymouth introduced the all-steel Suburban late in 1949, and still sold nearly 20,000 of them, while the woody, which had been around from the beginning of the model year, sold only 3443 copies. Armed with that evidence, the Plymouth accountants quickly discovered that the math was simple, and the expensive woody was phased out of production in 1950.
This lovely Special Deluxe wagon is one of those 3443 woodies built in 1949, and sources indicate that there are no more than a handful still in existence. Fortunately, this one has been restored to be driven and enjoyed, not stashed away in some dusty museum. We estimate that perhaps as much as 80% of the wood has been expertly replaced, and the end result is beautifully finished and solidly constructed. The original white ash framing components can be spotted here and there, but the overall integration is so nicely done that the entire car has a very consistent look and feel. Whatever the percentage, there’s absolutely no rot or damage to any of the wood components today. The rear window frame appears to be original, and shows a very minor split that has been repaired, but it is completely invisible when the tailgate is closed. The only other possible issue with the body is that the driver’s door fit is slightly off and requires more effort than the other three doors to close, but this is something that is easily rectified by a handy owner.
The painted sections of the car are finished in Rio Maroon, one of three available colors available on the 1949 Plymouth Special Deluxe wagons. Paint quality is quite good, and modern urethane paints were used so it will be durable and easy to maintain. It has also clearly been sanded and buffed, as the surface is smooth with a deep shine to all the sheetmetal components. Much of the chrome has been restored, including the absolutely irreplaceable drop-down rear bumper and swiveling brake light fixture in the center of the tailgate, while other components such as the hood ornament and nose trim appear to be excellent original pieces. The stainless trim, including the bright fender guards, has been polished to a high shine. Overall, it’s a very appealing package with wonderful patina that makes you want to drive it everywhere you go.
On the road, you’ll be comfortable in the nicely restored passenger compartment. All three rows of seats feature new maroon upholstery in the original style, stretched over fresh springs and painted frames. Sadly, 1949 was the year that the wood and fabric roof on Plymouth woodies was replaced by a single steel stamping. As a result, inside there’s a matching burgundy fabric headliner in place of the finished wood bows of earlier cars, but it gives the woody impressive rigidity—this one is almost entirely devoid of squeaks and rattles. The gauges are all functional, even the ammeter, despite the conversion to a 12-volt electrical system with alternator. There’s a Model 803 Philco seven-button radio in the center of the dash, although neither it nor the original clock are functional (most likely due to the 12V conversion). Rubber floor mats were standard equipment, but this one has been fitted with matching burgundy carpets, perhaps from a sedan, and it’s a nice upgrade that helps keep the interior quiet. Aftermarket turn signals have been added for safety, the heater and defroster are functional, and the wipers work well. As I discovered recently, this is a car that you could happily use every day for bopping around town, and it makes friends everywhere it goes. One fellow even approached me in a parking lot and said, “You’re driving my ultimate dream car!” Such is the power of the woody.
It would be a mistake to underestimate Plymouth’s rugged little 217 cubic inch inline-six powerplant. It fires up almost instantly, idles smoothly with a great mechanical whir, and thanks to relatively tall 3.90 gears in the rear end, it’s quite peppy around town. While not detailed for show, the engine compartment is tidy and clean, and shows signs of regular maintenance and care. The block wears proper silver engine enamel, and all the original components are included, from the massive heater plenum to the oil bath air cleaner, to the dual trumpet horns up front, which are still 100% functional. The three-speed manual transmission slips through the gears easily once you’ve familiarized yourself with the column-mounted shifter’s operation, and a factory overdrive unit allows it to cruise easily at highway speeds. The overdrive’s operation is almost transparent, automatically shifting into overdrive at speeds over 35 MPH, and dropping out as you slow down. There’s a manual override switch acting as a kickdown, which momentarily drops the car out of overdrive for quick passing or hill climbing.
The chassis is clean and shows no signs of this ever being a rusty car. I continue to be impressed by the smooth ride and agile handling of these post-war Mopars, and the car feels quite modern in traffic. Steering is light, even at low speeds, the brakes are firm and reassuring, and that long wheelbase allows a smooth, comfortable ride that feels more luxury car than SUV. Tube shocks have been retrofitted, along with a set of 205/75/15 Coker wide whitewall radials that make it a pleasure to drive.
Woody wagons occupy unique territory in the collector car world. Even basket cases can command $25,000 price tags, and they are among the most expensive cars to restore, regardless of make or model. This Plymouth is fully sorted and ready to enjoy, with great cosmetics and a wonderful demeanor on the road. As I said, I can’t imagine a better car to drive every day in fair weather, and it loses none of the practicality it offered when it was new. If you’re looking for perfection, you’ll pay extra for it elsewhere, but if you simply want a cool old woody that attracts a ton of attention and drives like it should, this lovely Plymouth is an ideal choice.
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Engine:217 cubic inch inline-6
Location:Warrensville Heights, Ohio