First automobiles were mostly wood based, at least the chassis and body were.
By the time of the Model T – post WWI – the Depot Hack had become a practical vehicle for carting passengers and luggage to the train depot and back. A simple and functional design, the Hack proved to be quite useful and beautiful at the same time. Although, the market was very limited and manufacturers choose, usually, to contract with third-party builders to fabricate the wooden sections. A company like Mifflinberg built the woodies for Ford Dodge, Overland, and Chevrolet.
Following WWII, many people needed the low cost and spacious vehicles for the family. But the cars were not cheap. Costly to build and costly to maintain, the cars were the most expensive of the line-ups. Like a boat, the wood needed constant attention. The manufacturers were aware of the problem and began planning wagons of steel by the late 1940s. Ford, the most prolific of woodie builders, phased out the wooden structure cars by 1948. The Shoebox Ford (1949 – 50 – 51) was the last of these classics. From then on, they only appeared to be wood, but instead it was plastic or decals that simulated the wood of the past. Other companies did the same at about that time.
Woodies in the late 1940s and 1950s were disappearing into the ground – literally. Because an old woodie could be had for the savings of a teenager, these cars began to be picked up for service as beach transportation and surfboard transporters. They were, by that time, rough, but they could serve the purpose and helped to create a new image of Southern California life.
As the surfer crowd aged and accumulated wealth, the woodie represented a past that was attractive to the helter-skelter life-style of the 80s and 90s. The woodie parked out in the barn or field was dragged out for restoration. Some were customized, many or most were restored to their original elegance. Wood grain was carefully matched and wood-working skills developed. Today these cars can be seen and enjoyed at such events as "Wavecrest" in Encinitas, California every September. Woodies come from all around the country to participate, but most are California originals.