WOODY FOR HIRE – VIC AND FIONA WILSON’S 1940 FORD WOODY WAGON

When business becomes pleasure, it’s hard to draw a line between the two…

One of the greatest attributes of our beloved automobile is its ability to transcend the many and varied cultures and sub-cultures dotted all over the globe. Not only that, it positions itself as a highly-regarded, almost worshipped, integral part of those lifestyles. Cruzin continues to highlight the unbreakable bond between cars and music from what could be described as the golden years of both. The ‘50s spawned a global explosion of both including the birth of hot rodding as we know it.

At the same time, rock ‘n’ roll music was providing a spiritual freedom for the youth of the world, some of them sought it on the crest of waves. Both here and in America a surfing sub-culture was entrenching itself on the beaches of both countries. Although rock ‘n’ roll and its rebel car movement has maintained a high profile, the car was far more imperative to the surf scene. Not only did surfers need to get to the beach, they needed something to carry their boards on. Back in the fifties surfboards weren’t as compact as those of today that can be accommodated by a fold down rear seat of today’s sedans and hatches. Surfboards in the ‘50s were commonly about 10 feet long so as such, wagons and vans were the most popular mode of transport due to their surfboard-friendly roofs. Not only that, but either form also offered sleeping quarters for extended stays or long trips. 

Vic and Fiona Watson have been surfies all their lives, their addresses never straying far from the big blue and when he’s not getting wet in the waves, Vic is reconfiguring terra-firma in the earth-moving industry. As young surfers they embraced all aspects of the culture, including the cars, their image enhanced by cruising around in a Volkswagon Combi or Manx – you might know the latter as a Dune Buggy.

As respective career paths meant less time at the beach, the surf toys were abandoned for more conventional transport but they both maintained that one day they would relive their motoring youth. Moving into their mid-late forties their passion and participation in surfing is showing no signs of wavering, in fact they’ve ramped it up.

In recent years their beach-bound rides have again included a Kombi and Manx, the former a classically restored two tone wagon. This time they have also ventured out into Yankee iron in the form of a big block ’67 Camaro – convertible of course. It may not carry the ‘boards but there’s not many better rides for coastal cruising. Check them all out at www.woodyssurfcarhire.com.au. You may naturally think that Vic is the man behind the machines and for the most part you’d be right, until it comes to the ’40 Ford Woody Wagon. Its acquisition and subsequent business establishment has almost entirely been the result of Fiona’s foresight and feats. 

Due to the overwhelming interest shown by the general public in their existing fleet of vehicles, Fiona considered that maybe this had the potential to morph into a surf based vehicle hire company. While Kombi’s were, and still are, entwined in the Aussie surf culture and tre’ cool, the pinnacle of surfing automobilia is the Woody wagons of the forties. Spurred on by her thoughts of mixing business and pleasure, in between surfing the waves she began surfing the net to look for a suitable candidate.

Like so many unique and popular cars their prices have soared setting Fiona the task of balancing quality with cost. In the end she stretched the budget to facilitate the purchase of the car you see here. When it arrived on the shores of Australia, Vic and Fiona were greeted by a vision much the same as you see here. From one surfie to another, it came complete with a pair of 10 foot Malibu ‘boards on the roof and Beach Boys CD in the deck. Red is such a popular colour in any car culture but it is particularly well suited to the acres of wood that also adorn the body. Its early nineties homeland resto was not only cosmetic, this wagon received an entire platform and drive-line upgrade.

So many Ford hot rods are powered by Chev engines but for what appears to be a traditional restoration you might expect Ford motivation of some description. Sorry to disappoint the Ford faithful but this blue blooded rod has a Chev heart, with good reason. You see, this timber based body sits on a Chev C10 pick-up chassis so the 327 power plant would have been a bit of a no-brainer. Being a coastal-cruiser as opposed to a strip-stormer the GM small block doesn’t boast the who’s who of the performance world, instead gaining kudos for its trouble-free, mild-mannered drivability. Complimenting the engine is the Turbo 700 trans, its four gear configuration coming to the fore for extended drives up the coast to favoured surf locations. The third and final member of the drivetrain is a standard C10 Ten Bolt diff. The chassis upgrade also provides disc brakes up front as well as power steering. 

Our local and global community constantly worry about the number of trees being eradicated to feed our need for related products but in this case I’m sure you’d agree the sacrifice was worth it. Yep, there’s a fair bit of timber on the flanks of this car as well as being the finishing material on much of the interior. Externally, this and the matching red paint remain as they were when purchased but on the inside Vic has had some work done to tidy up both timber and material. Prior to scoring local registration they also tended to a few mechanical and electrical items to get it up to scratch, in the process dropping the stance a little.  

Since wearing Queensland plates the Woody has become the flagship of Woody’s Surf Car Hire and has been the centerpiece of photo shoots, corporate events and weddings. Vic further explains its popularity; “Whenever we take it out people want to either buy it or be photographed next to it’. He further explains another twist ‘Old people look at the car and smile because they lived it, the young people look at it and know it’s cool but not sure why.” 

Now they’ve secured an iconic American surf car, an Aussie equivalent is next on the hit list. If you have an original Sandman panel van you wanna get out of – drop ‘em a line via the website.

FULL FEATURE CRUZIN #151. WORDS AND PHOTOS BY DALE HABERFIELD / MILLBROOK STUDIO
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