Growing up as a teenager in the muscle car era, you couldn’t help but become a car guy. The freedom of having a car opened the door to new experiences, one of those surfing. Always wanting a woodie, I settled for a 1958 Chevy 2 door wagon to tote my board to the beach.
Skip forward about 20 years, Sue and I started looking for a woodie station wagon. While working my side job from my firefighting career at Brizio Street Rods, a customer and friend said he had a woodie for sale. He sent us pictures to look over and a deal was struck. The car had been stored in a barn in Canada for some 15 years. It had been neglected and damaged by a tractor while in storage. The tractor had backed into the right rear corner of the woodie and took out some of the wood and the fender. Other than the worn paint, the dry wood and the family of mice, the car was relatively complete. I got the car home, stripped down the wagon and started the build. Working at Brizio’s made the job easier. Jack Stratton, Roy’s number one chassis guy, worked his magic on the chassis. We dropped the front cross member, added a 4 inch dropped straight axle, set it up for a small block Chevy and a turbo 350 trans and finished it off with a 9 inch ford rear end. Another friend and customer, Reggie Jackson, had a green Merc woodie. The color was just what I was looking for. Borrowing the spare tire cover, the color was matched by painter Paul Camilari. Just before paint, it went to Ashland Wood Products in San Leandro. There the wood was repaired, some being replaced and all of it refinished by three generations of craftsmen. Paint and final assembly put our woodie on the road after three long years.
But that’s not the end of the story. 17 years of hitting the road racked up 80,000 miles of adventure and fun. A lot of trips to woodie events all over the state, using the car on a daily basis and a trip to Colorado on Americruise 98 with Bob Lopez and Dave Welles in their woodies took its toll. Without losing any drive time, the winter of 2008 saw our woodie get a redo. A Heidts independent front end replaced the straight axle. A new crate 350 small block replaced the tired 307 and Joey Compani, also an employee at Brizio’s, repainted the wagon the same green. The following winter I took the wagon to Chris Messano to have the wood refinished. Since the spruce-up, another 20,000 miles have been added to the speedo.
Over the years, our car has been the co-star of many events, the weddings of our two kids, as well as many family and friends. I even chauffeured Mick Jagger’s daughter at her wedding. Our car has been featured in ads for Pottery Barn and a hotel in Hawaii. It has been used as a center piece for events like Google and Jeff Clarks Mavericks. I even drove the family of the San Francisco Giants pitcher Kirk Rueter, AKA Woodie, at his retirement celebration inside AT&T Park.
All these things take a back seat to what our woodie has given us. It has provided us with the opportunity to meet so many new friends we now call “our woodie family.”