The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Jay Leno Goes Wood

Well, the Chrysler minivan in the last post reminded me that though the modern family conveyors might not go so well with wood, they certainly did back in the heyday of the automobile. I've already posted some nice pictures of various "woodies", but here is a video from "Jay Leno's Garage" of one of the best of the best, the 1948 Chrysler Town and Country convertible. This beauty has been resto-modded, which means it has been "restored with modification", but the woodwork is original. The video tells a great story of the durability of wood; they had to replace most of the metal floor due to rust, but the wood was still solid.

Jay wins an honorary "Woodie Award" for correctly identifying the wood panels as mahogany, and he showed some real appreciation of how to work with and maintain the wood. Unfortunately, the fellow who restored the vehicle thinks the panels are walnut, and sort of throws Jay for a loop for a minute. You would think that a fellow who spends months working on a labor of love would at least make an effort to know what kind of wood he is restoring.

They start discussing the wood about the 6:00 mark, and after the restorer confuses Jay on the panel, he decides not to guess at the frame wood. But it so distinctive...the rear quarter panel frame member has great traditional figuring for the species, and the frame member under Jay's arm near the end of the video shows that distinctive wood beauty in a species as American as baseball and apple pie. See if you can guess the species of that beautiful golden wood, and give yourself two knocks on the head if you know it.

If you're a car nut, you'll want to watch the last few minutes of the video when Jay takes the car out for a spin. What a ride.

Chrysler has a great web page on this model, and if you want to confirm your guess on the species of the wood frame, you can find out here.

I still say the day of the Woodies will return. People won't be satisfied with tinfoil and plastic bubbles forever. Go Wood!


Anonymous said...

Is it ash?

Chuck Ray said...

Knock yourself twice on the noggin, Anon. Good job.

Doug said...

Ash has been - and still is - used for traditional automobile coachwork for years. I'm the proud and very lucky owner of such a vehicle: the Morgan Motor Company (, founded in 1909 and going strong 104 years later, produces around 700 or so cars a year. For their "traditional" models, craftsmen still hand-beat body panels over an ash frame for cars built today. And they still outlast the steel chassis!