Forbes.com

Collecting Wood
05.13.02

It's never too late to own that dream car...

To the list of things you wish you had bought into on the ground floor--Microsoft stock, Warhol doodles, Maui real estate--you can add a woodie station wagon. A car that cost $40 in 1960 might today be worth $50,000. Probably more.

According to Hans Halberstadt's colorful source book, Woodies, (MetroBooks, $14.98), there were 150,000 woodies manufactured between 1928 and 1953. Some were lost or were twisted into hot rods. Others had to be put out of their misery after hundreds of thousands of miles. Today only about 10,000 survive, and 5,000 of those belong to National Woodie Club members.

"People watch the prices very closely," says Ed Bowman, a California dentist and leading woodie connoisseur. "I own a fairly rare 1940 Ford Deluxe and I can tell you that there are no others out there for sale at the moment. People are holding on to them. Lack of supply drives the price up to ridiculous levels." Bowman recalls that a fellow club member recently turned down an astounding $120,000 for his 1940 Ford Standard--another desirable model.

So tight has the market for good woodies become that the restoration business is now booming. But don't expect that to be a cheap road either.

According to experts, you might buy a rolling chassis with no wood for between $10,000 and $15,000. Then expect to pay at least $50,000 in parts alone, before labor costs. Restoring the wood--even dry rot can be a problem--or fabricating the wood from scratch can add $35,000 to $40,000 to the job. (Halberstadt's book lists the nation's top restorers.)

A good source for sales information is the redoubtable Hemming's Motor News (www.hemmings.com), or the National Woodie Club (www.nationalwoodieclub.com) where a $30 membership entitles you to their magazine Woodie Times, which includes comprehensive class- ifieds. If you still don't find what you're looking for, it's time to surf the Web, dude.

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