• Recent high quality frame-off restoration
• Beautiful woodie Aerosedan
• Inline 6-cylinder engine
• Standard 3-speed transmission
• Front and rear bumper guards
• Fender skirts
• Sun visor
• Dual exhaust
• Color-keyed wheels
• Bright beauty rings and hubcaps
• Wide whitewall tires
(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.)
|Vehicle:||1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Woodie Aerosedan|
|Number Produced:||211,861 (all 1948 Aerosedans. Sources vary on the Country Club package, with some saying fewer than 100 built)|
|Original List Price:||$1,434|
|Chassis Number Location:||Plate on right front door hinge pillar|
|Engine Number Location:||Right side of block near fuel pump|
|Club Info:||National Woodie Club|
|Alternatives:||1941–50 Chrysler Town|
This car, Lot W29, sold for $47,400, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s Dallas, TX, auction on September 5-8, 2012.
Edsel Ford has to be considered the father of the woodie. As president of Ford Motor Company and the son of one of the world’s wealthiest men, he lived in the moneyed world of power and influence.
In the late 1920s, he was well aware that custom body firms such as Martin-Perry and Cantrell were creating custom wood-bodied “depot hacks” on Ford Model T chassis, as well as for the new Model A. At the same time, he had just completed his new 21-room estate and summer home at Seal Harbor, ME, and envisioned a more elaborate and sporty wood-bodied station wagon for the caretaker to meet his train when they made their trip north. In the fall of 1928, the first prototype was pressed into service at his estate. They were formally introduced to Ford buyers in January of 1929.
The woodie wagons produced in the early ’30s by Ford and others were never big sellers. They were expensive, required a great deal of upkeep, and were often open to the elements. They were, however, popular with hotels, country clubs, and commercial organizations that needed to transport small groups of people. In the late ’30s and early ’40s, their popularity increased, and Ford and Mercury produced almost 40,000 woodie wagons between 1940 and 1942.
A vision in Ash
After the war, there was an unprecedented demand for automobiles. But supply shortages and lengthy lead times for model changeovers meant that the offerings were little more than warmed-over pre-war designs. Chrysler and Ford did, however, offer noted departures from their post-war designs with wood-bodied passenger cars.
Formerly offered only on station wagons, the wood-framed Chrysler Town & Country and the Ford/Mercury Sportsman woodie convertibles brought people into new-car showrooms, even if those buyers would go home with something a little more practical than one of the harder-to-maintain wood-bodied cars.
Chevrolet also entered the post-war era with the same warmed-over versions of their pre-war offerings. Conservative in both styling and engineering, they quickly, however, assumed their prior role as America’s best-selling car. Chevrolet did offer a Fleetmaster four-door woodie station wagon, but the company did not follow Ford and Chrysler’s lead with a passenger vehicle such as the T&C or Sportsman.
On the woodie bandwagon
But in 1948, that changed, at least partially. The factory, no doubt seeing what Ford and Chrysler were up to, authorized Chevrolet dealers to offer an accessory wood trim “Country Club” package that was produced by Engineered Enterprises and cost $149.50. It was available for the Fleetline Aerosedan and the Fleetmaster Town Sedan or convertible coupe. The kit included an ash door and rear fender framework, red mahogany inserts, stainless steel screws and instructions. Once installed, a regular steel coupe or convertible looked very much like a woodie, but without the structural issues that made wood cars much harder to maintain.
Sources state that, in the era, only a few Chevrolets were so equipped. Some estimates put the number at fewer than 100. But at just under $150, which is almost $1,500 in today’s money, it was an expensive cosmetic add-on for an otherwise lower-priced car. It’s no wonder only a handful were delivered.
Although released in 1948, the kits would also fit the nearly identical 1947 models, so you see both model years with the option pop up for sale from time to time. But the kits didn’t fit anything earlier — the extended fenders on the 1941–42 models and the lower belt line on the 1946s precluded their use.
There are several suppliers of newly manufactured kits with prices in the $1,500–$2,000 range, but you are on your own for installation. The original kits did not make a provision for the small flap over the door lock, which has been corrected on the new kits. The reproduction kits also use Di-Noc inserts instead of real mahogany pieces. The original dealer kits also did not include wood on the trunk, but that is now available from several of the aftermarket suppliers.
What’s it worth?
A well restored 1947 or 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan is hard-pressed to fetch $30,000, and we need only look at RM’s recent Charlie Thomas sale to see the financial impact of the Country Club package. They offered two at that sale: a 1947 Fleetmaster coupe that sold for $38,500, and a convertible that realized $35,200. So, everything else being equal, it looks like adding the kit can pay for itself on an otherwise run-of-the-mill ’47 or ’48 Chevy, even factoring in the labor to install it.
The 1948 Chevy that Mecum sold at Dallas recently received a stunning restoration, and it was the far more desirable fastback Aerosedan body style, which has aged really well over the years. So for collectors in the market for a post-war Chevrolet woodie, this Aerosedan’s premium was well justified. Was the wood-grain trim original or reproduction? The auction description didn’t specify, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s a more recent addition due to how nice it looked in the photos. Regardless, the Country Club treatment paid the seller a dividend in spades, but then again, the buyer has a stylish woodie at a most reasonable price. I’d call it a fair deal for everyone involved.