This award-winning, handcrafted beauty was built and finished by Brad Starks Rod & Custom. It began its life as an Arizona-based 1950 Tin Woodie four-door wagon. It has been extensively modified throughout, including the redesign and fabrication to convert it from a four-door to a two-door. The car is powered by a General Motors performance 502-ci big block, with Hilborn fuel-injection, custom Brad Starks stacks and aluminum heads with hand-painted valve covers. The running gear consists of a Gearstar model 4L60 automatic transmission with B&M floor-shifter, a Yank 2,500-rpm stall converter and a nine-inch Currie rear end. Awards include Goodguys Custom Rod of the Year 2009, Scottsdale, AZ; World of Wheels Best Custom Rod, Louisville, KY; Autorama Best Custom, Detroit, MI; NSRA Nationals — Pro’s Pick, Louisville, KY, and more.  

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1950 Chevrolet Wagon Tin Woodie
Years Produced:1950
Number Produced:166,995
Original List Price:$1,994
SCM Valuation:$20k–$26k (stock)
Tune Up Cost:$250 (estimated)
Distributor Caps:N
Chassis Number Location:Stamped on engine block forward of right cylinder head
Club Info:Goodguys
Alternatives:1951 Ford Country Squire two-door custom wagon, 1953 Buick Super Estate custom wagon, 1950 Oldsmobile 88 custom wagon
Investment Grade:N

This 1950 Chevrolet Tin Woodie, Lot 606, sold for $154,000, including buyer’s premium, at Auctions America by RM’s Fort Lauderdale, FL, sale March 16–18, 2012. Originally costing more than $275,000 to build, this Tin Woodie is a classic example of what can happen when you build a multiple award-winning show car, display it on the national show circuit, and then try to sell it.

You take a bath. In this case, for about $125k.

Real woodies vs. Tin Woodies

Ford Motor Co. was America’s “wagon master” for decades. Through 1948, Ford offered an eight-passenger, all-wood wagon. Although it was beautiful, the maple and birch body needed to be sanded and re-varnished at least every two years — a labor-intensive and expensive process.

Plymouth led the charge to all-steel station wagons in 1949. Chevrolet began 1949 with wood-bodied wagons, then went to all-metal construction with Dynoc decal “wood” trim mid-year. Ford met them halfway with a steel body trimmed with actual wood. Priced at $2,107, the new ’49 Ford wagon had only two doors, and its extensive wood trim still required special care. Just 29,017 units were sold.

For 1950, Chevrolet offered an eight-passenger, all-steel, faux wood, Tin Woodie station wagon with four doors. It was just what the market wanted. Chevy wagon sales went through the roof, with a whopping 166,995 examples sold. Aside from normal attrition, a ’50 Chevy Tin Woodie is not a rare model.

But this feature car is strictly one-of-a-kind.

From mild custom to top show car

Brad Starks, a computer draftsman and engineer, built it for Brian Vanzant. Starks was just starting out in business with his own shop in Paducah, KY. Vanzant was his first major client. Originally, the wagon was to be a more traditional-style car with whitewalls on steel wheels, a little more power and a surfboard roof rack.

Reportedly a decent, rust-free Arizona find, the body was straightened and the front frame rails were C-notched and re-arched to lower the car. But after Vanzant went to a few hot-rod shows, the project amped up, big-time. Vanzant decided he wanted Budnick 19-inch and 22-inch wheels and a big engine, which changed the character of the build, and the project’s scope grew exponentially.

Starks’ shop re-arched the rear of the frame, tubbed it 2.5 inches and fitted an Air Ride suspension system. A polished stainless IFS and a set of Wilwood disc brakes completed the chassis. With the woodie in the weeds, Vanzant decided he wanted a Hilborn-injected, 502-ci big-block V8. And that wasn’t all.

After Brad Starks showed Brian a sketch he had done of the Tin Woodie as a two-door, Starks told the Goodguys’ Gazette, “Brian studied it, mulled it over for an hour, then gave him the green light.” None of this work comes cheaply.

The doors were extended seven inches; the B-pillars were canted, the top was chopped about three inches; a ’50 Olds one-piece windshield was installed (Chevy, Pontiac and Oldsmobile all shared this same body), and custom side glass had to be fabricated. A full custom interior, with a new console, covered in high-zoot leather, and nickel-finished Classic Instrument gauges, was followed by a beautiful “Cappuccino Craze” finish and rendering the all-important faux wood.

Stark told ACC the hardest part of this job was airbrushing the woodgrain. “I have about 130 hours in that alone,” he says. The entire project consumed 5,000 hours over two years. “I like details on a car that keep people looking,” Stark says, “so there are plenty of those.”

This car is nicely proportioned, clean, clever and way cool. For a major first effort by a man and his shop that are new to the game, it makes a great first impression.

Two for the show

After the custom rod was completed, Stark and Vanzant took the Tin Woodie to many significant national shows, where it won its share of awards.

While $154,000 for this car is a sizeable sum, it represents a lot less than it cost to buy and build it. “I wish it had been more,” Starks says, “but that’s typical of the custom car market.”

Remember the 1954 Plymouth show car called “The Sniper” (it had a V10 Viper engine) that was built for George Poteet by Troy Trepanier at Rad Rides by Troy? The notoriety of that car put Trepanier on the map. Poteet did everything in it, including the Hot Rod Power Tour, then sold it at Barrett-Jackson in 2002 for $162,000. The winning bid was significantly less than “The Sniper” cost to build. Unperturbed, Poteet quipped, “When’s the last time somebody got that much money for a ’54 Plymouth?”

That’s the attitude you have to have here.

Now what do you do with it?

Brad Starks says the Tin Woodie “needs a few bugs worked out” before it can be truly roadworthy. It’s been to most of the major shows, so future opportunities for the big time are limited, but the new owner will blow people away at local events and cruises.

The good news is that Starks’ business is booming. He currently has 11 projects in his Paducah shop, and while he can’t attribute them all to the success of this car, it undoubtedly helped.

My advice: If you’re captivated by a particular show car and you can snag it for substantially less than it cost to build, go for it. Don’t expect it to appreciate in your lifetime. Just drive it and enjoy it. I’d call this Chevy custom rod well bought, and given the trend for this type of car, decently sold

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