With steel in short supply after the Second World War, woodie wagons made of hard wood instead of sheet metal began to gain popularity.
Chrysler’s post-war offering was the Town & Country, built from 1941 to 1950. Its name is credited to Paul Hafer of Boyertown Body Works. Hafer drew sketches of wood-bodied wagons and said, “The front end looked ‘town’ and the rear looked ‘country,’ so I thought it natural.”
The body was framed in white ash and required extensive handwork. It was sold in sedan and convertible bodies. The four-door sedan was marketed as an estate car and luxury vehicle, built for either city or estate transportation, and could seat six to nine passengers. The lifting tailgate, now a trademark of the station wagon body style, had yet to catch on.
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To ease entry and egress, the Town & Country featured rear suicide doors. The bench was positioned far in the back with seats in front of it that could be erected from the floor. In addition, the Town & Country was sold with a dividing wall and window separating the driver from passengers, now a standard feature in modern limousines.
The ‘47 distinguished itself from earlier models with its dazzling “harmonica” grille and bulbous lines. The roof rack was exclusive to the station wagon. Accessories like the fog lamps and windshield visor were sold as options.
Car collector and restorer Alfred Perez is proud to call this example his own. An American serviceman stationed in the Philippines had imported the wagon, which was the car he grew up with. He dropped by Alfred’s car shop, inquiring about restoring the car. The cost proved to be too steep so he opted out but Alfred had already fallen in love with the car.
“For two years, every now and then, I’d drop by his place and ask him about it,” Alfred recalls.
After a long “courtship,” the owner finally gave in—leaving Alfred with quite a lot of restoration to do.
“Built with half and half, wood and metal sheets, is what attracted me to the car,” Alfred recalls. “They’re reliable cars, built to last. I’ve restored older cars. The 30s had poor design; the late 40s, on the other hand, up to now, we still use the technology first seen here in this car. It’s got a floating ride with coil spring suspension.”
Alfred admits to compromises, using palochina for the wood paneling and replacing the original engine for a more reliable Japanese example. Nevertheless, his efforts are always appreciated.
“It’s a real luxury car. It’s very rare. Very few limousines came in. When I saw it, I decided to restore it to be a bridal car.” Because there’s nothing more stylish than having newlyweds ferried in throwback glamour.
Photographs by Pat Mateo & Paul del Rosario
This story originally appeared on Vault Magazine Issue 14 No 2 2014.