February - 2022 Jock Campbell sent these showroom examples of various "woodies" from the past.
Wood has been intrinsically involved in the automobile’s history ever since its origin.
When the first automobiles were invented, they were actually horseless carriages that were originally made of wood rather than metal.
Many companies that manufactured cars were more familiar with how to form, cut, and assemble wood than other materials, such as metal, which was expensive and dangerous at the time. In fact, many furniture makers (known as “depot hacks,” where we get the term “station wagon”) purchased the mechanical cores of automobiles and built wood bodies around them. Some automakers even outsourced body production to these coachbuilders.
Early on, steel was too expensive for most manufacturers to use, but as automobiles grew in production, metal stamps proved easier and cheaper than mass-producing wooden bodies. As vehicles drove faster, the safety hazards of using wood bodies on cars — as well as the ongoing cost of maintenance — became apparent, so the market transitioned to metal. By the 1950s, wooden bodies were a thing of the past.
Still, some mid-century customers preferred the appearance of wood over metal, as real wood elements had become synonymous with luxury. So as a compromise, automakers offered wood grain-like decals on metal, vinyl, and plastic side panels.
Automakers would probably not have produced so many faux-Woodie models in the latter half of the 20th century were it not for the influence of the SoCal surfing community. Because most Woodies were sold for cheap on the used market due to their limited appeal, they were the perfect choice for those on the West Coast who needed large, inexpensive transportation for their ocean gear. Woodies became so ingrained in surf culture that faux-wood paneling stuck around well past the 1960s.