A few years back, my dad and I wanted a woodie wagon, and we ultimately decided on the Chevy "tin woodie". I watched and even bid on a few on eBay, but was never able to win any of the auctions. Eventually, I noticed that the same guy was buying all of them, so I called him up and he let me have one he had just won but had never seen. Come to find out, it was one of the nicest cars compared to the others.
The wagon was in New Mexico at that point-an all-original 1950 Chevy Styleline DeLuxe station wagon that had been painted solid white-but had spent time in Colorado as a delivery car for a florist prior to that. I had it shipped to Paducah, Kentucky, and did some work on the brakes to make it driveable. I wanted to build a good driver to have fun with ... you know, surfboard in the back and hula girl on the dash kind of car. That was about to change.
I ended up taking the Chevy to Brad Starks, who at the time was working out of a two-car garage on the side while holding a regular job. He stripped all the trim, bumpers, grille, paint, and began to prepare for bodywork. It was at that stage that he took a job at Randy's Body Shop building cars, where he ending up undertaking two full projects (both featured in Rod & Custom) before starting back on my car.
By the time Brad and the guys did the bodywork and had the wagon in final primer, I purchased a RideTech-equipped frontend kit from Scott's Hot Rods, which I wanted him to install. We also decided to do big wheels. So then, Brad started reshaping the original framerails and floorboards. After that, I decided to go with a Hilborn-injected 502, so he mounted all that, which he followed up by installing a stainless exhaust and fabricated new fenderwells, firewall, and radiator support. Brad suggested some custom bumper treatments, which I agreed to. The stock bumpers were then flipped, shortened, narrowed, and shaved.
At this stage, I thought we were done-until word got back that Brad had done some renderings of the car finished. One was along the lines we were going, and the other was made into a two-door with a chopped top, pie-cut hood, slanted B-pillars, and reworked grille. When I saw the second rendering, I decided I had to have it! So, from there, all the bodywork they had already done was ground out and metalwork began.
After the transformation had been made it came down to color, which I was undecided on, so Brad and Randy Wiersma picked the Cappuccino and accent colors with the help of Oscar Gamble. Then it came down to the part of the wood grain-what kind of wood, what color, or even who to do it in the first place? With suggestions and samples of red wood veneer from Oscar, Brad tried some different techniques before finding the one that worked to his liking. He went all-out on it with airbrushing and even adding joints and seams in the proper places to have the effect of appearing as if it was real wood. After all the worrying, that turned out to be my favorite part.
From there, it went to Recovery Room for Tracy Weaver to add the finishing details and complete the restyled interior. But by then, it was too late for my partner and main inspiration to appreciate the end results of our project. During the wagon's construction, my dad had been fighting what would end up being a losing battle with diabetes. On Jan. 15, 2009, my father, Robert Earl Vanzant, lost that battle-he never got to see what the Chevy looked like when it was finished. I'm sure he would have been just as proud of it as I am.