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.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1950 Chevy Styleline DeLuxe Station Wagon
The frame beneath Brian Vanzant's woodless wagon is a hybrid of sorts: partially stock with completely reworked front/rear 'rail sections, thanks to Brad Starks (Paducah, KY). To accommodate a new RideTech-optioned Scott's IFS, the front needed a severe re-arching, while a Currie 9-inch required the narrowing of the rear framerails by 4 inches. As for the RideTech components, ShockWaves were used fore and aft, the latter working with a stainless four-link setup. For the steering, a Ford power rack-and-pinion unit connects an ididit column; Wilwood disc brakes are powered by a '97 Nissan master cylinder with a 7-inch booster.
Though many consider the "rap" of a Chevy inline-six hard to beat, for some, it takes more than just a high-pitched exhaust sound to get their gears rollin'-Brian included. Not only did he forgo the old Stovebolt for a V-8, he stepped way up, opting for a GM Performance Parts 502 big-block fed by an electronic Hilborn fuel injection (with custom-made plumbing for the cooling that looks more like it's part of the Vintage Air Front Runner system that was also used). The exhaust is all-stainless from the Street & Performance headers back; transmission of choice came from Gearstar in the form of a Level IV 700-R4.
Wheels & Tires
Again, Brian went "big" when it came to choosing the wheels and tires for the wagon. Ultimately, he went with a quartet of Budnik Gassers-19x8 and 22x10-outfitted with Nitto's 35-series profile NT555s (245s in the front, 285s out back). The soft-lipped, 10-spoked wheels offer just enough window to reveal the 11- and 12-inch Wilwood rotors and six-piston calipers they're mounted on.
Body & Paint
The transformation of Brian's Chevy started out at home, then migrated to Brad Starks' garage, and finally made its way to Randy's Body Shop (Paducah, KY) when Brad took a job there. The end result is anything "but" what Brian nor Randy Wiersma had envisioned in the beginning-what was once to be a nice "surf-inspired" wagon quickly snowballed. From chopped top to the slanted pillars, stretched doors (these were four-doors!) to slanted pillars, pie-cut hood to the one-piece quarter windows, there's not an inch of exterior that hasn't been touched. To further accentuate the restyling, Brad (along with Kyle Wiersma) finished the'50 off with a DuPont Hot Hues Cappuccino Craze. Then, after much practice and little guidance from Oscar Gamble, Randy wood-grained the center panel so perfectly that it's hard to tell whether it's real or not!
As with the wagon's exterior, the spacious cabin-which wasn't compromised much as a result of the chop-has been redone, reworked, and restyled from floor to ceiling. All metal fabrication, including the custom dash (with a machined insert by Corey Croley that houses the Classic Instruments gauges), was again undertaken by Brad. The rest, however, is credited to Tracy Weaver at the Recovery Room in Plattsmouth, NE. Using a combination of two tones of leather, wool square-weave, and real bird's eye maple with accents of machined aluminum trim (courtesy Corey) is all it took to do the trick-well, along with the creativity and skill to put them all together in manner as such!