Source: Sherman Publications

When the Woody meets the road

by David Fleet

June 22, 2011

Groveland Twp.-Produced just after World War II—the 1948 Ford wood-sided station wagon, which required wood varnish as part of the yearly maintenance program, often creaked and was rather unstable.

“The roof was made out of wood with a metal floor pan, metal cowl, and metal around the rear-wheel housings along with the fenders,” said Bob Petrusha, 70, a UAW-GM retiree who grew up in Pontiac and moved to the township about 10 years ago.

“The rest of the car body was solid maple,” he said. “These vehicles are very rare due to the fact wood deteriorates pretty fast.”

Bob, along with sons Rob and Kevin, purchased a 1948 wood-sided station wagon, more commonly known as a “Woody” as a bare shell in 2006. The trio, owners of Petrusha & Sons Auto Restorations, Inc., 2329 Airport Road, Waterford, found the partially restored shell in Chicago and recently completed a four year project of creating a new look to a classic car.

According to Ford Motor Company history, originally the 1948 Ford Woody was built with four doors and a roof comprised of wood and canvass—even the growing and harvesting of the wood was done through Ford’s own forest and mills, located in northern Michigan. The wood was maple, ash and basswood lumber.

The Petrusha’s made a few modifications.

The Petrusha’s lowered the roof by two inches, added customized suicide doors that open in the opposite direction and beefed up the ride with a 4.6 L (281 ci) DOHC, 32 valves 305 hp engine from a 2004 Mustang Mach I. The wood doors and sides are polished maple.

Bob, who has worked at several GM plants during his long career in the auto industry, including paint repair at Orion Assembly where he retired in the 1990s has shown off his family’s auto work at several shows.

Petrusha has won the last 10 car shows make the vehicle the number one Woodie in the country according to the International Show Car Association. Three generations of the Petrusha’s—Bob, Kevin, 44 and Josh, 9 recently participated in the Hot Rod Magazine’s Power Tour 2011 a rolling tribute to the performance car is the ultimate “gearhead” road trip with seven days in seven cities covering more than 1,600 miles across the United States.