The Woody

November 20, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

Yeah, I know what you thought upon reading that headline... 🙂

No, this post is about materials and perceptions.

When I was growing up the cool-guy-car surfers always wanted to own was called a Woody: wood-paneled vehicles from the late 1940s and early 1950s.

On the positive side, they looked cool and were great for carrying a surfboard in the rear of the car.

On the negative side, wood isn't a very practical means of decorating the exterior of an automobile. Wind, rain, nasty weather, punishing sun, rocks, and detritus impaling the car's surface at 60 mph were problems requiring more than polish, rubbing compound, and maybe a bit of Bondo and paint to fix.

So it was with a bit of surprise that I spotted a more modern version of the classic Woody. This time from a Chrysler product. Upon closer inspection, I saw the car's "wood" side panels were actually just plastic. A much more practical alternative to wood for its exterior decoration.

While technically better than the real stuff, plastic wood doesn't work for the same reason that artificial yellow oil isn't butter. They are fakes. We are led down a path of expectations only to be let down at the end.

Perceptions are meaningful. If you want to impress me with your stereo system it has to be more than lots of big and expensive pieces of equipment in a well-decorated room.

It actually has to perform as well as it looks.

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27 comments on “The Woody”

  1. My father had a Ford Country Squire station wagon with the metal sides factory hand-painted to look like wood. I never understood why anyone would want that. He wrapped his filing cabinets and mini-refrigerator with faux-walnut sticky vinyl.

  2. It would be a great experiment if the sound of the shiny and spectacular looking gear like D’Agostino, MBL, Burmester, piles of 5 part DAC’s and other fancy alien-like looking speakers would be swapped with the sound of some other, more humble designed gear which also sounds nice. I guess the amount by which the eye co-defines (or sometimes more than that) what we hear, would be surprising.

    I don’t think that those among us who tend to buy different gear every half a year on similar level of what they already have, would have much intrinsic reason to do so without Hifi magazines and the spectacular looks of the equipment. The problem is, this behavior, partly even if ultimate money is spent, rarely leads to the best choices on a respective price level. Instead it’s mostly a combination of the most popular gear of the time with the highest mass-envy factor 😉

    1. I was round at a dealer a couple of weeks ago. We were looking at the D’Agostino integrated amplifier. It’s a fabulous looking thing. We both thought a significant part of the price is for the case and it would be a waste not to have it on show. He sells it because it performs really well, but we agreed it would be a shame to spend that money and not enjoy it as a piece of industrial art, which it is.

  3. My dream hifi system would be small and expensive pieces of equipment in a well-decorated room. So far we’ve done the well-decorated part.

  4. I had a great uncle ( who was porn in the 1800's ) who started working as a carriage maker. When horse drawn carriages were replaced automobiles and trucks he ended his career working in an auto body shop repairing Woody's.

  5. I’m not out to impress or satisfy anyone but myself with my home audio.
    I could easily be satisfied with something completely different than what I have now.

    If others make a point to provide positive comments then that’s flattering and humbly received.

    There’s plenty of audio out there to drool over. As we’ve aged, the days of woodies being the norm have probably diminished, but the lust may not have.

  6. I have an old surfer friend in San Diego California who owns one of the original Woodys, based on a Ford Model T truck chassis.

    Ford didn’t build a station wagon body for the Model T, so it was up to independent custom coach builders to fabricate the station wagon bodies. For such a limited production metal was to costly to work with, so old wood coach building methods were used.

    So at least on the original Woodys, the use of wood for the body was used for the most practical of all reasons, $$$$.

    Strange how often a material or fabrication method that is used to save cost, in the passage of time becomes associated with luxury.

  7. Do we all remember when a high end manufacturer placed a substantially lower priced DVD player in their cladding and sold the unit as if it were high end? Kind of a sheep in Wolf's clothing?

    1. That was egregious when exposed. There have been other examples of “badge engineering”. We don’t mind this platform switching in the automobile world. But at least be honest about it.

      And as far as e$pensive casework etc., it’s often said we see food before we taste it (and already firm an opinion) just as we hear hifi with our eyes first. Many of us are like magpies. We like new and shiny.

      And as a wooden boat owner maintenance is a co$tly chore.

        1. I've had three Pioneer CD/Radio front-end units in various motor vehicles of mine over the decades & not one of them has 'missed a beat', they all worked perfectly...just lucky I guess 😀

          1. Same here with even more Pioneer units. But mine have been head unit with built-in single disc CD players rather than CD-changers so I have no idea how reliable their CD changers are

  8. This got me thinking of one of my favorite surfing songs, that isn't really about surfing: "New York's a Lonely Town" by the Trade Winds that has the unforgettable line of "my Woody's outside, covered in snow."

  9. Oh man. Lol this makes me think of those old station wagon’s with the dense Naugahyde side frame wood paneling. Yup. They looked liked how they performed.

    That is all I will say about that.

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