Ford Woodie saved from scrapyard Part II

Episode 348

January 31, 2021

From rusting hulk to show stopper

A rusted hulk graced the feature photo section of the last episode making one think, “No way that can be rescued!”. If I had not seen the finished product before viewing the project history photos, I too would have said those same words.

In Episode 347 we got a glimpse of the backstory behind the 1940 Ford Woodie that Presque Isle’s Greg Roderick lovingly worked his bodywork magic on. We left the story with insight into the acquisition of parts from three different 1940 Woodies which yielded enough parts to make one.

In October 2004 after acquiring the Texas frame, Charin Watananuchit, an 18-year employee of Northern Auto Body, unleashed some of his fabrication skills into the project. Roderick grafted a Chassis Engineering Mustang II front suspension mounts, cross member, coil spring hats, upper and lower control arm mounts, sway bar mounts and rack and pinion chassis mount brackets. In addition, the team used Mustang II calipers, rotors, and spindles. (Greg Roderick photo)

Roderick acquired a 1940 Ford pickup frame from Amarillo, Texas in the winter of 2004 after seeing it in Hemmings. The 1940 Ford frame was a 1940 frame no matter which vehicle rested upon it. In conversation with the owner, he mentioned pitting of the frame. Upon arrival at Roderick’s Presque Isle shop, he was pleased to note the frame was in great shape. After sandblasting and addition of frame parts for mounting a Mustang II front suspension, self-etching primer was applied.(Greg Roderick photo)

A Woodie, as its name implies, relies on wood to form the majority of the body from firewall to the back fenders. Roderick enlisted the help of renowned Woodie restorer, Mike Nickels located at Traverse City, Michigan. His company Mike Nickels Automotive Woodworking was featured on Tom Cotter’s Barn Find Hunter in 2020. It was interesting to see Nickels in action. Simply Google it.

A 1940 Ford Woodie cost around $1000 while a Ford four door cost $860. The higher cost of the Woodie reflects a higher value to the collector.

Roderick met Nickels at the Pennsylvania car shows. Because he knew Nickels, the Maine man got his foot in the door with a possible build spot. The car needed to be delivered to the Michigan shop in the rolling chassis form.

The underside of the floor pan got self-etching primer after being prepped for mounting on the frame.  (Greg Roderick photo)

The floor panned was married to the frame. Now the rolling chassis was ready for trailering to Traverse City, Michigan. (Greg Roderick photo)

Traverse City bound

In October 2008, Roderick, Craig Green and Freddie Haines struck off to the Hershey show in Pennsylvania with the Woodie on Green’s new trailer. Roderick and Nickels met for the first time face-to-face at the Hershey show. From the show, Nickels took the Woodie back with him on Craig’s brand-new trailer to Michigan.

The trailer stayed for about a year at Nickels shop while the car waited its turn.  Not sure if Craig realized the long-term commitment he was making for use of his trailer.

When Roderick inquired about progress on his Woodie, Nickels would show him photos of a pile of seven brackets or seven panels. The message was that he was making batches of Ford Woodie parts and Roderick would need to wait his turn. In fact, he was number seven on the list.

In the fall of 2009, the three friends, on their way to their annual trek to the Hershey show took the long way via a side trip to Michigan to see Nickels work his magic. While at Nickels shop, they got to see him make some very intricate and complex pieces that made him famous in the Woodie world.

Roderick’s 1940 Ford Woodie at Mike Nickels Automotive Woodworking shop in Traverse City, Michigan. The left rear quarter panel featured 1/4 -inch birch plywood with mahogany laminated inside and out. The frame was made from maple. (Greg Roderick photo)

Mike Nickels, in his shop at Traverse City, Michigan. With Mike is one of his unidentified helpers. Nickels is known world-wide for his woodworking abilities. If you go to the Tom Cotter piece, you will see the Woodie that he restored for an Australian couple. (Greg Roderick photo)

Nickels was the perfect host. He showed them some of the cottage industries in the area including boat builders and restorers as well as a visit to Nickels brother who was a blacksmith.

Nickels enclosed trailer was loaded up the evening before departure to Pennsylvania. When the lights were checked, nothing worked. The Maine men and Nickels scrambled around to see if they could get the lights to work.

Craig Green, the least electrical of the four found the problem. A worker, when he attached a piece of wood inside the trailer, had driven a sheetrock screw into a wire thus severing the connection.

With the electrical issue resolved, they were off the next day to Hershey with Craig’s empty trailer in tow and Nickels with his enclosed trailer caravanning with them. The passengers would swap vehicles to share stories all the way to the Hershey show. They brought Craig’s trailer back to Presque Isle on the return trip from the show.

After six months, the car was completed and Nickels loaded it onto a trailer to deliver it to the spring car show at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Once again Craig Green’s trailer was pressed into service to bring the car back to Maine. Roderick said the trip to Michigan moved his car up to number two on Nickels list so it paid dividends to meet with Nickels and crew at the shop.

The return to Maine with wooden components in place. The door and window hardware dug from the ground surrounding the car obtained in South Paris proved to be essential to maintaining the vintage look and feel of the Woodie. The window regulators are from a 1936 Ford rear windows. A friend custom cast the front door hinges. The car was finished with Pratt and Lambert spar varnish. After the car was home Roderick super polished the wood finish. (Greg Roderick photo)

The modernization of Woodie

Once the 1940 Ford Woodie Deluxe was back home in Presque Isle, the fenders, interior, wiring, running gear and the myriad number of details that go into a finished car proceeded at an accelerated pace.

Into the engine bay went a Chevrolet 350 crate engine with 290 horsepower featuring Edelbrock 600 carb and intake manifold. A Mallory distributor lights the fires in the engine. A Vintage Air air conditioner provides creature comfort unthought of in the 1940s.

A stock Turbo 350 automatic transmission transfers power from the engine. Roderick knew how long the driveshaft needed to be so he went to Tim Cowett’s car recycling facility and found one the correct length and u-joint configuration to attach to the 8- inch Ford differential with drum brakes.

A custom Juliano’s Hot Rod Parts steering column graces the interior. Juliano’s is located in Ellington, Connecticut.

The interior was stitched by local upholstery expert Larry Cyr. Wiring was performed by Scott Smith (Scott’s Automotive, Mars Hill) utilizing American Auto Wire harness. Both tasks soaked up many hours and yielded show stopping quality.

The car rolls on Cragar Classic wheels with Kumho rubber lending the car a lowered hot rod look.

With the vintage Ford engine gone a Chevrolet crate engine resides in the nose. Visible is the Vintage Air air conditioner compressor, Edelbrock carb, Sanderson headers and new Walker radiator. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Competition bound

Competing with the 1940 Ford Woodie Deluxe at the National Street Rod Association (NSRA) Moncton Atlantic Nationals car show at Moncton, New Brunswick 2010 and 2011. Roderick was rewarded with seven trophies including the Top Safety Award for Pre-1949 cars and top 25 in show of 1800 contestants. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Entry tag for the Moncton Atlantic Nationals. The Woodie was/is a show stopper. Roderick loves to cruise in the Woodie because it opens the door of conversation wherever he travels. He wanted me to know the car is not a “Trailer Queen”.(Greg Roderick Collection)

Some words of wisdom for restorations

1940 Ford Woodie dashboard showing the type of condition faced by Roderick during the process of renovation. (Greg Roderick photo)

When talking about restoration of the 1940 Ford Woodie, Greg Roderick sprinkled in a few nuggets of wisdom ready for mining.

  1. Get organized. Roderick learned that technique well from early influencers including Dr. Richard Dick, Billy Wight, and Dr. Malcolm Harris.
  2. “You do 1 piece at a time to the best of your ability. Set it aside eventually putting all the pieces together like a puzzle.”
  3. Make friendships and connections with others of similar interests as noted when at the tender age of 15 he joined the National Woodies Club.
  4. Go places where others of similar interests gather. Roderick has made the trip to Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Hershey Official Fall Meet for over 35 years and Spring Carlisle Show, both in Pennsylvania, almost every year over the last 25 years.
  5. Keep your eyes and ears open. Roderick’s network of colleagues is extensive. I think he knows everybody!
  6. Roderick said with a smile that he is a self-described collector of everything and an organized antique auto hoarder.

SNEAK PREVIEW…more about the Roderick collection to come later this season. Wait to you read about the next car.

Greg Roderick in his cellar garage Jan 2021 with the 1940 Ford Woodie Deluxe. Which car is next to review????

bluShift Aerospace launch successful today

The official launch video courtesy bluShift Aerospace:

The bluShift Aerospace team successfully launched their Stardust 1.0 rocket today from the runway at the former Loring Air Force Base. It took three attempts, however, the third was a charm as CEO Sascha Deri counted down to lift off from launch control.

bluShift Aerospace CEO Sascha Deri expressing joy after the launch of his company’s Stardust 1.0, the first rocket utilizing a proprietary bio fuel. This was also the first rocket launch of this nature in Maine. (HTF Motorsports photo)

“I think it’s an incredible moment to put the stake in the new space commerce, to demonstrate that Maine is officially entering the new space race and we plan to be part of this,” Deri said.

Let’s Go Racing

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)


Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine