The film studios of Los Angeles were still enjoying the gilded age of Hollywood glamour by the start of the Forties and required the versatility of a station wagon that matched the style of their matinee idols. Buick’s Woddie wagons soon became parking-lot celebrities for the likes of 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. The upmarket machine from Flint, Michigan, appealed to the film set, with MGM even gifting one to Bette Davis. Buick having ridden the turbulence of the depression, now enjoyed an upturn in its fortunes, contributed in part by the launch of its straight-eight power plant in 1931. Its position at the upper end of HM’s hierarchy of nameplates meant that as America prospered, so did the marque. The arrival of 1940 saw the Buick line-up include a ‘Woodie’ Estate Wagon, with advertising that featured superstar owner Clark Gable. It would be a 1941 Model 49 that transported Paul Newman back to the chain gang and ultimately to meet his maker in the film Cool Hand Luke.
“Buick’s Model 49 made the perfect ‘West Coast Woddie’ and was the ride of choice for MGM scarlets, but as wartime approached this rare model had little time to shine…” Classic-American magazine by Grant Ford
Buick’s production line in 1941 consisted of 26 different models and signified a record year of 370,101 vehicles manufactured. The model 49 ‘Woddie’ was the rarest with just 838 leaving Flint and of those, only a dozen are thought to still be on the road today, making them highly desirable and valuable. The numbers achieved would not be repeated the following year, as from December 7, 1941, war production would take precedence over automobile manufacture, as America entered the Second World war.
Chassis 14239585 arrived to the UK in 2013 as a matching numbers car with an odometer reading a mere 30,000 miles, and it was at this point that the comprehensive no-expense spared restoration began. The work was completed with a great attention to detail, which can now be fully appreciated by the excellent condition of the car.
Finished in all of the period correct features and all the glamour in the passenger’s eye line, it’s easy to overlook a cathedral-like roof beautifully constructed and finished; 30 lengths of curved ash on view stretch from front to back. An epic project, covering several years, thousands of man hours and a vast amount of money, has ensured that this 75-year-old Buick enjoys yet another lifetime. While the Woodie’s heyday may have been in a different era, this Buick will attract an audience for decades to come.