Arlington Real Estate Broker Jeff Cassell and his wife Karina have a passion for automobiles, but, for a time, their garage and hearts had an empty space waiting for something special to fill it.
“As a kid, I washed cars for spending money in my grandfather’s small car lot,” Jeff recalls. “One day I cleaned up a 1940 Ford and got to drive it around a little. I was 12 years old and could barely reach the pedals, and that ride changed my life. I knew that, someday, I would have one of these really ‘cool cars.’”
Fast forward 36 years later, when a friend from the National Woodie Club connected Jeff with a guy in California who actually had a 1939 Ford Deluxe Woodie. The owner had acquired the vehicle from a Hollywood movie production company (more about that part of its history in a few minutes).
“I immediately had to check it out,” Jeff says.
After calling him up and learning the Woodie had been scheduled for sale on Craigslist just an hour earlier, Jeff asked him if he could wait a few days until he could drive out to see it in person.
The owner promised to hold it for three days – then it would go to whoever showed up first with the money.
“So,” Jeff says, “I hitched up my utility trailer that same night without actually knowing if the Woodie would fit on it, told Karina I was leaving for a 3,400-mile road trip and headed West.” A 16-hour excursion across the desert got him as far as Kingman, Ariz., where he stopped for some rest and then moved on to his destination the next day.
“It was a true barn find,” he says. “It was covered in a few inches of dust, hadn’t been started up in many years, but I knew I had found what I wanted.”
After a couple of hours of cleaning up the spark plugs and the carburetor and installing a charged battery, Jeff fired it up enough to get it loaded on the trailer. Thankfully, it did fit.
There was a stop along the way back at a place with a bunch of rare Flying A Gasoline signs from the 1930s. Jeff thought one would be a nice addition for the wall in his garage and pulled in to take a look.
The owner of that shop offered a three-for-one swap for the Woodie.
Not three signs. Three cars – for the one on his trailer. Jeff said no to the proposition and moved on with the journey home.
In addition to being a very sought-after prize any Woodie collector would love to have, this car is also a movie star. It graced the big screen in the 1997 USA/French reproduction of the movie “Lolita.” It was driven by the picture’s stars Jeremy Irons and Melanie Griffin in several of the film’s scenes.
“The director of the movie wanted a certain look, so he had applied hair spray and sand all over the solid maple wood body to make it less shiny and better for the visuals on film,” Jeff explains. “That is what saved and preserved the original wood that you see today.”
Jeff and his wife Karina enjoy taking their car to shows and events so others can share in the discovery of an older generation of cars that has grown very scarce over the years. Their latest achievement was to win the “Best in Class Award” at last spring’s Concours d’Elegance of Texas event in its inaugural year in Arlington. They competed against much more restored cars but won for the automobile’s originality versus perfection.
Jeff’s Deluxe Woodie Wagon is original inside and out with leatherette interior trim, a banjo steering wheel, an optional factory clock, 3-speed manual floor shift, and a third-row seat making room inside for a total of eight.
Deluxe models came with two sun visors and two windshield wipers verses one, some additional stainless trim on the hood and front end, a dome interior light, flush mounted headlights, deluxe hub caps, two rear tail lights, and an interior mounted spare tire that Jeff removed to ease passenger access.
The 1939 4-door Deluxe Station Wagon was Ford’s answer to the competition coming from Chevrolet and Plymouth. The Woodie sported real maple wood siding that came from Ford’s own forest timber and was powered by the optional 85-horsepower, 21 stud flathead motor.
It originally sold for $916 in 1939. Really nice original ones today cost six figures, plus.
But, don’t be making any offers for Jeff’s, now occupying that empty space in his garage and in his heart – because it’s not for sale.