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Jim La Baugh

1939 Deluxe Woodie - A Ford legacy

My father passed away in 1999 and about two years later his '39 Deluxe Station Wagon passed to me. He obtained it from the original owner in New Hampshire in May of 1978. She had driven it until 1960 and then parked it in her barn. Although barn fresh, and having not moved in 18 years, it still rolled on to the trailer for the trip to my parents house in New Jersey. The photo below shows the car in its fresh out of the barn condition at the original owner's place.

The engine was not running, much of the wood had dry rot, and rust was in the usual places found on Woodies - around the rear fenders next to the wood and the front floor. Over the years my father went to Hershey to look for a few items while he planned for the car's restoration. In 1994 the restoration began when the '39 rolled off another trailer at the New Jersey shop that eventually took it down to bare metal and back.

 

As you can see from the photos below, the years in the barn had not been kind to the engine, interior, or the wood.

My father wanted to save as much of the original wood as possible, and some of the pieces with their decades of patina did hold up, but a fair amount of new wood was needed.

My father passed away just before the New Jersey restorer decided to close shop. The car then was picked up by a Pennsylvania restorer, who was a friend of the first restorer, and took on the continuation of the restoration. The '39, however, did not get much attention in PA as many other vehicles were ahead of it. At the 2007 Eastern National, fellow NVRG member and woodie enthusiast Bob Wild inquired about the status of the '39. He mentioned that his son-in-law, Ben McDonald was restoring Early Ford V8s. After checking with Ben and some discussion with the PA restorer, Ben, Bob, and I were on the way to retrieve the '39 in September 2007.

 

Once safely in Virginia, Ben checked the engine, brakes etc. and made needed repairs from the car sitting so long and not having run in a decade.

 Not all the parts were with the car however. The rain gutters disappeared somewhere in the pre-Virginia journeys. Yet others, incredibly, were still in NJ. Even though the restorer there had gone out of business, he still had the bumpers and hub caps! A road trip to get them was successful and in early November got them down to Ben's place. In the meantime Ben had reassembled sheet metal that had spent many years in the back of the wagon, along with other vital parts, and made the car road worthy. So in November, I got to drive the car for the first time! It was a bit brisk as the roof is not covered and only the windshield glass is in but I know my father would be very glad it is finally on the road.

  

With the hubcaps repainted, and the addition of road lights and so forth, it will not be long before the '39 will be on the road as Henry intended. None of this would have been possible without Ben McDonald's work. Some of the new wood needs attention before the glass and roof can be finished and I feel fortunate that wood and woodie roof experts, such as Dave Westrate, Hank Dubois, Cliff Green, and Ken Burns are in the club to provide me with advice on the work I will need to do to complete the car.

 Uodated:08/03/2019