Ford Mercury woodies figured heavily in FoMoCo's plans for its first new postwar models, but the need to economize and a last-minute change of direction meant woody sedans and convertibles didn't stand a chance.
By this time it was a woody world. Every GM division except Cadillac had a factory woody model, and a special Cadillac woody sedan body could be ordered from Coachcraft in California. Studebaker, Hudson, Packard, Plymouth, and Dodge all had woodies, many for some time. Chrysler introduced its striking new Town & Country wagon that year, offered in six- and nine-passenger versions.
Ford now carried its station wagon body over to the Mercury line, where it appeared as a lone-eight cylinder model. There were four woody wagons in the Ford line: a Six and an Eight in both the DeLuxe and Super DeLuxe series.
Iron Mountain continued turning out woodies until World War II halted all U.S. civilian car production. Wagon output for 1942 was a mere 1222 Fords and 900 Mercury s.
The 1942 body returned unchanged for 1946-1948 except for the familiar postwar face-lifts, and the DeLuxe wagon was dropped. Up to this point, all Ford woody wagons had been evolutionary.
But the 1949 model was quite revolutionary. It marked the last time the firm would be financially unsuccessful at building wagons. The 1949-1951 design generation would also see the last Ford and Mercury wagons with real wood bodywork.
The origins of the 1949 wagons can be traced as far back as 1941, when the styling group under E. T. "Bob" Gregorie began work on the 1943 models that never appeared because of the war.
By 1943 there were a number of clays that clearly outlined the basic shapes of postwar Mercuries and Lincolns. Among them was at least one mock-up of a new wagon body, probably envisioned as being all-wood.
The atmosphere at Ford Motor Company in this period was chaotic. Edsel Ford died in May 1943, and old Henry was becoming increasingly senile. Whatever postwar planning could be managed was carried out in complete secrecy from Charlie Sorensen, Ford's right hand man, and the U.S. Government, which forbade any new product development during the war.
Yet some brilliant work went forward, some of it undercover, including an independent front suspension for Ford and Mercury and a new torsion-bar suspension for Lincoln.
Engineering projects proceeded under Larry Sheldrick, whom Sorensen eventually fired, while design efforts were supervised by Gregorie, who quit but soon returned. Given the cloak-and-dagger conditions, it's a miracle that anything at all emerged from this wartime work.
From the beginning, wood wagon bodies had been squeaky, drafty and, above all, costly to build. Any postwar wagon would have to be stronger, quieter, more durable and stylish and, most of all, more profitable.
These requirements led to Gregorie's wagon design of 1943-1944. In its final form, it had an all-steel body with a steel top. Wood was used only for the outer panels and lower tailgate section.
Two doors were employed instead of four, because two-door models are cheaper to build and provide greater overall structural strength. Ross Cousins still has a drawing he did, dated 8/24/1944, and it is clearly the same wagon design introduced in early 1948 for the 1949 Ford and Mercury lines.
At about the same time, Cousins rendered a convertible sport wagon, essentially the same car without a top. Cousins says both these ideas were Gregorie's; he only rendered them. While he doesn't recall a clay model of the new wagon, he does remember doing a full-size blackboard drawing of it and believes a prototype was done later that Gregorie drove.
Go on to the next page to learn about the development of the postwar Ford Mercury woody.