Old Woodies for Enthusiasts of Wood-bodied Cars and Trucks

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Early Woodie History

Very, Very, Very Early

sailchar.gif (17909 bytes)

The first powered vehicles were made of wood. So it is not surprising the wheeled woodies of the 20th century sport the wooden, vestigial tails of the automobile's predecessors. I suspected wooden boats and woodie wagons shared a common ancestor, but I did not find the missing link until I came across Transportation Progress,  written by Arthur Pound in 1934. He writes:

"Of special interest is the sailing chariot, known in China, and brought to it's peak in Holland, where one designed by Simon Stevin , about 1600, covered forty-two miles in two hours, carrying twenty-eight persons, and was used quite regularly."


orukter-amphibolis.gif (5445 bytes)

Continuing with the marine theme, in 1789, the first U.S. patent for a self-propelled carriage was received by the extraordinary genius, Oliver Evans, for his 'Oruckter Amphibolis'. The City of Philadelphia commissioned Evans to build a dredging barge, but he seized the opportunity and created a steam-powered terrestrial vehicle. Not only did this 21-ton, 4x4, stern-wheel woodie travel the streets of Philadelphia, it also navigated the waterways --- the first authentic amphibious vehicle on record.


Rockaway carriage

It took a while to refine the powered woodie. In fact, while waiting for compact power plants, woodies of the mid to late 1800's continued to use the familiar one horsepower locomotive force, old Dobbin. This image is of an American 'Curtain Rockaway' carriage, with external wooden framework and paneling visible. The curtains are rolled up and tied at the roof edge, a feature that was seen on motorized woodie wagons through to the mid-1930's.


1891 'Curtain Rockaway' carriage image source:
"American Carriages, Sleighs, Sulkies and Carts", Don Berkebile, editor, 
Dover Publications Inc 1977 ISBN 0-486-23328-6

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