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Lot 344: Pontiac Streamliner 'Woodie' Station Wagon

The Scottsdale Sale, Bonhams & Butterfields (19 January 2012)

*249ci straight-eight motor *500+ individual wood pieces *Three-speed manual transmission

*One of the last American Woodies *Well-documented history *Smartly optioned example

The 'Woodie' station wagon, with its characteristically half-timbered body, ranks alongside the pickup truck as a quintessentially American vehicle. The style originated in the 1930s, its popularity peaking in the immediately post-war decades. Towards the end of the 1950s the Woodie became the vehicle of choice among California surfers, who appreciated its ability to carry several passengers and their boards. Surfer pop bands The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean both referred to them in hit singles, thereby enshrining the Woodie's cult status.

Like almost every other American motor manufacturer, Pontiac recommenced civilian production in 1946 with what were essentially 1942 models. Two ranges were offered, Torpedo and Streamliner, the latter being the larger and more expensive, both of which were available with six- or eight-cylinder engines. Pontiacs of this period are often referred to by the 'Silver Streak' name, a reference to their multiple chromed hood strips - a styling device first introduced in the mid-1930s.

The car we offer is powered by the 248.9ci (4,080cc) eight-cylinder unit that produced 104bhp in standard trim or 106 horsepower with the optional high-compression cylinder head. Three body styles were available on the eight-cylinder Streamliner chassis, the hand-built Woodie station wagon being the most expensive model in the entire Pontiac range. Boasting a wheelbase of 122" (3,099mm), the Pontiac Streamliner Woodie was the largest on the market and could seat up to nine; alternatively, removing the rear seats created a most generous load-carrying space. However, priced at a little under $2,500 it was beyond the reach of many would-be Pontiac customers, prompting the company to seek ways of reducing production costs.

The 1948 model is the last of what might be termed the 'real' Woodies, when the entire rear body structure was made of timber. In 1949 steel was used for the roof and progressively fewer components were made of wood up to 1953 when the last of these Pontiac station wagons was made. Manufactured by the skilled craftsman at the Ypsylanti Furniture Co in Michigan, the body of this 1948 Woodie incorporates no fewer than 523 parts made from either mahogany or Canadian maple.

Out of the 23,000 Pontiacs made in 1948, only 1,000 left the factory with the eight-cylinder engine and three-speed manual transmission like this one, which was actually finished on December 29th 1947 and delivered new in May of the following year to Mrs Emilie Noble Cooper, of Westport, Connecticut and Santa Barbara, Southern California. Most importantly the original service book, with all annotations by the factory and respective codes from new comes with the car. Factory fitted optional equipment included an electric clock, fog lamps, radio, Weather Chief heater, heavy-duty bumper guards and whitewall tires. Mrs Cooper obviously liked the Woodie as she kept it until 1977, when it passed into the hands of Mr. W. Swartley on September 22nd of that year for $400 (receipt on file). On sending Mr. Swartley the two archive shots she added a handwritten note which is in the car's file and ends on the words: 'I hope you'll get as much pleasure out of the car as I have'. Its next recorded owner was Mr Jeff Ruether, of San Clemente, California, who purchased the car on March 20th, 1981 for $4,300 and immediately undertook a complete restoration (invoices on file), at the conclusion of which the Woodie was featured in the May 1982 edition of Car Collector magazine as 'Collector Car of the Month' (copy on file). In September of the same year the car went on to win 'Best of Show' in the National Woodie Club's Wavecrest Inn Meet with 35 Woodies entered. Jeff Ruether was a long-time surfing enthusiast and the Pontiac became a familiar sight along the California coast. There it was seen by Stephan Drogin, who bought the car from Reuther and took it to Hawaii where he lived, flying it periodically back to California during his five years of ownership.

In 1989 the Pontiac was purchased by a Swedish Woodie enthusiast Heinz Wessely for $36,000 and taken to S�derhamn, Sweden. He kept the car till 1993 when it was sold to Anders Bergstom of Alvjso, Sweden. In his ownership the engine, clutch and gearbox were completely overhauled in 1995 (photos and receipts on file). The Woodie then passed to a German enthusiast in 2005 at which time it was featured in a three page article in Street magazine. More recently in 2011 the car has undergone major photo documented wood restoration and preservation work for a cost of a further $20,000 at which time the front shock absorbers were also replaced, new batteries and a new exhaust system fitted. This desirable and rare Pontiac comes with an extensive file of history containing original United States DMV documentation, invoices, assorted correspondence, press articles, export documents and bills of sale. Surviving '48 Pontiac Woodies are rare, those with a continuous and documented history in private ownership from new even rarer; indeed, it is estimated that there are fewer than 50 on the road in North America today. Bonhams are proud to be offering this wonderfully evocative example of classic Americana, now returning home to be offered for sale in Arizona.

Lot Details
Auction The Scottsdale Sale
Bonhams & Butterfields, Arizona, Scottsdale
Lot Number344
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$70000
Hammer Price (inc premium)$75000
Condition rating0
Registration number
Chassis numberP8PB24430
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors