Thursday, October 1, 2015

1951 Chevrolet Styleline DeLuxe Station Wagon



"It combines the smartness and distinction of a wood-grained finish with the strength and safety of an all-steel body. And that means it's more quiet, more durable, easier to keep new and shining. Four doors provide easy access for eight passengers and the rear seats may readily be removed when extra hauling space is required."

Back in 1951, station wagons were still made for folks that needed room to carry stuff, and this Chevy nicely shows it in its exuberant proportions. Quite soon, these load haulers would fall prey to Harley Earl's relentless quest for "longer, lower, wider" cars, too, and while certainly gaining showroom appeal, they would loose a lot of their practicality. Nobody mourned, though: style over substance became the trend of the times, and buyers happily adapted their aspirations to the grand scheme of automotive fashion.

Station wagon conversions in that era were traditionally built from wood. Chevrolet offered wooden station wagons since 1939, and had outsourced their production to J.T. Cantrell & Co. and Ionia coachbuilders, while postwar Chevys were solely built by Ionia and Fisher. The first few station wagons of our pictured generation were still true "Woodies" when introduced in 1949, comprising a wooden tailgate and side window frames. But not for long: already halfway through the model year, Chevrolet changed to a modern all-steel design. They only came in second, though: Plymouth had presented the first American all-steel Suburban already in June 1949.

Perhaps not to alienate the customers, these all-steel station wagons retained their "Woody" look through 1952. Chevrolet simply placed a fake wood-grain decal in place of the original wooden parts, and accordingly, the public soon dubbed these wagons "Tin Woody". That decal is long gone on our pictured car. With a sticker price of $2,191, the station wagons were by the way the most expensive Chevrolets by far: a convertible did cost $1,647, and a fancy Bel Air hardtop coupe 1,914 bucks. It comes to no surprise that the station wagons are a rare sight in Cuba today, as production numbers were low: out of more than 1.2 million Chevrolet buyers in 1951, only 23,586 customers would opt for the Chevy station wagon.

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