Greg and Penni Tidwell’s Long-Term 1950 Ford Woodie Project was Built for the Long Haul
“A woodie wagon makes perfect sense!”
That’s the thought Greg Tidwell had when he started his search for a hot rod that he and his then-pregnant wife, Penni, could enjoy as a family. That was about 20 years ago. In fact, their son Wyatt never even rode in the woodie until he was able to drive it!
In other words, like so many hot rod and custom car projects, it was a long-term effort with a lot of zigs, zags and U-turns. But as you can see, the result was well worth the wait.
Greg first bought a ’51 Ford woodie wagon sight unseen out of Utah that was running with its stock Flathead and painted over original wood. He and Penni drove it around a bit and even attended a woodie show near their Modesto, California, home. “The other woodie guys were so welcoming and helpful, even with our rough old Ford. It was a lot of fun, so we decided to have the car restored.”
Here is where the roadblocks started. When the first shop tore into the ol’ Ford, it ended up being loaded with rust and pushed aside to use as a parts car. Greg found a 1950 Ford woodie model, and work commenced until the shop owner decided to retire. The next builder took on the project but eventually opted out due to some family issues. The project also stalled in paint jail at another shop for a while and amazingly, Greg continued to press on.
Finally, the project took a right turn as Greg was introduced to Darryl Hollenbeck of Vintage Color Studio, who took on the project and also recommended Bill Ganahl of South City Rod & Custom for the remaining work. Finally, the project got wheels, serious wheels, and gained speed!
Darryl and his team tackled the bodywork, which included subtle custom mods like frenching the headlights and shaving the hood before the stunning custom blue PPG hue was applied. Assembling the woodie went to Bill and his team, where they also trimmed and tucked a set of ’51 bumpers and crafted a custom set of tail lamp assemblies. A ’49 Ford grille and parking lights were also added. The wood was replaced by the artful hand of Rick Mack and then Greg decided to preserve its natural look by having Compani Color apply a clear finish treatment, providing an amazing finish.
The chassis was pretty well handled before South City took on the project. The stock frame was retained though considerably updated with a FatMan front clip and lowered leaf springs out back to carry the Ford 9-inch rearend filled with 3.50:1 gears. Consistent stopping power is provided through a set of Baer disc brakes tucked behind the Circle Racing wheels with Bridgestone 215/55R17s up front and 235/55R18s tucked in the rear wheel openings.
Blue-oval fans are in for a treat when they peek under the hood as Greg opted to keep things all-Ford with a classic 302c.i. small-block. Better yet, the aluminum headed V8 is topped off with a detailed Inglese 8-stack EFI system managed by a FAST XFI fuel injection system. Since this wagon was built to long haul, an AOD transmission was chosen due to its overdrive gear set, and a Walker radiator was installed to keep running temps in check.
Keeping pace with the long-haul plan, the interior was created for comfort, yet with classic Ford woodie style. Chris Plante worked his leather stitching skills over a set of Glide seats and a custom headliner. The doors are finished in textured wood while square-weave carpet lines the floors. The factory gauges were restored and are viewed through a Limeworks Crestliner steering wheel.
Greg’s son was 16 when the 1950 Ford woodie finally debuted during the 2019 Grand National Roadster Show. Later in the year it scored a Builder’s Choice Award during the Goodguys Del Mar Nationals. As a final roadblock, there was a long pause in the car show scene before Greg and Penni decided to pack up and cruise the woodie on the 2022 Goodguys Hall of Fame Road Tour. They were happy to report that car rode smoothly and comfortably on the coastal journey, with only a little transmission hiccup on the last night. They made it to the 34th Griot’s Garage Pacific Northwest Nationals and back home – with a lot of great memories made along the way.
Remember, it’s all about the journey, not the destination. For Greg and Penni, the journey with their custom 1950 Ford woodie is just getting started!
Photos by Todd Ryden & John Jackson