Masonite?

I know most people associate woody station wagons with Fords, but the origins of the woody wagon stretches further back than the piston-powered transportation. The station wagon’s roots stem from the horse-drawn carriage. These depot hacks evolved over hundreds of years and became refined purpose-built wagons for specific applications, such as agricultural wagons, delivery wagons, and mail delivery wagons like the magnificent Wells Fargo stage coaches. Once automobiles became popular, they too evolved into trucks, station wagons, and Greyhound buses.

Over time, virtually every automobile manufacturer, that wanted to expand, dabbled in depot hacks or station wagons. All the early truck builders added a depot hack to their Commercial Express trucks including Reo, Willys-Knight, Atlas and Seldon.

International Harvester’s International truck division got into offering station wagons. These were built on their light duty half- and one-ton truck chassis, at first. What was so different about these station wagons was that International only built the chassis, cab and power train, but the rest was outsourced to companies like Moeller, Beckett and Cantrell.

These were popular with feeder bus lines, country clubs, hotels and resorts. The major contract with International was Moeller, an organ manufacturer, which used its woodshop to build station wagon bodies as a sideline. Many of the Internationals seen today, still have Moeller bodies. Interestingly, some of the Moeller bodies featured oiled-Masonite panels instead of the traditional maple/ash/mahogany paneling. This apparently made the construction cheaper, simpler and quicker.

Masonite was first produced in 1929 as one of the first pressed composite construction panel products. It is made of long-fiber wood pulp that is formed under extreme steam and high pressure, without the use of bonding glues. As such it was not waterproof, but with a coating of paint or oil, Masonite’s durability was extended into a lifetime of service. You can see the oiled Masonite paneling in this image from International’s 1938 sales brochure.

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One response to “Masonite?

  1. It has been my privilege to view this book in process over the past couple of years and just today I got to go over all of the galley proofs. All four hundred pages and eight hundred photographs are a testament to the hard work and automotive historical knowledge that only David could bring to such a project. There will never be a more complete history of the station wagon than what David has produced here. Any woody lover would be thrilled to have this book in their collection.

    David covers all the American marques in exhaustive detail, but that’s not all. He has loads of photos of rarely seen British, European, Australian and one-off American wagons. There is a section devoted to the transition station wagons of the sixties to eighties, and the book is loaded with beautiful period advertisements, adding an additional taste of nostalgia.

    This is a limited edition book. Only five hundred copies will be printed. If you fail to get one before they sell out, don’t ask to borrow mine.

    Tim Haworth

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