The Buick Woody That Needed a Lift

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Apr 22, 2016

It’s a car I’ve always wanted to own—a 1952 Buick Super Estate Wagon, a/k/a Woody. And it lived right around the corner from me, on a lift!—for 40 years.

The '52 Woody, looking cosy in the spot where it sat for 40 years. (Tony Christy photo) This is a human-interest story if ever there was one. Ken, who runs a garage somewhere in New England, inherited the Buick from his mechanic father. “I remember going down to Florida in that car when I was two years old,” he told me. “It was nearly new then—my dad got first crack at the trade-ins.”

Stuff grew up around the Buick. (Tony Christy photo)Ken guesses the Buick went on the lift—in the back of his shop—around 1975. "Stuff" migrated around the lift, eventually walling the old car in with carburetors, wheels, tools, and old boots. It didn’t stir for four decades, but then a young buyer was in the right place at the right time.
“Am I sorry to see it go?” Ken asked. “Yes and no. It was Dad's car. But I think it went to a good home. I always had intentions of fixing the Buick, but I always end up working on somebody else’s project. I finally realized I wasn’t going to get around to it.” Now there’s a realization that escapes most hoarders of old cars.

The dust was an inch thick--but that's part of the patina! (Tony Christy photo) Tony Christy came along at the right time. The 31-year-old machinist tinkers with cars in his spare time. "People know I’m into cars, so I heard word of mouth that the car was there, and the guy was looking to sell. I asked what he would take in cash, that day, and he put a number out there. I paid it, and now it’s mine.”

 At last! The Buick off the lift--but on a trailer! (Tony Christy photo)It’s been a wild couple of months for the Buick. On the lift it was minus its rear fenders and tailgate, plus some trim, but all that was preserved. Tony had some work to do, though. “The freeze-out plugs had rotted, and there was a hole in the gas tank,” he said. “I did the brakes, all the hoses and rubber parts. Then I pulled the distributor and turned it over with a drill to make sure oil was circulating.” With a milk jug for a gas tank, it started right up. A couple lifters were sticking, but they’re happy now.
Flash forward to Caffeine and Carburetors in New Canaan, Connecticut—the first event of 2016. Among the Porsche 918 Spyders, Maserati Boras and multiple McLarens was the 1952 Buick Woody, enjoying the sun. Tony was testing the waters at $37,000.

 Taking offers: The cleaned-up Woody with new owner Tony Christy at Caffeine and Carburetors. (Jim Motavalli photo)“Try finding one of these with the original wood,” he told me. “I think the price is on the low side--restored it's $80,000.” As-is, the car has delightful patina, showing all the dents, dings and scrapes of loving use before it went on that lift. “It’s totally original, down to the trailer hitch someone welded onto the back bumper. There’s a lot of flavor of what it was.”

 On the road again! The Woody goes looking for adventure, and whatever comes its way. (Brian Oliver photo)What’s it like to drive, after all those years? “Like any 50s car,” Tony says. “You leave a lot of space in front of you.” He’s still got a punch list of jobs to do—the wiper motor vacuum motor, the heater cores—but the important thing is that the Buick is on the road once more, after 40 years on that lift.
For your viewing pleasure, here are a few more cool cars from Caffeine and Carburetors:

The dogs were even cooler than the cars. (Jim Motavalli photo)This 1940 Packard Darrin is one of seven survivors on the budget 120 chassis. (Jim Motavalli photo)This 1959 Alfa-Romeo display came complete with driving gloves. (Jim Motavalli photo)Only at Caffeine and Carburetors--a row of four Ford GTs (including one in Gulf colors). (Jim Motavalli photo)This rare Mark 5 Jaguar was one of two. (Jim Motavalli photo)

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