Let’s face it, the drivability and usefulness of a 1948 Ford Marmon-Herrington pale in comparison to its curb appeal. Although Ford intended its base woody wagon to be utilitarian, no one is going to off-road an eye-catching Marmon-Herrington conversion like the one that will cross the block at RM Sotheby’s Arizona auction in January. We hope.
Beginning in 1937, wood-frame Ford station wagons were converted to all-wheel drive by Marmon-Herrington in Indianapolis, pretty much limiting them to off-road use (again, we strongly encourage prospective owners to ignore that fact). After being shipped from Ford’s Iron Mountain facility in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—there’s a lot of timber in the U.P.—Marmon-Herrington would remove the wagon’s stilted body (complete with wooden-panel bodywork), reinforce the chassis, and install the full-time all-wheel-drive hardware.
The woody retained its 239-cubic-inch flathead V-8 engine, which was mated to a four-speed manual transmission and a modified rear axle/differential.
“The conversion work was done largely by hand, and it roughly doubled the purchase price of a standard Ford or Mercury,” says Hagerty valuation editor Andrew Newton, “so not very many were completed.”
After the auto industry’s forced respite during World War II, production resumed in 1948, and the Marmon-Herrington’s increased ride height and off-roading ability, combined with a rejuvenated economy, made it attractive—and perhaps a bit more affordable. Among those most interested in the all-wheel-drive conversion were outdoorsmen, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Army, and owners of remote resort lodges. It just wasn’t enough, however, and production ended for good after the ’48 model year.
RM’s Marmon-Herrington received “a thorough nut-and-bolt restoration [six years ago], with much of the work done by staff members from the noted Nick Alexander Collection. Finished in Medium Luster Black, the wagon features top-of-the-line Super Deluxe trim that includes chrome moldings around all windows, a horn ring, two sun visors, armrests on all doors, passenger assist straps, and horizontal chrome trim on the body, along with a factory radio. In addition to the stunning woodwork, it has a properly painted wood-grain metal dash, rubber flooring, correct brown interior upholstery, and is fitted with aggressive 7.00-15LT Super Traxion off-road tires.”
The woody has been driven only 600 miles since its restoration. The sale includes the wagon’s original owner’s manual, an album with factory photos, and other memorabilia.
RM Sotheby’s hasn’t provided a pre-auction estimate, but the same Marmon-Herrington (VIN/Serial #2341564) was hammered not sold for $200,000 at Mecum’s 2018 Monterey auction.
RM sold a similar but rarer ’48 Mercury Marmon-Herrington for $207,000 at its 2019 Monterey auction in August, eight months after a 1940 Ford Marmon-Herrington from the Nick Alexander Collection went for $252,000 at RM’s 2019 Arizona event.
If #2341564 finds a new home this time around, the buyer likely won’t test drive it on the dusty backroads of nearby Camelback Mountain (much to our relief). These days, a Marmon-Herrington is more eye candy than weekend warrior anyway.