Tom Cotter has driven his Ford woody wagon all around the country looking for cars, but this week he visits a man he has been reading about for decades. A man who promptly critiques Tom’s beloved Ford—valuable feedback that Tom welcomes, since it comes from a person who’s been doing woodwork on cars like Tom’s for more than 50 years.
After hunting around Hagerty’s headquarters in Traverse City, Michigan, Tom decides to make a trip just outside of town to visit Mike Nichols at his woodworking shop. Mike is known the world over for his handiwork on woody cars and trucks. Tom may have logged a lot of miles in his, but he has burning questions about how they are built—questions that have been burning since he was 15 years old.
Of course, Tom is a professional, which means he takes the time to talk about the cars in and around the shop first. Projects waiting to begin sit in the tall grass, awaiting the day when Mike’s focus turns to them. First up is a 1942 Ford military staff car. These four-door Fords were basic autos designed to serve alongside the troops. Interestingly, these cars were powered by a flathead inline-six rather than a flathead V-8. Durability was likely the goal, not power.
Once inside the shop, Mike shows off another odd military car. It’s another 1942 Ford, but this car was converted to a woody wagon of sorts. Mike’s research shows roughly 100 of these conversions were built, and the example Tom is crawling around is just one of two known to still exist.
Tom is here not only for the cars but also to indulge himself a bit in the intricacies of the woodworking process. One look at the finger jointing machine shows why it takes a brave person to run such an overtly dangerous piece of equipment. That might be part of why woody construction never quite caught on in history.
This episode is a good reminder to go out and look around; a world class restorer might be just around the corner from you without you realizing it. This is the perfect time to take a drive in a car you love and look for interesting things—on the side of the road or otherwise. Maybe make a note and head back later. The military calls that scouting; Tom calls it hunting.