Don Sasser's 1939 Ford Standard Woody Wagon (from Volume 12, Issue 138)
Don Sassers interest in cars started as a young boy growing up in Lakeland, Florida. He learned to drive in a 1953 Hudson Jet in a field on their property, and when his father won a 1950 Dodge Truck he started to work on it and learn at the same time, still not being able to drive on public roads. Dons first legal transportation was a Cushman scooter his Uncle gave to him and his brother, and next it was a Honda 50.
Dons first car was a 1956 Chevy 2-Door Sedan, which was purchased from a junk yard for $300 on the Southside of Lakeland. He worked on the car, got it running with a hot cam, pop-up racing pistons, and slicks on the back. He was ready to roll! That is until his father borrowed the car one morning after his own wouldnt start, and he lost a front wheel at 65 mph. Someone had loosened the lug nuts on all four wheels, planning to come back later and quickly steal the rims and tires.....but the crash was the end of his 56 Chevy. The only drag racing they got to do was in the orange groves of Lakeland. In the many years since then Don has owned a slew of cars of various makes, including a 1963 MGB, 1962 Ford Fairlane, a couple Olds Cutlass, a Monte Carlo, VW Beetle, Corvettes and Porches.
Now about the 1939 Ford Woody pictured here. Don found it in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where he and his wife own a couple of rental chalets. They had a sofa cushion that needed to be stitched, so Don went down to Johnsons Upholstery shop. Owner William Johnson works on Model As as a hobby, and throughout the conversation Don told him that he should have bought the Model A he had looked at last year. William then said he might have something up the mountain that Don would be interested in, and to come back the next morning. Not knowing what he would find, when Don pulled up the next morning, out in front of the shop sat an original 1939 Ford Standard Woody, which had been painted orange for the Tennessee Vols. William had found the car in a barn in Kentucky. Don didnt know if he wanted a Woody, but was interested in the prospect. He thought about it for a couple of days, then called William with the good news that he wanted to buy his car. William then had second thoughts, but finally agreed to sell a week later.
Don had the car shipped down to Atlantic Beach, Florida where he lives, and enjoyed the car as an original around the beach with only minor repairs for the next couple of years. He had the Woody in for a quick oil change, when someone noticed the frame was going bad on the car. After having a bad experience with someone who was supposed to put a new TCI frame under it, as luck would have it the Turkey Run was coming up. There he met up with Steve Hatfield, who owns Street Rods & Collectibles in Ashland, Kentucky - and Don had admired his work in the past. He took the main parts of Dons 1939 Ford Woody back up to Kentucky, leaving the wood with Don to deal with.
The restoration took a little over a year, with several trips back and forth to Kentucky. Steve boxed a good 38 frame to use, which then got a custom cross member, tubular A-Arms with coil-over shocks, a power rack and pinion Mustang II style front end, and a 8.8 Ford rear end with 31 spline axles and disc brakes. Next came a 4.6 Liter SOHC Mustang GT engine, Ford AOD transmission, and a custom aluminum radiator.
The metal work was all done by Steve Hatfield, and is outstanding. The car was then painted DuPont European Black, and came out like glass, and a set of wire wheels wrapped in wide whitewall BFGoodrich radials add a little pizzazz. The woodwork was all completed by a friend of Dons in Jacksonville, Keith Moody, who is an antique furniture expert but took on the Woody as a project. Don did a lot of grunt work, and Keith had the skill. They were able to save about 65% of the original wood, which was stripped bare. Keith asked another friend, Randy Osborn, who makes custom cabinets and OZ Skateboards to spray the finished wood. Randy and his son James sprayed 4 coats of automotive clear coat on all the wood, which was then buffed with the rest of the car by Street Rods & Collectibles. All new glass with a light green tint was installed, but they found there is no after market windshield rubber made for a 39 Ford Standard Woody. However Lee Baggs at Lee & Cates Glass figured out that a 68 VW Bus rubber would fit just fine.
Inside it has a new Flaming River tilt steering column, topped with a nostalgic banjo style steering wheel from LeCarra. Youll also find a Lokar floor mounted shifter, and antique gold gauges. The original seats have been replace by those out of a 2004 BMW, which are 6-way power units to add a little comfort to the ride, along with power steering and Vintage Air Conditioning.
Dons Woody has done quite well at the shows since it was introduced in March, 2005. Highlights include getting the Wonderful Woody award at the GoodGuys 7th Spring Nationals at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, a Sponsors Choice at the Lake Mirror Classic in Lakeland, plus many other top awards at various shows. But more importantly it puts a smile on the faces of the Sasser Family! It was truly a once in a lifetime find, lots of fun....and a keeper. CN