Shop Saves Garage-Dwelling 1947 Woodie

June 7, 2017

*See additional images in the photo gallery below

When Bernard Huizenga was young, his father had a ’47 Oldsmobile woodie wagon in 1949. The car was eventually traded in for a Plymouth sedan and later involved in a collision. Chasing nostalgia, Huizenga managed to locate one just like it in Virginia. He towed it home behind his 1973 GMC motorhome.

Wounded Woodie

The life of the vehicle under Huizenga would ultimately prove the value of consumers working with speciality shops.

After Huizenga brought the car back home to Elm Grove, Wisconsin, his daughter asked him to use it in a high school homecoming parade. Immediately after that, he started taking the wooden body apart for restoration. He saw that the wood parts were held together by finger joints that had deteriorated. He tried various ways to reproduce them and decided he couldn’t do a good enough job of it.

Huizenga shipped the wood parts to a man in Minneapolis, who said he could fix them. A few weeks later, the man called to say the woodwork was done, but it wasn’t done properly. The man didn’t get the fingers completely seated before the glue dried. There was over 1/8-inch of space at the point of each finger. Discouraged, Huizenga set the project aside for decades.

The Woodworker

During that time, Huizenga joined the National Woodie Club and had contacts with other owners of Oldsmobile woodies. In 2010, he got a call from Mark Norton, of Cedar, Michigan, who said he had two 1947 Oldsmobile woodies to build for people but had nothing to go by. Norton wanted to use Huizenga’s car to make patterns. Wheezing suggested that Norton take the car to his shop to do that and then built a body for it.

Norton was a fourth-generation woodworker who came from a family of patternmakers. When he was a small boy, his father made a set of boxes that he could stand on in order to reach the woodworking machines in the shop. By the time he was 16, Norton had become an accomplished patternmaker himself.

Norton went to college to study engineering. While he was away, his father developed a heart condition. Mark was called home to help run the business, but did not want to be a patternmaker, so the business was sold. He then went to work building houses, but got restless and decided to restore woodie cars.

In October 2010, Norton drove a trailer to Huizenga’s house to pick up the 1947 Olds. He brought the car back to Traverse City and worked on it in a shop owned by Mike Nichols, who had been repairing woodies for 30 years. Together, they started the shop now named Norton’s Woodies & Rods.

Norton inherited his father’s passion for design, fabrication, perfection and customer service as well as his mother’s artistic talent. He said that gave him an eye for things that look right. All projects are completed to a Norton standard of quality-”the Norton’s Woodies & Rods team works with the most up to date and tried and true methods and products in the industry.

Norton said he has learned the art of listening and working with clients.

“Each one becomes a member of the team,” he said.

With a unique combination of skills, and drive to build the finest hand-crafted automobiles, the Norton Woodies & Rods team can build dream cars like Bernard Huizenga’s 1947 Olds woodie.

Related Articles