Mark Becker, Vice-Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, knows his way around cars. Self-taught, he has restored more than ten cars. It was during the restoration of a 1939 American Bantam woodie station wagon that his fascination for woodies grew. His most recent projects of two 1947 Chrysler Town and Country cars, a sedan and a convertible, have expanded that love.
“I like cars from the 1940s. I like the era and the look. The wood is very unusual. The light wood is white ash and the dark wood is mahogany. These were the last of the woodies where the wood was actually structural,” says Becker. Instead of wood over a steel frame for decoration, the doors and trunk lids were handcrafted entirely out of wood.
The 1947 Chrysler Town and Country woodie sedan was originally restored in 2000 by the prior owner, so when Becker bought it last March it was mostly cosmetic work he had to do to the upholstery, some of the chrome and the engine compartment. It has a straight six engine. He says it was, “a good older restoration that just needed to be freshened up a little bit.” Although there are a few more things on the “to do” list.
The opposite can be said for the 1947 Chrysler Town and Country woodie convertible with a straight eight engine he bought three years go. There was a lot of work to be done with this restoration. “The wood was finished, but not a whole lot else on that car was done.” It was a restoration job that someone had started, but had not finished and original parts weren’t used in the process. Every car Becker restores is as close as possible to how it would have looked on the showroom floor. “When I got it the only things that worked on that car were the ignition circuit and the brake light.” That project took him at least a year and a half before he was happy with the restoration.
Becker has been around cars his whole life; his father was a track doctor and his mother was a corner worker, the “eyes” for racers driving around corners, for the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). He and his wife, Hilary, have collected cars for a long time, and he says he enjoys the restoration process as much as when he is finally able to pull out of the driveway and go for a cruise.