The Story

The Surf Woody

The Surf Woody is a custom car that was built in 1965. It was the combined work of three great automotive icons, George Barris, Dick Dean, and Tom Daniel. Tom Daniel is a well known automotive designer/illustrator and he originated the concept of the Surf Woody when he drew the initial sketches for Rod & Custom Magazine. George Barris, the original car “Kustomizer”, ran a shop in southern California that built and modified cars for those that wanted something different as well as the television and movie industry. He liked Daniel’s concept drawings and set out to build the Woody.

Dick Dean worked for Barris and was an excellent fabricator and customizer in his own right. Dean would oversee the construction of this project from start to finish.

The chassis was scratch built from 2 inch steel tubing. It utilized early Ford Falcon front suspension with rack and pinion steering. It was powered by a modified small block Ford engine with a crossram intake manifold topped with dual Holley carbs. The engine also had a pair of Paxton centrifugal superchargers to help squeeze the air and fuel in. An automatic transmission topped with a Hurst dual-gate shifter fed the power to a very short driveshaft and an independent rear suspension system adapted from an early Borgward or Mercedes. The body was hand built using small diameter tubing that was later skinned with steel sheet metal. The headlight assembly out front rotated in place much like an early Corvette. The rear of the body was also hand fabricated and included Thunderbird taillights. The “woody” upper body was constructed of chromed rectangular steel sections filled with walnut panels. The top was stitched vinyl and incorporated a surfboard rack. The windshield was from an early model T that had been narrowed and modified to fit the dimensions of the woody. The gas tank was a polished early style aluminum beer keg mounted behind custom made seats. The edges of the windshield were graced with lanterns while the interior was stuffed with many state of the art accessories of the day, such as a French phone, a portable television set and a reel to reel tape player/recorder. Steering and throttle controls were controlled by a joystick.

The Surf Woody graced the covers of Hot Rod and Rod & Custom magazines, was seen on several television shows and was displayed across country at many car shows. The AMT model company marketed a 1/25 th scale plastic kit of this car in the mid-sixties as well. Eventually the car was stored in a warehouse where it fell into a sad state and was eventually auctioned off. It has not been seen since. There are rumors that the original car is in private hands and is slowly being restored in southern California.

The Gunn High Auto Students are trying to replicate the Surf Woody using magazine pictures and the AMT model kit as a guide.