The Jalopy Journal
Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Shawn F., Nov 26, 2008.
Here's my '56, no boards, but is still "beachy"...
here's a real surf wagon.....
This "could" be considered a wagon, in the literal sense...
my old woodie that I owned twice
(Historical facts of the So Cal surf scene from 1957 to 65)
Surf wagons was a term coined to portray anything that rolled and was used to go to the beach. In the beginning of the surf craze in late 50’s and early 60’s prior to Vietnam, the cars ran the gamut from mom’s 4 door Chevy to VW vans. There was no such thing as “just a surf wagon.” Our group’s cars ranged from a 58 Chevy Impala, a 49 Vw sunroof coupe, a 51 Plymouth wagon, a 40 Ford Sedan Delivery, 55 Nomad, a 4 door 56 Chevy wagon, a 46 Ford big panel van, one 51 Chevy woody, 61 Ford Econoline, and a bunch of VW vans starting with a rare 55 top scoop panel van that had opening front windows. No one had a 40-49 Ford woody, so popular/expensive, like today. They were not around, too expensive or not reliable daily drivers. (couldn't lock them up correctly, the doors warped, the tailgate never fit correctly, etc.) There were some, but they were rarely seen at the beach.
In the local Long Beach-South Orange County scene from 1957 to 65, the majority of “surf wagons” were VW vans. They were used for short and long surf trips up and down the coast. (SF to Mexico) The insides were hollow at first, but the ingenuity of surfers was put to the test. A fold up bed that made a sofa behind the driver, an area for an icebox, a small closet in the back and one behind the passenger seat. Small two burner stoves using propane did the job. There was enough room for a small sink and water faucet. Some guys made the bed extensions go all the way to the back utilizing the raised up platform created by the motor compartment. The patterns were copied and were given to others that wanted to create the first homemade VW van living areas. Those with window vans made curtains for those rest stop/quiet neighborhood areas with privacy.
But, for those trips to Baja and Mazatlan, a sneaky compartment was at the base of the front closet. A removable floor of the closet that stored stuff that was not legal, rum, beer, whiskey, fruit,etc. They would all be confiscated at the border crossing. But when the inspectors opened the closet and found tennis shoes and sandals neatly sitting on the floor of the cabinet, no questions asked and we were free to go home.
These vans took precedence over any other vehicle for the So Cal locals. They were versatile, only took 4 bolts to drop the motor for servicing or repairs, and generally ran great. The only problem was on those long distance drives created poor cooling for the rear, so up popped the door to let out heat and then fiberglass/sheet aluminum scoops were bolted onto the vents on the side to max out the wind to the motor.
So, in the early days, there was no set surf wagons, but in today’s scene, anything goes, even those with hula dolls on the dash and never used surfboards on top. The early 60’s VW vans were the true surf wagons for the So Cal scene. Yrmv
In 1962, my friend worked at the Seal Beach Ole/Hobie Shop on Seal Beach Blvd, near the Naval Weapons Station Harbor. We had a job to bring some longboards back from the original Hobie Surf Shop in Dana Point. (60+ miles and 4+ hours round trip) The shaping room was in the back of the Dana Point store. We were driving from Seal Beach in a 41 Plymouth Coupe that had an unusual camouflage, hand paint job. (for undercover surf trips to the Camp Pendleton jungles and Trestles)
We took the 41 coupe because we could get a few on top. We took our own two longboard, just in case we found some good surf at Salt Creek. But, when we arrived at the Hobie Store, the order was for 9 boards. These were 30-40 lb longboards of all sizes. It was a long drive, so we had to take all of these boards in one trip. We started stacking them side by side on the small roof. Finally when all boards were well secured, the trip home on PCH was interesting to say the least.
At every stop light in every coastal town, we got a ton of questions about why there were 11 boards on top and two surfers in the car. Of course, being funny surfers, our stories were varied to fit the need. (pro surfers…no such thing back then, owned a surf board factory, rich parents, starting a museum, etc.) The girls were totally impressed with what the car looked like and our cool stories. We stopped for lunch in Corona Del Mar at a drive in and the barrage of questions just kept coming…
Eventhough that trip was very memorable, the next time, we took his other family car, a four door 1954 Ford “Country Sedan” wagon. Now, that roofline held the next load of surfboards quite well and we brought back 10 longboards on top with ease. They stacked well and the roofline gave them lots of support for the tie down ropes. We even put in 4 extra longboards in the rear wagon opening with red flags. The four doors were handy for the rope lock down points. The wagon looked a little odd with only two surfers inside and 14 boards, but it did not match the camouflaged 41 Plymouth Coupe for looking odd/strange driving down the street.
Little did we know, but what we did with the multiple boards on top of both vehicles was the start of a crazy “surfboard stacking contest” that was popular along the coastal towns.
surfer mag photo
Yes, in previous threads it was mentioned that the majority of surf vehicles were just family cars and old simple station wagons. But, there was that image of surfers with wood station wagons in the media. That was hard to change, so the surfer image was forever immersed with the famous woody station wagons.
Here are the famous Laguna Beach, Calhoun Sisters in Hawaii with friends and a woody wagon. They were some of the best women surfers of their time and challenged the So Cal waves as well as the big surf in Hawaii. The were regulars at Brooks Street and Oak Street in Laguna Beach during the early 60’s. When the summer, south swells rolled in, they were out in the lineup. 3rd reef Brooks St. …what a ride. Their mom was also an excellent surfer, was very friendly, and looked just as cool as the daughters.
Before we bought and fixed up the second sedan delivery with the 327, we had driven to San Diego to buy a 46 Ford Woody that had an SBC and 3 speed. It was yellow and the wood looked ok, but there were some things that would need to be changed.
The cost was $2600, which would be around $15k today. Not a bad price. But, those days, no one carried around $2600 in cash, so we took our checkbook. The guy selling the car was a dealer of old cars and would not take our check because we were out of town people. (not San Diego) At the time, our friend, Lee Bright from Santee, (northeast San Diego) said he would vouch for us, but for some reason, local establishments were into that thing of not cashing checks from out of towners, even with proper ID. (We also missed out on not being able to buy two properties on Kauai,Hi because…we were out of towners. Our local bank said no on a loan for the opposite, the property was out of state…)
So ended our 46 Ford Woody escapade and on to the “local” red 40 Ford Sedan Delivery in our own “OC” neck of the woods.
As part of the final recovery for my brother’s 3rd degree burns, our surfing started getting better and our adventures started branching out. We were really getting involved in surf travel adventures in 1961-64. Our local So Cal (Orange County, Santa Barbara, LA Coast, San Diego) trips were for our weekly surfing, but every chance we got, we ventured down to Baja, Mexico to several known and unknown spots.
The usual Baja trips started around 12 midnight in Long Beach (stopping ,of course, at the famous Dana Point, Doheny Beach liquor store for free block ice…) and 5+hours later, we would arrive just in time for the first sunrise surf break before anyone else was up. Also, the entrance to the border had no questions for us as they, too, were half asleep and just waved us by. No certified letters needed from our parents to cross the border for underage teenagers.
Just a couple of miles south of San Miguel, was one of the prime unknown spots for several years. (Through a barbed wire fence and long winding dirt road to the edge of a cliff) These surf wagons would venture down the bumpy dirt road and eventually “circle the wagons” ala… those western, covered wagon movies. (with the side doors open circling the fire pit, it was straight out of western movie set)
These were the years that most people who remember surf wagons or vehicles patterned their new-ish wagons to look like these early pioneers.
Here is a grouping of surf wagons at the well known, San Miguel Campgrounds, just outside of Ensenada. From right to left, there are mostly VW Vans. But the last three on the left were two Ford Econolines and one Chevy van. Most of the custom interiors were similar because our original VW van rough patterns were shared with other people buying any kind of vans. Window or panel van shared the same patterns. (all patterns were shared, except for our secret compartment in the tall, closet floor.)
To keep the driving air flowing over these boxy vans, most of the boards fit inside. Some fit inside under the roof in their own racks, overhead of the driver. The top, popular boards were Harbour Surfboards, Gordie from Huntington Beach, and Ole from Seal Beach. The popular fix it shop was called “Baby Huey’s” in Long Beach.
Surf wagons, San Miguel, Mexico circa 1961-64
2 Econolines, one Chevy and the rest VW Vans of all kinds.(a 53 up to 64)
Baja photos by Leo H. 1963
1963 Baja @ 3 M's
1956 Chevy wagon from Long Beach
VW Vans from Seal Beach
Separate names with a comma.