Car shows routinely feature older trucks as part of the vintage street rod celebration. The trucks represent some of the greatest functional designs of the industrial era, complete with wood floors in the beds. Many of these pickups have wood floors created by the same manufacturer, Bed Wood and Parts. We wanted to take a closer look and ask the question: Why Bed Wood?
Why Pickups And Why Bed Wood?
Pickup trucks have gained popularity in the street rod marketplace. Once thought of as simply a beast of burden that was void of any styling, vintage trucks are now looked at as masterpieces of automotive art. When collectors had priced the majority of mid- and full-sized post-war cars out of the cost range of most blue-collar buyers, the humble and simple pickup trucks were still available.
We offer a choice in wood that actually enhances and personalizes the build. – Jeff Major, Bed Wood and Parts
It didn’t take long for pickups to gain an audience of enthusiasts of their very own. Once the fans were there, custom builders also flocked to the scene. Pickup trucks were perfect for beginning rodders as they were affordable and simple to work on. Within no time, aftermarket manufacturer’s joined the growing crowd. While the list of parts to restore these vintage trucks became more commonplace, there was one area that proved to be troublesome: truck beds. Bed Wood and Parts, a Rod Authority partner, is the leading expert in pickup truck bed restoration and components.
Vintage truck bed floors have become a popular area for a builder to express their own artistic flair.
There was nothing very pretty about the beds of the 1925 to 1985 Ford trucks, 1930 to 1987 Chevy/GM pickup trucks, 1929 to 1985 Dodge trucks or even the Fatboy Hudsons. Designed for a working vehicle, they were very simple, inexpensive, easy to repair, and utilitarian. Simply stated, they were designed to haul stuff!
The original wood used in the beds in Chevrolet/GMC and Dodge trucks was broad leaf Southern yellow pine. Soaked in creosote as a preservative and to prevent fungus, the wood was also treated with a combination of linseed oil and coal pitch, which gave the wood its dull black color. The planks were held in place by metal skid strips that were also painted black.
Ford used wood in the construction beds of its trucks similar to that of GM and Dodge, although it was Northern yellow pine felled from the family’s land in northern Michigan that was transported to the factory.
GM’s wood planks were not sanded smooth or treated for several decades because trucks were designed to be utilitarian. No one considered the bed wood as part of the appearance of a truck. Prior to 1955, wood planks were covered with a dull black coating. After 1955, the wood was treated with a protective weather seal and sprayed with a color coat. Photo from www.oldchevytrucks.com
How Bed Wood And Parts Started
Jeff Major, the founder of Bed Wood and Parts, was restoring a 1957 Chevy pickup and needed to source new wood for the truck bed, so called vendors found in magazines. Unfortunately, every vendor said there were only two options: oak or pine. Although both are great species of wood, with many great characteristics, there is nothing to make it stand out from other truck beds you see at the shows. Oak or pine, that’s it – nothing else.
The turning point for Major was when one vendor went as far as to tell him that he “had to buy” either pine or oak. Realizing that the bed floor is the largest flat surface on a truck, and that the wood bed plays an intrinsic role in the overall presentation of the completed build, Major decided that he didn’t “have to buy” anything because he could do it on his own. In the fall of 2006, Major started to do it his way.
Bed Wood and Parts’ shop is filled with the latest industrial-grade wood finishing tools. The skilled craftsmen make each product by hand with a focus on furniture grade quality.
As a consulting geologist by education, but hot rodder at heart, Major studied the wood on the market to determine what worked well, and which species of wood had shortcomings. One bird’s eye maple truck bed later and Bed Wood and Parts was born. A BedWood kit, made of the finest quality lumber Major could find, milled in a manner to provide superior fitment, finish, and longevity had been created.
Understanding that quality and integrity means everything to a builder who is restoring or customizing a classic truck, Major and his Bed Wood company have carved out a different philosophy. “We offer a choice of wood that actually enhances and personalizes the build,” Major said, “and a quality that had never been available before, either from the OEM or on the aftermarket.”
“While oak and pine are good woods, they do not fit all builds,” he continued. “Until Bed Wood and Parts was founded, oak and pine were practically the only species of bed wood offered on the aftermarket.”
Major’s ideology that truck builders not only wanted the highest quality available, but a variety of choices in wood to choose from to complement the truck’s build. The company’s very first paying customer was Corky Coker for his fat fendered F100, who wanted a tough American hickory for an American truck.
Today’s truck bed floors are far more technical than a simple work surface. A lot of design and thought goes into features like the metal strips that hold the planks in place and the species of wood used.
Today At Bed Wood and Parts
From those humble beginnings, Bed Wood and Parts now offers 22 unique species of domestic and exotic wood for pickup truck beds and accessories, both for OE and custom applications. There are several different variations in color, grain, and texture — all designed to give builders an almost unlimited selection to help make their truck stand out from the crowd. Yes, they still carry good old favorites oak and pine, too.
The various choices of wood, finishes, and accessories allow for a virtually unlimited number of combinations in the final product. The results are always amazing.
“Many of our customers call or stop by our booth at events thinking they want oak. After looking at the other choices of wood available, they end up ordering something more unique,” Major said.
Technology has changed over the past 70 years, and many builders have added modern technology to their truck builds. It only makes sense to apply that same reasoning to truck beds too.
“Bed Wood and Parts supplies truck beds all over the globe with BedWood kits proudly made in Kentucky,” said Steve Buttram, marketing manager for Bed Wood and Parts. “The boards are milled, sanded, and grooved to the exact measurements for your truck. Plus, with finishing products, multiple metal bed strip options, and hardware, we are a one-stop shop for the best wood truck bed in the world.”
Not Just Bed Wood
The Bed Wood brand has expanded tremendously since Coker’s mid-’50s fat-fendered Ford. Not only do they build bed wood for custom trucks, Major also developed a line of bed wood for any truck with existing metal beds, from current 2016 and back. This exclusive product, called the RetroLiner, is a unique real wood bed liner that sits on top of the existing metal bed floor without ever drilling holes in the existing bed. Available in any of the wood species offered in its truck bed wood kits, this opens up the opportunity for metal truck bed owners to achieve the same customization vintage trucks are afforded.
All of the wood used in the BedWood and RetroLiner kits is cut to exact widths and precision milled to 3/4-inch thickness, grooved, cut to length, and sanded via a multistage sanding process. The kit arrives at the customer’s door ready for the customer to apply their final finish and installation.
A wood plank going into a planer and coming out perfectly flat on the other side.
Just last year the Bed Wood and Parts product family expanded again with the WoodBone brand of laminated wood products and offers the same great quality wood for inside the home or truck tailgates. Along with the patented Tailgate Butcher Blocks, which are available for all pickup trucks, RV’s, and ATV’s, the WoodBone product line includes butcher block counter tops, custom cutting boards, and wood work bench tops, up to six inches thick. The company also fulfills custom orders for flat beds, bed rails, and custom beds of any size. There seems to be no end in sight for Bed Wood and Parts expansion.
A poplar plank getting double grooves.
Why Choosing Wood For Your Bed Is A Big Decision
Complimenting the truck’s beauty by selecting the right wood is as important as choosing the interior or exterior colors. Beyond the choice when it comes to making a fashion statement, there is also a critical quality component to the decision. The Bed Wood and Parts team have patterns for almost every truck that came out of Detroit, but many of those trucks have been customized over the years. Custom applications for Bed Wood and Parts are as commonplace as replacement kits for the original factory parts. If a fabricator has a wild build that does not fit the typical mold, they can still prepare a custom fit bed wood kit and based on measurements provided by the fabricator. As many have heard Major say, “If you can read the tape measure, we can mill the wood.”
One of the newer and most innovative features offered by Bed Wood and Parts is something they refer to as wood tattoos. The laser etching can be any design or logo supplied by the customer, or a custom design offered by the company. Other options include gas filler doors and hinged planks to further custom touches for any application.
It is hard to argue with great results.
The choices are virtually endless when it comes to enhancing and customizing both the appearance and attitude of a final build. Thanks to Bed Wood and Parts, truck enthusiasts will never be forced to settle for only oak or pine ever again.