A while back I encountered a clip of a deleted scene from The Godfather that caught my attention because of what was being discussed. Sure, there was plenty of mob stuff being talked about, but I was interested in one detail: a new car that came with wooden bumpers. I was confused, but interested, and then promptly forgot about it until I saw a post on the Facebook group Odd Vehicle Society. It was also about wooden bumpers, and explained what the hell was actually going on, which is fascinating.
First, go ahead and watch the deleted (but I think added back in in recent releases) scene:
So, Clemenza is pissed that his car came with wooden bumpers from the factory, and the reason given has to do with WWII, which was fairly recently over as of this scene. Clearly, the wooden bumpers were related to the war effort.
The Odd Vehicle Society post also has a movie angle, as it shows a 1942 picture of famous movie star Rita Hayworth sitting on the back of her ‘41 (I think) Lincoln Continental, which has its bumpers replaced with some signs:
As you can see, there was an effort to collect bumpers from cars so that they could be recycled into tanks and jeeps and grenades and whatever else the army needed the steel for.
In order for cars not to be vulnerable and bumperless, a lot of people replaced their chrome bumpers with wooden ones, and, just like that Godfather clip told us, factories were even still fitting wooden bumpers to their very early post-war cars.
This picture must show a home-made replacement, as that’s a ‘41 Chevy, and not a post-war car. It works well on a woody!
It appears that the wood bumpers could be swapped out for steel ones as soon as they became available, and it appears that nearly everyone who had a tree-bumper did just that, because I have yet to find a surviving example of a wood-bumper’d post-war car anywhere.
Were they carved to look sort of like conventional steel bumpers, or were they just planks like most people fitted themselves?
I’m really not sure, but, as always, if anyone out there has any insight, please, I’d love to know more!
This article was originally published in February 2018.