Three generations of the Woodhead Family have had connections with the Ford Motor Company in Minnesota. John Woodhead I, also known as Jack, was working with the Ford Branch Sales office in Minneapolis in 1912. He moved to Brainerd in 1916 where he formed the Woodhead Motor Company, a Ford dealership. At that time the Ford franchise agreements allowed for the sale of other car brands, a practice that would soon be changed by the company. By 1925, the Woodhead Motor Company built a new handsome structure to sell Fordson Tractors and Farm Implements. The following year, the Woodhead Company was formed to acquire the Lake Street Motor Sales Company, a Ford dealership at 417 Lake Street, Minneapolis, which had opened in 1921. John F. Woodhead, became President of the new entity and he sold his Brainerd dealership. During the Depression and World War II, automobile dealerships faced very difficult times as most automobile manufacturers stopped production all together. The Woodhead Company survived on its used car and service business. In October, 1950, John Woodhead’s sons John Jr. and William(Bill) purchased the business from their father. With the post-war demand for new cars, business was good and the Woodhead Company bought the building to the west of the dealership which it tore down for an addition.
John Woodhead III was born in 1939, and by the age of 9 or 10 was put to work in the family dealership doing odd jobs such as sweeping floors, delivering parts to the mechanics from the Parts Department and washing new and used cars. One of John’s favorite memories was driving a 3-wheel Harley around the metro to pick up parts from other Ford dealers. The Woodhead dealership was sold in 1967 and became known as Bill Boyer Ford. Jack Woodhead died in 1971, and his son John died in 1991. John Woodhead III went on to a successful business career outside of the automotive industry, but he maintained his interest in Ford cars and trucks. Starting in 1970, John acquired and oversaw the restoration of over sixty Ford cars and trucks, and in 1986, he built a private museum in Delano, Minnesota to show the evolution of the automobile through Ford cars and trucks. He regularly opened his nationally renowned collection to collectors and car enthusiasts. In 2004, John sold his entire collection. In the sales catalog internationally known automobile auctioneer Dean Kruse wrote, “I can say after viewing the Woodhead Collection, there is no collection anywhere which has more perfectly preserved cars. John’s cars would fit into the best collections in the world.”
All photographs courtesy of John Woodhead III, unless noted otherwise.
Cars from the John Woodhead III Collection on display in his private museum in Delano, MN, 1991.