The Claude Word Woodill Wildfire – A South Carolina Plastic Powerhouse

Hi Gang…

I was first contacted by Lanny Word about a year ago when he found our Forgotten Fiberglass website and e-mailed me about his father’s car back in the late ‘50s – a Woodill Wildfire.  Of course I was intrigued by this story – especially since few of the stories I have a chance to research involve fiberglass cars east of California – this one was based in South Carolina.

This could only be fun!  So I started to talk with Lanny and wanted to learn more about his father’s car from so many years ago.

The Claude Word Woodill Wildfire:

Lanny’s father, Claude Word, bought his Woodill Wildfire in late 1956 in South Carolina  – it was a completed car and built to a very high standard.  Someone had already done all the hard work and Claude was buying one fine piece of machinery.  Here’s what Lanny remembered about the car:

  • Drivetrain: Cadillac 331 cubic inch engine – balanced and blueprinted
  • 2 four-barrel carbs
  • Automatic transmission
  • Hardtop

I asked Lanny if he remembered any stories about the car.  He shared with me that one of his father’s friends went for a ride in it.  He reported that “at 120 mph they opened the other 4 barrels up and the wheels came off the ground.  Since they couldn’t see where they were going and they had to let off the gas…”

That’s quite a speed monster gang!  Let’s take a look at some family photos of the car:

Merle Word (Claude’s Brother) and Lelia Badjet (friend) Are Shown Here With Claude’s Wildfire.

Friend Of The Family Shown In Claude’s Wildfire.

Here’s Claude’s Wife With The Wildfire: Evelyn Word.

Shown Here In Wildfire is Claude’s Sister: Velma Burkot.

Lanny’s First Cousins, Jerry and Betty Burkot, Are Shown Next To The Wildfire, While Lanny Is In Foreground Of Picture.

Claude’s Woodill Wildfire Moves On:

Claude sold the car in early ’58 to Johnny Adair of Adair’s Marine in an interesting deal.  He traded it for a houseboat/yacht, Harley Davidson motorcycle, Hot Rod with a V8, shotgun, pistol, and some money – all for the Woodill Wildfire!   The new owner replaced the intake and fitted 8 single barrel carbs to it.  He then changed out the rear end, installed a manual transmission, added a roll bar, and went drag racing.

It will be interesting if we can find some race results on this car – time will tell.

Finding The Word Family’s Woodill Wildfire

When tracking down the location of a car you need to think like a fisherman.  Fish don’t swim far from the reef and if the Wildfire was last seen in the Carolinas, it might still be there too.  One of my good friends lives in the Carolinas and has had his Wildfire for years – Bob Vaughn.  Could this be Lanny’s long lost family Wildfire?

A phone call or two and we confirmed, to our amazement, that we had found Lanny’s family car – missing for 50+ years but now under the protective arms of good friend Bob Vaughn.  In the near future, Lanny is looking forward to getting together with Bob and reuniting car and family.  That should be a story in and of itself.

And in talking with Bob, we may have more to share.  He had tracked down the original owner / builder of the car and has a story for us too.  I love how the paths of research sometimes light up with fire.  You never know what you’re going to find or who you are going to help 🙂

But Wait – There’s More!

It was a year ago when this story started with Lanny’s e-mail to me, but like the Energizer Bunny it doesn’t seem to stop.  Lanny had asked me to be on the lookout for a Wildfire to buy.  He had always wanted to build a car like his father’s and last month I found one for sale.

A gentleman in Ohio had a partially finished Wildfire kit that he had owned for over 30 years, and he now wanted to sell it.  It was a match made in fiber-heaven, and I put the two guys together and a deal was struck.  So we should be hearing in the future about another Wildfire in the process of being built and restored – the “Lanny Word Woodill Wildfire Special.”

Stay tuned to your fiberglass channel gang!


So in researching the initial story for Lanny to share with everyone here at Forgotten Fiberglass it led to more stories:

  • An upcoming story about the origins of the Claude Word Wildfire from Bob Vaughn
  • And an upcoming story on the progress Lanny Word will make on completing his newly acquired Woodill Wildfire Special

And you’ve thought all this time….. “how busy could a website be if it only focused on vintage ‘glass stories.”  I’d say as busy as all of you keep us researching here at Forgotten Fiberglass!

Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…

Glass on gang…

Click on the Images Below to View Larger Pictures


The Claude Word Woodill Wildfire – A South Carolina Plastic Powerhouse — 5 Comments

  1. Chassis/body numbers? We love the numbers out here. More about the original builder, too! Great story, thanks, Geoff.

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