Recently Gary and I were able to spend some time at an Amish buggy maker’s shop. We saw buggies in all stages of production.
The supporting frame, shown in the first photo, is made of ash wood; Gary had asked if it was maple, and the proprietor said that maple isn’t as strong. Gary grabbed the poles in the front to see where it swiveled. (Answer: behind the front axle.)
The box is made of thick plywood. Amish buggies come in three sizes: Single, with just one seat; double, with two seats as shown here; and Queen, which has one seat with extra storage area behind the seat. But the shape and black exterior is the same for all; that must follow the local church custom.
The customer can choose the upholstery (various fabrics or textured vinyl) from a book of samples, There are various upgrades to the basic buggy available, such as a heater (propane), LED lights, fold-down back seats, upgraded windshield glass, and brakes (mechanical or hydraulic drum brakes). Prices vary according to size of buggy and upgrades—the range is around $3,500 to $7,500.
The finish on the buggies I saw were amazing—similar in look to an automotive finish. I asked how they turned plywood into something so hard and shiny. They told me that it takes three coats of primer, followed by three coats of black paint.
This particular shop, one of several in the Shipshewana area, makes about 2 buggies per week, and each one takes about 100 hours of labor to produce. He told us that most of his buggies are sold locally, but some are sent to nearby states such as Michigan, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Missouri. There is such a demand for their buggies that this shop’s waiting list now reaches into 2017! (Those who are in more of a hurry can go to other local shops with higher prices and shorter waiting lists.)