ANDERSON, Ind. — With his long white hair and beard, jolly spirit and custom red suit, it’s easy to mistake Bill Wood as Saint Nicholas, and now the Anderson resident has the same mode of transportation.
Wood, who has dressed as Santa Claus since 2000, bought and restored an old Lull Carriage Co. sleigh after a friend found it on Craigslist in November 2012.
A year later, the sleigh has a new paint job, wheels and a motor. It wasn’t a hard decision for Wood to give it a modern upgrade.
“I don’t have a horse or reindeer,” he said. “To have something like this and have a horse for just one day a year, that (doesn’t) sound sensible.”
Instead, Wood took the wheels, motor and controller from a Quantum 600 power wheelchair to give it some modern mobility. His friend Craig Priest also helped with welding.
Before the modifications, the sleigh was already one of a kind. It has doors and three springs – unusual characteristics for a sleigh.
Wood called historians in Kalamazoo, Mich., where Lull Carriage was based, and said they didn’t know anything about the sleigh.
But Wood believes his carriage is the real deal because it has the company stamp on it. He estimates it to be about 120 years old based on when Lull Carriage was in operation.
His modifications will allow him to take the sleigh to Santa jobs, although health problems prevent him from working many. He’s also considered taking it to a car show.
But it doesn’t matter to Wood that he doesn’t have any definitive plans for the sleigh. It just contributes to his role as one of Santa’s helpers.
This year he made a little boy a believer when he showed him a picture of him and his sleigh. Throughout the years he’s worked hard to make countless children believe in Santa, including his own grandchildren.