Yes, this is a wooden car. Wood is a magnificent structural material, “God’s own composite,” proclaimed the late Frank Costin, the brilliant technologist behind the glorious shapes of early Lotus cars, the Vanwall Formula 1 car, and-significantly-the plywood chassis of the Marcos in which a young Jim Clark won some of his first races.
With cars becoming safer and more integrated with technology, it’s hard to find automakers like Morgan, who builds ash wood frames for its cars. However, it seems that there is another timber car in existence. Called the Splinter (No. I am not kidding), the wooden supercar was recently unveiled at the 2015 Essen Motor Show. The entire car is made of the renewable material! The one-off, built by Joe Harmon, an industrial designer from North Carolina, was created as a university project. Harmon was a twenty-eight-year-old industrial design graduate student at North Carolina State University, thought it would be instructive to make a wood supercar for his master’s thesis, including some of the running gear and-unlike the Marcos-all of the bodywork. “I wanted to show that wood isn’t an antiquated, low-technology material,” Harmon said.
It was inspired by the all-wooden Havilland Mosquito, an all-wooden World War II airplane (pictured, left). The bodywork consists of bent and laminated woven cherry skins and tessellated end-gran balsa core. The chassis is a wooden monocoque, the suspension is made of wooden unequal A-arms with height adjustable shocks and air-bag springs, but it’s the engine that makes the car extra special. It’s a 600 hp, 7.0-liter aluminum V8 that sits in the middle of the car, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. How in the world does this car not go up in flames when that monster motor gets warmed up is yet o be seen. Since I have not gotten my ticket to the Essen Motor Show, I guess I will have to wait until it either comes to a show near me or Jay Leno decides to peek into this marvel. Either way, this is the freshest perspective on the wooden car since the 1983 Cumberford Martinique (only to the tenth power).
I remember having wooden toy cars for Christmas as a boy. Never thought I’d want one as a man. I do now, thanks to Mr. Harmon.