Advance auto zone blog about fast cars and auto trader

Advance auto zone blog about cool fast cars, and auto trader

Splinter Wooden Supercar

Yes, this is a wooden car. Forget the jokes. Anyone making more than mere decorative use of wood in an automobile has heard them all. And doesn't care. 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.

Splinter Wooden Supercar-2Splinter Wooden Supercar-1Three years ago, Joe Harmon, 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 says.

To achieve Harmon's goal of a fully fluid body surface, the team had to invent a wood veneer cloth to use in place of more usual glass-fiber or carbon-fiber weaves. That meant designing and developing specific looms, acquiring rolls of veneer five inches wide, slitting it into bands sixty feet long and an eighth- or a quarter-inch wide, weaving it into cloth to place in female molds, and then vacuum bagging it with epoxy resin. Those looms-wood, of course-are works of art, using wooden clothespins machined to feed veneer strips through their jaws. With too much tension, they slipped; if there wasn't enough tension, rubber bands attached to the clothespins compensated. It was wonderfully elegant, wonderfully simple. Once it was imagined.

Those wheels represent one of the biggest unknowns. Despite a fifteen-degree conical taper meant to spread loads over more wood fibers, Harmon thinks that the massive torque of his modified Cadillac Northstar engine may rip out the centers. To get heat away from the wooden structure, he has swapped the cylinder heads left to right so the exhaust ports are inboard, with the headers coming out the top of the engine below huge vents. The transaxle is a six-speed Corvette unit, which helps push the cockpit well forward, despite the 104.8-inch wheelbase. The hull weighs about 1100 pounds, and Harmon expects the final curb weight to be approximately 2500 pounds.

© Source: automobilemag
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