The Wooden Supercar "Splinter"
Many things are made from wood. Speed boats, sail boats, tennis rackets, hockey sticks, skis, furniture, houses, surfboards, guitars and the list goes on. But, come on….a car? Yes, that's exactly what Joe Harmon, a graduate student in the Industrial Design program at North Carolina State University did. He designed and built a 600 Horse Power wooden supercar, cleverly named the Splinter. However, he had some help from a team of knowledgeable wood working friends.
The auto looks a little like a Lamborghini or Ferrari, except the body is made of beautiful grained woods. Even the cabin wall, front suspension, leaf springs, firewall, side panels, steering wheel, uprights, superstructure, wheel wells and wheels are made from wood. With its V-8 engine by Cadillac delivering a staggering top speed of 240 mph, it’s said it can outrun a Porsche.
The Splinter was fitted with a full roll-cage and equipped with a 6-speed gearbox. The DeHavilland Mosquito, or the Mossy, partly inspired the Splinter. It was WWII’s fastest aircraft, capable of attaining 425 mph and made all of wood.
Work on the unique vehicle began in July, 2006 and was finally unveiled in February, 2008. Of course, weight was a major concern since wooden wheels had to be constructed that could support the 2,500 lb body. That was accomplished by using layers of oak veneer. And since wood is a flammable material the exhaust system had to be moved over the top of the engine.
Maple, birch and plywood were used in building a large portion of the car, but others were used also depending on the application. Tessellated, end-grain balsa was used as a core material on some body panels and Osage orange was used for making the leaf springs. This wood was used by Native Americans for making longbows because of its strength.
According to Harmon the reason for using wood was it has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than aluminum or steel. Now, the builders have only one thing to fear…parking near a termite mound.