When we first saw the Splinter wooden supercar back in February, it was one of those "oh yeah, right, a wooden supercar, whatever" situations. We thought the Splinter was a flight of fancy — nothing more than crazy auto-loving NC State kids being crazy auto-loving NC State kids. We were wrong. Splinter's just made the leap from pine-scented vaporware to real life parts and assemblies. We're just as shocked as you are. It seems Joe Harmon and his associates have been hard at work actually building this crazy all-wood supercar.
The car is based around a central rigid tube section with the suspension and powertrain components mounted to it. It's built with a mix of parts scrounged from a C4 Corvette and hand fabricated wooden component. The process of building the wood parts seems to be to create a mold of the part, and then laminate layers of veneer into a sort of structural three dimensional plywood. Now, plywood, as you woodworkers know, is a spectacular natural building material. Because it's constructed with the wood grain at perpendicular angles, it is dimensionally stable, rigid, and if made as watertight as a beaver's fecal-delivery hole, remains extremely strong while also retaining a great deal of flexibility.
After following the team's progress on their blog and photos, we're fairly impressed with not only the quality of the work, but the engineering prowess of the designs. The only concern we have is the placement of the steering rack, the rack ends and the compression strength of the wooden tie rods. From where we sit — behind our comfortable desk many miles away — the suspension seems like it will produce positively massive bumpsteer (the rod ends seem like they will fall out of plane with the A-arm mounting points and cross the plane of the upper A-arm) but maybe there's a trick we're not seeing.
The engine is fascination incarnate. These madmen are starting with a Northstar V8 and running it backwards, turning the exhaust and intake sides around. The intakes will be underneath the cylinder banks, fed by two roots superchargers through individual intercoolers and then up into the combustion chambers. The exhaust continues out through the top of the engine through an all-custom exhaust manifold and then out the back. Nobody is going to accuse these guys of thinking small.
When complete, we're fairly certain it'll be an attractive Maple-and-Oak-machine, and it may even work — as long as they can keep those under-hood temperatures under control. It would be terrible for them to put in all this work and then have it go all Audi R8 on them. We look forward to seeing this baby finished — maybe we'll even take a drive down and play in the sawdust. [JoeHarmonDesign]