Long before fiberglass and carbon-reinforced plastic, wood was the fibrous material of choice for building light cars. According to Jalopnik readers, these are the ten coolest automobiles made out of wood.
Welcome back to Answers of the Day — our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!
Photo Credit: Joe Harmon Design
10.) Chrysler Town & Country woodies
Suggested By: Brian, The Life of
Why it gives us wood: It's a classic woodie, what more do you want? Of all the woodies, we remember best the big, early station wagons built using wood as it was a cheaper, simpler way of building a full wagon body than using all steel.
Those woodie wagons ended up getting famous for serving as the stereotypical surfer transportation of choice before the days of VW Buses, Dodge vans, and whatever else. Cool as it was to hang out with Jan and Dean, if we had to pick just one woodie to represent them all, we'd go for a stunning old Chrysler Town & Country, from the days when Chrysler was a top luxury brand. We are particularly drawn to the prewar fastback sedans, which themselves played a part in replacing wood with metal. They were the first woodie longroofs to have an all-steel roof.
Photo Credit: Joe Ross
9.) The Splinter
Suggested By: rotundapig
Why it gives us wood: Built over two years as a grad school project, the Splinter is about the closest the world has come to an all-wood supercar. It never ran, but it had a twin-supercharged 4.6 liter V8 mounted in the middle of an all-wood car.
The real point of the project (other than to finally design a car, said Joe Harmon, the guy who built this thing) was to show off the potential of wood as a construction material. The whole thing is built out of flat, layered sections of wood sandwiched together for strength. It may not be a working vehicle, but it's an amazing thought exercise on making a really groundbreaking automobile.
Photo Credit: Joe Harmon Design
8.) The Fuldamobil
Suggested By: Jonee
Why it gives us wood: Germany's Fuldamobil was one of the longest-built microcars, but that little factoid does not greatly interest us. No, we love that the early Fuldamobil bubble cars had a thick wooden body, only covered with an aluminum skin. Later cars switched from aluminum to fiberglass and then from wood to steel, but it's these early three-wheelers that just capture the imagination. They look like a motorized trailer, or how you might draw a car if you'd never seen a car before.
We could go on about the Fuldamobil all day, but we'll restrict ourselves to just one last bit of trivia, one we learned when Jalopnik went and visited reader Jonee and his quartet of microcars: if you want to engage reverse in one of these little Fuldamobls, you just bring the car to a stop, turn the ignition key the other way, and the engine just runs in reverse! How cool is that?
Photo Credit: uk_senator
7.) Livio De Marchi's woodenFerrari F50
Suggested By: E34IsAnUnderratedE30..ExceptBetter
Why it gives us wood: The all-wood Ferrari F50 built by eccentric Venetian woodworker/artist Livio De Marchi isn't really a car. It's just as capable of driving on land as de Marchi's Pumpkin-shaped carriage, so it's really just a car-shaped boat.
Still, it's a masterful piece of craftsmanship, and it looks like it was just built to be a pretty rad kinetic sculpture, which is cool in our book.
6.) Marcos Xylon
Suggested By: PanchoVilleneuve
Why it gives us wood: Up until 1969, the strange little British sports car builder Marcos built nearly all of its cars off of a basic plywood chassis that actually turned out to be quite effective for building successful road racing cars.
One such car was the Marcos Xylon, known to many as "the Ugly Duckling," for perhaps obvious reasons. The styling actually came from Frank Costin, who designed many of the most beautiful Lotus racers and even F1-winning Vanwalls.
The car didn't have much power, but it was extremely light, very aerodynamically efficient, and with the likes of Jackie Stewart and other great racers behind the wheel, the Xylon actually racked up an impressive competition record.
Read more on the Xylon and other classic wooden Marcos cars at this great fan website.
Photo Credit: Marcos
5.) The Tryane II by Friend Wood
Suggested By: evoCS
Why it gives us wood: Built by German carpenter Friend Wood, this little three-wheeler is built off a Citroën 2CV, sharing its chassis, engine, and three of its wheels. The body, though, is all rich, cold-moulded African mahogany. It took the builder over 2,000 hours to construct this wooden masterpiece.
That light construction gives this little trike, built first in 1989, a remarkably low weight of just 900 lbs, so its aerodynamic body can just buzz up to 100 miles an hour and get something between 50 and 70 miles per gallon on the way there.
Photo Credit: Jalopnik
4.) 1967 Costin Nathan Protos
Suggested By: MeDuh
Why it gives us wood: Frank Costin, a man who was intimately linked to the Marcos cars we saw earlier, had his own sports car company for a few years with fellow racing car builder Roger Nathan to make wood-chassis sports prototypes and open-wheel racers of their own.
They built six closed-bodied cars and six open-wheelers in 1966 and ‘67, which were extremely aerodynamically efficient. Still faster than anything else of their power, their little 1.6 liter engines didn't get much over 200 horsepower. In 1968, Costin pulled out of the venture and his strange, fast cars were no more.
Photo Credit: uniquecarsandparts
3.) 1939 Lagonda Rapide Tulipwood Tourer
Suggested By: USERNAME
Why it gives us wood: This big British cruiser came powered with a 4.5 liter V12 churning out 225 horsepower. We imagine that's enough to get the brass-riveted tulipwood body up to speed with frightening alacrity for such a sizeable automobile.
The wood made for a good building material as it was light, could be made into aerodynamic shapes like this torpedo body, and was much stronger than the other lightweight car body material of the cay, canvas. If you're wondering how much it costs to get something as stunning as this in your massive garage, you'll have to have something around $450,000. That's how much this Lagonda went for when it was put up for auction back in 2007.
Photo Credit: Brandon Brubaker
Suggested By: SennaMP4
Why it gives us wood: Morgan got its start building three-wheelers back in 1911, and it did a remarkably good job at it. The trikes were extremely affordable and are often praised for their fine handling. The Morgan we are more familiar with began in 1936 with the 4/4, Morgan's first four-wheeled car.
They had little engines, but didn't weight much on account of their wood frame. Low costs and an endless supply of eccentric British customers meant that Morgan could keep on building its elemental four-wheeled cars and never have to stop. You can still buy one of these things new today, and they are regular front runners in vintage races all over the world.
Morgan even keeps its wood thing going with their new heavily aluminum Aero 8, with its Ash frame getting plenty of punishment form a nice, big BMW V8.
Photo Credit: Otis Blank
1.) 1924 Hispano-Suiza Tulipwood Torpedo
Suggested By: Honda_Hooning_Daily_Driver
Why it gives us wood: Most of the legendary Spanish Hispano-Suizas from before World War II were vast, luxurious cruisers, but one stands out as a remarkable exception. This 1924 H6C, with a 200 horsepower, eight-liter straight-six wrapped up in a tulipwood body was built to take on southern Italy's great road race, the Sicilian Targa Florio.
The coachwork of ¾ inch strips of wood was built by a French aviation company, Nieuport and it weighed a mere 160 pounds. Like the Lagonda, the wood was riveted together with brass, and it looks absolutely amazing.
Photo Credit: CarStyling.ru