I’ll admit, this whole idea came about because a friend loaned me a 3D printer and I wanted to think of something fun to try to make on it. I wanted to make something that I was interested in but I didn’t think existed, because what’s the fun in just duplicating something? I thought about making a model of the first actual working automobile, Nicholas-Josef Cugnot’s 1769 fardier à vapeur (“steam dray” or “steam drag”) but models of that already exist. But you know what doesn’t exist? A Hot Wheels-Fatbax-style, really exaggerated version of the 1769 Cugnot car! Now we’re talking!
On the off chance that you’re not familiar with what the 1769 Cugnot Steam Drag looked like, it was sort of like a gigantic tea kettle being pushed by a cart:
My kid calls it the “pot car,” for obvious visual reasons and not for what anyone would have to be smoking to think they could steer or control a three wheeler with all that weight way out in front of that one beleaguered drive/steering wheel.
Cugnot didn’t just invent the first car, he also invented the first terminal understeer-induced wreck.
I’d actually made a 3D model of the Cugnot car before for another article, but I couldn’t really use that one because to get the Hot Wheels-style look I wanted, I needed to really screw with the proportions.
I wanted something really exaggerated because that just seemed an even more absurd way to deal with this 1700s steam beast, so I looked to the most exaggerated of Hot Wheels design schools, the Fatbax line.
These exaggerated cars actually were something of a sales disaster for Hot Wheels, I bet mostly because they were too wide to fit on most tracks, but they feel like the logical progression of the Hotwheelsian design encharicaturation style.
Combining the Hot Wheels Fatbax design language with the clunky complexity of the 1700s-era industrial design gave me something that looked like this:
I think it works? It’s got the ridiculous proportions of the Hot Wheels (short wheelbase, angled stance, oversized engine, massive rear wheels/tiny fronts) and it’s even better because it’s more absurd in this context: those big, fat back wagon wheels are unpowered, and the absurd contraption would have to be driven by the front wheel, which I made nice and tiny as is The Fatbax Way.
Since this all started as a thin reason to 3D print something, I may as well show you how the thing actually made the transition from data to matter. I’m new at 3D printing, so I did a lot of things that I suspect a more experienced 3D print-maker wouldn’t do like considering all the support material.
You see, when something is 3D printed, a lot of extra material is used to support the object during the process of printing; think of it like scaffolding. It’s printed at a lower density than the rest of the material, but it’s still a colossal ass-pain to remove, as I soon learned.
When my print was done, it looked like what you see above. As you can tell, almost all of the negative space was filled with support material that required removal.
The removal process was tedious and nervy, an unpleasant combination that combined the requirement of a lot of force in very specific, tiny areas and zero force in others, so you could remove the plastic you didn’t want while keeping the plastic you did.
Inevitably, some parts were too thin and broke, like the steering yoke column, one of the little ladders, and the piston rods, but I was able to keep the rest intact, mostly.
I made all kinds of neophyte mistakes with this, especially regarding how to manage the support material, but overall I’m pretty pleased. If you’d like to print one out for yourself, and likely do a better job, even, here’s the 3D print file for you!
I think this could be what a Hot Wheels or hot rodder’s take on the 1769 Cugnot steam drag, and, if Hot Wheels were to make this — which they absolutely should — it would be the oldest car they’ve ever done, or likely will ever do since Cugnot’s whip is effectively the first car, ever.