Toyota's Wooden Concept Car Is Lovely And Designed To Age

Illustration for article titled Toyota's Wooden Concept Car Is Lovely And Designed To Age

Toyota’s been really bringing it to the concept car game lately, with a number of novel and genuinely interesting concepts. Their latest, to be shown at Milan Fashion Week, seems amazing: its body is made out of 86 pieces of wood, with no nails or screws.

The car is called Setsuna, the Japanese word for ‘moment,’ and seems to be built on the same platform as their Kikai concept car from last October. Setsuna only uses an electric motor, and just a low-speed one at that. Fine for a concept car, but that’s about it.

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But that’s fine. This car is about the novel materials – two types of Japanese cedar – and the construction method of the body, which utilizes traditional Japanese joinery techniques called Okuriari and Kusabi. Here’s what those techniques look like:

Illustration for article titled Toyota's Wooden Concept Car Is Lovely And Designed To Age

Kenji Tsuji, the engineer in charge of the project, decided on the types of joinery used, and noted the boat-like feeling of the resulting car. But what interests me the most is this concept:

We would also like the viewer to imagine how the Setsuna will gradually develop a complex and unique character over the years. The car includes a 100-year meter that will keep time over generations, and seats that combine functional beauty with the gentle hue of the wood.

The idea of considering the aging of the car as time goes on strikes me as a particularly beautiful idea. The inclusion of that centuryometer (I may have just made that word up) is a really engaging concept, and I sort of wish I had one in my old Beetle.

Illustration for article titled Toyota's Wooden Concept Car Is Lovely And Designed To Age

I suspect the 100 year mark was selected because of the Japanese concept of Tsukumogami, which states that any object, upon reaching its hundredth year, becomes “alive and self-aware.” There’s something really appealing about this idea to me, and I think there may even be part of me that sort of believes in it.

Illustration for article titled Toyota's Wooden Concept Car Is Lovely And Designed To Age
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There’s been other wooden cars before this, of course, but this is the first car I can recall seeing that made the changes brought by time and use into the design in such an elegant way.

Thanks for this, Toyota.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

DISCUSSION

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The idea of considering the aging of the car as time goes on strikes me as a particularly beautiful idea.

Kind of reminds me of kintsugi, a philosophy of repair that treats breaks and fixes as part of an object’s history that should be celebrated. For example, using gold to fix broken pottery:

Not sure quite how that would apply to a wood car. Maybe some gold-flake epoxy to fix cracks as the wood panels age?