Toyota Launches A Wooden Car That Will Last A Century

The Ise Grand Shrine, dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu, is the holiest shrine of the Shinto religion. Every 20 years, people tear it down. Then, they build it new, all from wood, without a single nail. They have been doing this for around 1,300 years. Instead of preserving a single structure, the original design, and most of all the skill to build, are protected from the eroding effects of time. “Its secret isn’t heroic engineering or structural overkill, but rather cultural continuity,” writes the Long Now Foundation.  Now, Toyota is applying the same idea to a car.

In a month at the Design Week in Milan, Italy, Toyota will show the Setsuna concept, a roadster (not a convertible) whose main chassis and body parts are made from wood. The body consists of replaceable wooden panels, and the overall shape is reminiscent of an Italian Riva speedboat. Setsuna means “moment” in Japanese, a reference to the ephemeral nature of our lives and cars.

Toyota used Japanese cedar for the exterior panels, and Japanese birch for the frame. The floor is made from elm wood (Japanese zelkova, to be precise). The prickly castor oil tree supplies the material for instrument panel and front seats, Japanese cypress provides for the steering wheel. To join the exterior panels with the frame, the same traditional Japanese joinery technique is used that keeps the sun goddess’ shrine together for 20 years. In traditional “okuriari,” no nails or screws are used. Concave and convex shapes hold the pieces together.

Machined aluminum parts and leather covers create a contrast against the wooden materials. In the cockpit, a functional 100-year meter tempts the effects of time.

The designer and the engineer (Photo Bertel Schmitt)

The car is the brainchild of Toyota’s chief engineer Kenji Tsuji, and Kota Nezu of znug design. Tsuji and Nezu are an inseparable couple; they gave birth to Toyota’s Camatte three years ago. When I met the two at that occasion, the engineer looked like a Toyota engineer. The designer had his hair dyed red, there were jewelry implants in his teeth, two piercings in the right ear, and who knows how many elsewhere.

Source – forbes

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