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The World’s First Wooden Supercar Is Aptly Named the ‘Splinter’

When you think of someone carving something out of wood, what do you think of? A sculpture? A canoe? Maybe a piece of furniture? Those are all common objects built out of wood, but one thing you probably wouldn’t think of is an exotic car. But that’s exactly what Joe Harmon did when he built the “Splinter,” which is the perfect name for a wooden supercar.

Why build a wooden supercar?

Most cars these days are made from high-strength steel, aluminum, plastic, and even carbon fiber, but the Splinter is made out of 90 percent wood, according to Harmon. Instead, the Splinter is made from wooden composites, which are comprised of cherry veneer with a balsa wood core for the body, while the monocoque is made from a laminated wood veneer.

Harmon has had a love for cars his whole life and he wanted to build a car out of wood because he knew it would push the boundaries when it came time for its construction. Harmon explained in an interview, “It has been a dream of mine to design and build my own car since I was a kid. Wood provided an additional challenge that we thought might move the project in an interesting direction.” He has also stated that wood, compared to other metallic materials, only takes a small amount of energy to produce and, best of all, it’s biodegradable and it provides a better strength-to-weight ratio than steel or aluminum.

The Splinter
The Splinter | JoeHarmonDesign.com

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There is a lot of wood that went into it

Aside from the aforementioned body and cockpit area, there are plenty of other components to the car that made of wood as well. The tie rods are made from hickory and the entire curvature of the exterior was accomplished using woven strips of veneer made from cherry skins and end-grain balsa. As for the seats, they are each made from hand-woven wood as well. Harmon said he took a basket weaving in order to learn how to make them.

The Splinter
The Splinter | JoeHarmonDesign.com

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Harmon reinvented the wheel

While he could have easily sourced a metallic wheel to put on the car, Harmon instead decided to reinvent the wheel and make those out of wood, too. “It’s made out of 32 layers of rotary-cut oak veneer,” Harmon said. “The wheels were a ton of work, they were the most complicated part. And as it turns out, each wheel is actually comprised of 275 different wooden pieces, mostly made of laminated wood with a cherry sunburst on the inside face of the wheels and walnut sunburst on the outside. Of course, the wheels do have some metal in them as the outer rims are constructed of forged aluminum and all four corners are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 2 rubber.

The Splinter
The Splinter | JoeHarmonDesign.com

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The engine

Inside the car, the steering wheel is completely made of wood as is the gear shifter, which is a long shaft that extends from the cockpit to the rear-mounted engine setup to shift the gears. The engine itself is none other than a Chevy LS7 V8 engine that’s mated to a six-speed manual transmission and make about 650 horsepower, according to Harmon.

As far as the suspension, the car utilizes a height-adjustable air suspension for maximum adjustment. Ultimately, with that kind of power and stance, the Splinter definitely qualifies as a supercar, however, Harmon stated that the fastest he’s been in it is 30 mph, mainly to drive it to the car shows he’s entered it into, although he estimates that it might be able to hit 200 mph since it only weighs about 3,000 pounds. But that’s just speculation.

“Pain, suffering, and sanding”

Ultimately, building the Splinter was a culmination of nine years of hard work. Harmon said he was fortunate enough to be able to work on it while he was in graduate school since his dad picked up the bill for his tuition and food. “I didn’t have any other responsibilities other than to work on this car. It was a ton of work, pain, suffering, and sanding,” he said.