Theme : Materials – Introduction

The Editor fabricates a new Theme for June.

Trabant at August Horch Museum in Zwickau
Trabant at August Horch Museum in Zwickau – image : Matěj Baťha /

Metal, Glass and Rubber were once the main materials used in any car, plus leather or cloth on the seats and roof and, probably, a bit of timber, either used superficially, as decoration, or maybe structurally. Except for the odd sliver of mica or ceramic and a bit of horsehair, that was it.

Today’s cars draw from a wider reserve, in particular more sophisticated plastics and alloys. Yet still we are seldom surprised. BMW’s GINA prototype suggested a fabric covered body which in itself was far from a new concept, but the way it used the flexibility of a fabric to minimise shutlines was interesting. But, generally, with the tiresome exception of carbon fibre whose unadorned surface has become such a cliché, basic material differences are virtually invisible on the cars we actually drive.

Even the Trabant which, when East Germany was a mysterious place of dark legend to the West, was thought by many to be made of edible cardboard, turned out to be constructed of a rather disappointing type of reinforced plastic

So, is there a topic here for June’s Theme? We think so.

4 thoughts on “Theme : Materials – Introduction”

  1. A very sage and thought-provokung overview, Simon! Naturally you had to skirt over the use of Belgian ash for Morris Minors and the use of papier mache for Trabants.

    1. Richard. Did you actually attend that proof-reading course I booked you in for?

      And it’s fine to use papier mache in car construction, as long as you use the correct newspaper. The Telegraph is excellent in that respect.

  2. “Basic material differences are virtually invisible …”

    It’s not only that. Also the technical ingredients of a car matter less and less, it’s all about surface. Cars are basically black boxes today – not because of punters’ favourite colour, I mean.

    A lot of plastic that wants to look like metal can be found in today’s interiors. And for the outside, the consensus is anyway that only sheet metal is a decent body material. If anything has to be made of plastic, let it look shiny and painted like pressed steel. Things like a Méhari’s ABS shell or ’80s style grey bumpers are unthinkable today.

    I think we will see interesting topics here this month. Looking forward to the discussions.

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