Unusual Uses of Wood in Transportation

Wood can show up many unusual places. We expect to see wood used for durable flooring, sturdy house framing, and beautifully crafted furniture, but have you ever thought of using transportation made almost exclusively of wood? Wooden planes, cars, and motor bikes have been made throughout the years. These surprising wooden items made by people who thought outside the box will give you a new appreciation for wood’s usefulness!

The Mosquito Fighter Plane

prototype Mosquito taken at the field behind Salisbury Hall (where it was designed and built) just before her maiden flight.

Prototype Mosquito taken at the field behind Salisbury Hall (where it was designed and built) just before her maiden flight.

In the lead up to WWII, Britain’s Royal Air Force commissioned designs for a new bomber that would be smaller and faster than the ones they already had. A civilian company, De Havilland, came up with a design for a fighter plane made almost entirely out of plywood! The Mosquito, as it was called, was made of Ecuadorean balsawood sandwiched with Canadian birch and heat-formed over a wooden frame.  These light-weight bombers used less fuel than traditional bombers and were twice as fast. Nicknamed the “Wooden Wonder” and “Timber Terror,” Mosquitos flew over 28,000 missions over the course of the war.

And why, exactly, was it wooden? Certainly because spruce, birch plywood and Ecuadorean balsa weren’t strategic materials and were in plentiful supply. In addition, furniture factories, cabinetmakers, luxury-auto coach builders and piano makers could quickly be turned into subcontractors. And because as a material, wood makes a “remarkably smooth, drag-cheating surface free of rivets and seams”. And battle damage could be repaired relatively easily in the field.

Source: HistoryNet

The Hercules Flying Boat

Acrossprucegoose_courtesyevergreenmuseums the pond during WWII, the U.S. War Department came up with a prototype for a flying boat known as the Hughes H-4 Hercules.  Due to restrictions on the use of aluminum, this flying boat was made almost entirely of wood.  It was affectionately called the “Spruce Goose,” although it was actually made of birch.  Not only was the Hercules the largest flying boat, it also had the largest wingspan of any aircraft ever built. The Hercules was not completed in time for the war and made only one flight on November 2, 1947.  It is currently on display at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.

Source: Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum

The Splinter Supercar

“The Splinter” is a high-performance sports car that is 90% wood!  Nearly every part of the car is made from wood composites, including the chassis and wheels.  The Splinter, a fully functioning sports car with an estimated top speed of 240 mph, began as Joe Harmon’s graduate project at North Carolina State University and took hisplinter-wooden-supercar-1s team five years to complete.


This wooden supercar made news when it premiered at the Essen Motor Show in December 2015. We loved this story so much there is a separate blog on it sharing much of the detail behind this unique wooden supercar.

Source: Hardwood Distributors Association

Wooden Vespa

wooden-vespa-scooter-by-carlos-alberto-1Portuguese craftsman, Carlos Alberto made this inspiring wooden Vespa. Classic Vespa is one of the most gorgeous designs in history and this is a really worthy remake. Fashioned from laminated hardwood, the result is stunningly beautiful.

Named “Daniela,” in honor of his daughter, this Vespa motor scooter is hand crafted almost entirely out of laminated hardwood. The main spine of the bike is fashioned from steam bent and laminated veneers upon which very nicely carved body work hangs. Even the package tray and seat are made from wood.

Source: Carlos Alberto website

Did we miss something? Is there another project you’d like to see added to this list? Let us know.