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The Cardboard Lexus

2D1CF98D00000578-3261232-The_full_scale_cardboard_replica_of_the_Lexus_IS_has_fully_fitte-a-14_1444086789896Remember when you were a little kid and a cardboard box could provide hours of fun and games?  I have vivid memories of my son pretending a cardboard box was a car, especially after his uncles decorated the box with BMW logos (is it a coincidence that he now dreams of owning a BMW X3?).

Lexus has managed to come up with a grown-up version of the cardboard box car, with a little help from LaserCut Works and Scales And Models in the UK.  I’m not sure if you’d call the result a sculpture, a model car or the first glimpse of the next big thing in environmentally friendly motoring.  In a nutshell, what they’ve made is a cardboard version of one of their very popular IS range . Yes, cardboard. Just about very single bit of the body.  What’s more, you can really drive it.

Apparently, the idea was inspired by one of the more unusual tests given to the engineers who work on the Lexus assembly lines: they have to be able to fold an origami cat using their non-dominant hand (this is the left hand for those of us who are right-handed).  The origami skill test alone is intriguing enough, as well as being so very typically Japanese.  Some of the design features of many Lexus vehicles (Lexi? Lexuses?) look like traditional origami sculptures, so the next best thing for a good publicity stunt failing an actual origami Lexus was to come up with the cardboard version.  I guess they couldn’t find sheets of paper big enough.

The cardboard Lexus looks just like the real thing apart from the colour and the visible lines where the different segments of cardboard end. However, if the light’s not brilliant or if you just see it trundling past down the road, you might easily mistake it for the real thing. It’s got the distinctive Lexus spindle grille. It’s got the twin headlights and the air intakes. It’s got the logo.  It’s got doors that open and shut, and it’s got a full interior – it’s more or less made a 1:1 scale model car using very, very sturdy cardboard around an aluminium and steel frame.

How they did this is the LaserCut precision laser tooling folk took a standard Lexus IS 300 h sedan and got all its specs from the CAD drawing used by the actual Lexus production works. The car – interior and exterior – was then reduced to a series of slices, each as thick as the sheets of cardboard used by the creative team. A precision laser cutting machine cut each slice out and each piece was numbered so that the cardboard Lexus could be put together properly. The cardboard version was assembled entirely by hand after the cutting process.  Here’s a video showing you how it was done:

The finishing touch was to add an electric motor into the engine bay so this cardboard Lexus can really drive.  Whether or not it’s the same electric motor as you’ll find in the real Lexus 300h (which is a hybrid vehicle), we don’t know. However, the motor really turns the cardboard wheels, which respond to the cardboard steering wheel.

The result is a little short on the bells and whistles you’d find in the real thing, and the cardboard version certainly doesn’t go anywhere near as fast.  However, it does go from A to B.

This model was done just for fun. However, given the current high use of plastics and the like in vehicles, the drive to make things lighter and the push for using sustainable resources, have Lexus stumbled onto something?  Add in the requirements for impact-absorbing crumple zones and steering columns that collapse in the case of a collision so the driver doesn’t get impaled and a lot of possibilities open up.  In future, will parts of vehicle bodies (not the ones that have to be structurally sturdy and protective, of course) be made from renewable and recyclable cardboard?

They’d better do something about the waterproofing or any future cardboard cars will suffer the same fate as my son’s long-ago cardboard box BMW: getting wet and soggy, then disintegrating.