For most people, an automobile is usually considered a mere appliance--a conveyance to go from one place to another. Yet those who love cars often treat their ride as a member of the family. And they keep it for generations.
Today, this notion seems just a bit too hard to fathom. All the high-tech gizmos that go into each new model tend to make us question how long before something goes amiss. Toyota hopes to change this perception of inevitable obsolescence with a concept known as the Setsuna. The name itself stands for “moments” in Japanese, and fittingly connotes the journeys and memories each family or car lover will be taking with this unique concept.
A quick look at the little roadster and you will immediately notice that it isn’t your typical vehicle study. In fact, it isn’t your ordinary car for that matter. For one thing, it is made out of different kinds of wood. The exterior panels were made from vivid and refined Japanese cedar. The floor was hewn from Japanese zelkova (known for being strong), while rigid Japanese birch was chosen for the frame. And to ensure that passengers remain comfortable riding in the two-seat cabin, the seats were formed using castor aralia.
Different types of woodgrains were utilized to bring out the beauty of each panel. Moreover, traditional Japanese joinery techniques such as okuriari and kusabi were applied to eliminate the use of unsightly nails or screws. And as repairs become unavoidable over time, these panels will be easy to replace.
Apart from the boat-like appearance that this roadster projects, it likewise possesses a tidy footprint at just 3,030mm long, 1,480mm wide and 970mm tall. It even has a wheelbase that spans merely 1,700mm. Despite these dimensions, it comfortably seats two people on well-sculpted leather perches. Just like the wooden exterior, cowhide was selected for its longevity. Like wood, leather tends to age gracefully through the years.
And this is the Setsuna’s reason for being: It is something that Toyota hopes will make a lot of memories for its owner. The circular logo itself symbolizes the passing of time without end. There is even a 100-year meter that doesn’t just tell the time of day, it also chronicles how long the car has been with its master. A short hand connotes 24 hours of each day, while the long hand lets one know that a year has passed (one circuit equals 365 days).
Unfortunately, this cool time machine is merely a concept that will be unveiled at the upcoming Milan Design Week from April 12 to 17. Besides, the construction technique won’t pass any safety standards. Yet it is still nice to know that there are automotive companies out there--such as the world’s largest carmaker--that still value the products they churn out, and don’t simply treat cars as just a collection of nuts, bolts and wheels.