Modern cars are made from a combination of steel, aluminum, plastic, glass, copper wiring, and rubber – along with bundles of sophisticated electronics – but long before that, car cabins and exteriors were often made of wood. During these times, however, even the most basic wooden-bodied cars were considered an extreme luxury.
To have a product that was slightly more affordable, and much easier to manufacture, some companies turned to wicker for the body of the vehicle. While unusual in appearance, wicker is actually quite strong and, due to its woven nature, could easily be formed into almost any shape car manufacturers wanted at the time.
The French 1897 Hugot was made almost completely out of wicker, and housed a 3.5 horsepower engine under the seat.
This was called an Electriquette. Named for being powered entirely by electricity, the vehicles were made in 1914 in Los Angeles and displayed at the San Diego Exhibition. Visitors could rent one for the day for just $1.00, and zip around the event at their leisure.
Only 200 Electriquettes were ever produced, but the design inspired a wealthy man from Arkansas to develop a similar vehicle for golf courses. Thus, the golf cart was born.
This photograph of a wicker car was taken in Detroit 1910.
Here we have a 1920s German-manufactured wicker sports car, known as the Korbwagen. The car was produced by Hanomag as a budget alternative to the steel model, called the Kommissbrot.
Wicker was even used to fabricate motorcycle sidecars.
It also allowed for many stylish variations of sidecars, which were relatively cheap compared to the metal alternative.
Somewhat more recently, wicker was used to build custom car seats, such as in this Fiat Jolly.
Or this DAF Kini, a beach vehicle designed especially for the Dutch royal family.
With the advent of cheap plastics, wicker has been brushed aside, along with some truly beautiful craftsmanship. Perhaps in the future these quirky styles will be revisited.
Sources: Old Woodies/ Occhio Lungo