Today's Article - The Soybean Car

This article is for quizzes on Wednesday February 15th...

The soybean car, more recently referred to as the hemp body car, was a car built with agricultural plastic. Although the formula used to create the plasticized panels has been lost, it is conjectured that the first iteration of the body was made partially from soybeans and hemp. The body was lighter and therefore more fuel efficient than a normal metal body. It was made in Dearborn, Michigan, through the work of scientist/botanist George Washington Carver and was introduced to public view on August 13, 1941. It was made, in part, as a hedge against the rationing of steel during World War II. It was designed to run on hemp fuel.
Henry Ford first put Eugene Turenne Gregorie of his design department in charge of manufacturing. Ultimately he was not satisfied with the proposed project, and gave the project to the Soybean Laboratory in Greenfield Village. The person in charge there was Lowell Overly, who had a background in tool and die design. The finished prototype was exhibited in 1941 at the Dearborn Days festival in Dearborn, Michigan. It was also shown at the Michigan State Fair Grounds the same year.

Because of World War II all US automobile production was curtailed considerably, and the plastic car experiment basically came to a halt. By the end of the war the plastic car idea went into oblivion.

According to Lowell Overly, the prototype car was destroyed by Bob Gregorie.

Others argue that Ford invested millions of dollars into research to develop the plastic car to no avail.

He proclaimed he would "grow automobiles from the soil" — however it never happened, even though he had over 12,000 acres of soybeans for experimentation. Some sources even say the Soybean Car wasn't made from soybeans at all — but of phenolic plastic, an extract of coal tar. One newspaper even reports that all of Ford's research only provided whipped cream as a final product.


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