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Ever wonder if there was a way to make a more environmentally friendly car? Henry Ford once did, and he looked to marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin hemp as a partial solution to the auto industry’s dependence on forestry and mining.
“Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the fields?” Ford once said.
And he put his dreams of an organic car in motion by launching a research project that resulted in the prototype known as the “hemp car” (a.k.a. the “soybean car”). The demo was unveiled in 1941 in Dearborn, Michigan. Later that year, appeared at the Michigan State Fair.
The vehicle was built primarily of bioplastics. Although the exact recipe for the plastic isn’t known, the Ford Museum says that ingredients might have included soybeans, wheat, hemp, flax and ramie. Ford’s goal was to make a vehicle that not only blended agriculture with industry but was also more durable. Ford claimed that plastic cars could roll over without being crushed.
Unfortunately, the experiment was derailed when America’s entry into World War II halted auto production. After the war, Ford didn’t revive the project, and the prototype was allegedly destroyed by E.T. Gregorie — one of the inventors.
But video footage of it survives…kinda. There’s a famous clip of Ford demonstrating the durability of the plastic by striking it with an axe. But it’s not the hemp car, according the Ford Museum. They says that Ford outfitted his own car with a plastic deck in the rear so that he could show off the durability of the material. But the material itself does contain hemp.