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Half-Wheeled Car With Rebar-Reinforced Tires Is As Smooth as Barbed Wire – Because Russia

Suppose you, by a massive twist of geographical irony, feel the urge to find Novosibirsk on a map. In that case, you’ll discover it’s hidden far, far away, in the south of Russia, quite close to the Mongolian border. People there – being Russians – have an innate mechanical and automotive genius that enables them to thrive in an otherwise unhospitable habitat.
Half-Wheeled Russian Car Prototype 16 photos
Photo: YouTube/Garage 54
Half-Wheeled Russian Car PrototypeHalf-Wheeled Russian Car PrototypeHalf-Wheeled Russian Car PrototypeHalf-Wheeled Russian Car PrototypeHalf-Wheeled Russian Car PrototypeHalf-Wheeled Russian Car PrototypeHalf-Wheeled Russian Car PrototypeHalf-Wheeled Russian Car PrototypeHalf-Wheeled Russian Car PrototypeHalf-Wheeled Russian Car PrototypeHalf-Wheeled Russian Car PrototypeHalf-Wheeled Russian Car PrototypeHalf-Wheeled Russian Car PrototypeHalf-Wheeled Russian Car PrototypeHalf-Wheeled Russian Car Prototype
And the climate isn’t friendly either – Novosibirsk is the largest city in Siberia, and Siberia is where the Cold (capital C) is manufactured and then sent to the North Pole. I’m only joking about that part – they don’t send it to the North Pole; they keep it to themselves.

There is a team of gearheaded vloggers in that city, and they go by the YouTubing name Garage 54. They’re a lovely bunch of ingenious minds with wacky ideas – something we all think about doing, but come to our senses sooner rather than too late.

Not the Russians – they wouldn’t be proud citizens of the largest country in the world if they had anything but a “rules don’t apply” mindset. This is valid for anything, from space engineering to household appliance manufacturing. If it works, it’s good. And if it’s good, why change it?

Half\-Wheeled Russian Car Prototype
Photo: YouTube/Garage 54
Quick side note: remember that geometrically correct approach to bicycling that claimed an unusual interpretation of the wheel? The one where the rear wheel wasn’t a continuous circle anymore, but two parts of a circle aligned in a way that permitted pedal locomotion of the contraption? So did the nice inventors from Garage 54.

Except they took that idea one wheel further. Bikes aren’t of much use in Novosibirsk – at least, not in the dead of winter. On the other hand, cars work just as fine in the snow as in fair weather. The YouTubers did it: they modified a car to run on rear half wheels.

Precisely half wheels – watch the video to see how they saw two wheels in half to obtain four half wheels. To keep the half tires mounted on the half wheels, the mechanical inventors/improvisers/innovators/ (insert word that starts with “i”) manufactured a… errrrr, frame?

Half\-Wheeled Russian Car Prototype
Photo: YouTube/Garage 54
Welding together pieces of rebar, ladies, and gentlemen, is the optimal solution for fitting half a tire onto its respective half of the wheel. The Russians used chain drive from the front half-wheel to the rear to synchronize the two half-wheels.

The assembly was fitted to the rear axle of a Lada Sputnik – an edgy remnant of the defunct Soviet car industry. Of course, since each half-wheel requires its axis of rotation, a scaffolding was welded behind the rear axle.

The old saying, “if it’s stupid, but it works, it ain’t stupid” seems to have missed the Russian addendum. Sometimes, things don’t work, despite appearances. The Lada moves about on its engine power, but the ride is earthquake-measurable shaky.

Half\-Wheeled Russian Car Prototype
Photo: YouTube/Garage 54
Partly due to the “rear suspension delete” engineering, partly due to the rough Russian road it rides on, and partly due to a misunderstanding of the original idea. Looking closely at the bicycle contraption, you’ll quickly notice that the term half-wheel isn’t mathematically correct.

The two parts are not semicircles, but arches with a length of slightly more than “pi times radius” (that’s the mathematical formula for the size of a half-circle). The extra bits allow the two sections of the wheel to overlap when making ground contact. This ensures a smooth load transition from one cutaway to the other.

Also, because the road is covered in snow – notorious for being a fierce deterrent of grip – the ride is even harder on the weird automobile. The chain synchronization isn’t flawless, either. The timing chains used to keep the half-wheels in sequence are repurposed from the distribution of another vehicle – and probably worn out.

Half\-Wheeled Russian Car Prototype
Photo: YouTube/Garage 54
We shouldn’t forget about the rebar reinforcement – thick metal rods are not medalists in the “ride-dampening” Olympics. Then again, piston-driven vehicles have seen many out-of-place ideas that became the norm – albeit after severe improvement. Just think of the amount of computer power a modern car is adorned with.

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About the author: Razvan Calin
Razvan Calin profile photo

After nearly two decades in news television, Răzvan turned to a different medium. He’s been a field journalist, a TV producer, and a seafarer but found that he feels right at home among petrolheads.
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