it is a car made out of a western red cedar log with a concave mouth for a “grille”, a wooden roll bar and wooden fenders, and a pair of turbines protruding from its rear. The thing looks ludicrous, like something a crazed Woody the Woodpecker would drive, or maybe a George Barris creation if he had ever gotten lost in the Pacific Northwest with an axe and a flask of whiskey.
Why? Why would someone do this, you might ask. And who? Who in the world would devote time to such a project? Also, what? What were they smoking? Must’ve been some potent stuff.
Called the Cedar Rocket, the log car is the creation of Bryan Reid Sr. and friends. Reid is the founder of Pioneer Log Homes in Williams Lake, British Columbia, and more recently, the star of the quasi-reality HGTV Canada show Timber Kings, which follows Reid and his Pioneer crew on their builds and adventures. Once you meet Reid, it’s easy to see his appeal to a producer. Sturdily built, he’s an affable fellow with a trimmed gray beard and a rustic Canadian accent that makes him seem as down to earth as the trees he harvests.
“We’re standing there, the three of us—there’s a turbine manufacturer, a mechanic, and a log builder,” Reid says. “Gerald started doing a little sketch, and pretty soon he had a fun-shaped log with tires and wheels. And then he sketches turbines on it. Gerald’s doing this diddly-doodlin’, and all of the sudden the idea comes.”
Now, before we go any further, let me address what everyone is wondering: No, those large red-and-silver turbines flanking the car’s rear do not power the car in any way. They are mostly for show. Connected to electric motors, they work, but spinning and whirring is about all they do. So why include them? Well, why not? They certainly make the car look even more ridiculous, and drawing attention is the whole point of the Cedar Rocket. For Reid, the end goal is to sell the car at next year’s Barrett-Jackson auction and have all the proceeds go to American war veterans.
As far as anyone knows, no one has ever made a working car out of a log before—much less tried to set a world record with one. This meant that Guinness’s ruling body had to come up with a goal speed for Reid to hit. Otherwise, just rolling 20 feet at five mph would count as a record. The goal speed had to strike a balance between being feasible while also being at least a bit challenging. In the end, Guinness decided that Reid would have to hit 50 kph, or 31 mph, twice within an hour.
Now, that doesn’t sound like much until you remember that we’re talking about a rolling piece of timber assembled as a side project mainly for publicity. In the weeks leading up to my Phoenix trip, the possibility of a gruesome death by a thousand splinters had become a very real and nagging prospect in the back of my mind. I was going to wear a helmet, but that wasn’t going to do much for me if something went really wrong. I remained optimistic mostly on blind faith.