Make a Corrugated Cardboard Car for $1

Turn corrugated cardboard into a toy car for your child or grandchild.

| November/December 1983

This cut-and-paste plaything might just be the best Christmas bargain yet.

Paperboard toys were around long before cereal boxes and comic books made them popular. But the old "cut, fold, and tuck flap A into slot B" routine needn't be limited to tabletop trinkets that are likely to disintegrate at a child's enthusiastic touch. In fact, at one time, real rough-and-tumble playthings — such as the roadster you see here — were commonly made from cardboard . . . and were quite able to endure the punishment dished out by an earlier (and maybe even rowdier!) generation.

None of this was lost on research staffer Dennis Burkholder, who's always been fascinated by paper art . . . and by things costing very little (or no) money. So, armed with a corrugated cardboard box (the sort used to ship major appliances), some wood scraps, a small saw, four half-liter plastic bottles, a utility knife, a pencil, a yardstick, a staple gun, and some white glue (Elmer's Glue-All works fine, but Franklin Titebond does seem to dry more rapidly), our trusty craftsman set out to build a next-to-no-cost working toy that anyone could duplicate.

If you could feel the sturdiness of the finished product and heft its nine-pound weight, we think you'd agree that Dennis achieved his goal . . . and, since he's already done the difficult design work, all you have to do is scale up the patterns in the accompanying diagram and transfer them to your own salvaged sheets of cardboard. The rest will be, like the cereal-box toys, mostly a cut, fold, and paste proposition.

OK, so you've laid out your two 48" X 60" corrugated sheets, outlined the car's various parts on them as indicated, and cut the pieces from the paper panels. Your next task is to glue the wheel disks together — in sets of four each — and put them aside to dry. Now, take your main frame section and fold it along the dotted lines, thereby forming a square tube. (Remember to cut out the openings that will later accommodate the square axle supports.)

This central frame is bolstered — in the middle and at both ends — with 3/4" X 5 3/8" X 6 1/2" wooden stiffeners, and further braced with two (3/4" X 3/4" X 7" and 3/4" X 3/4" X 10") wooden stays at the seam. (The job will be easier if you secure the cardboard joint with tape and then staple the stays in place, with the central stiffener between.) The end boards can also be fastened along the top and sides of the frame, but do leave them unstapled until you're ready to actually fit the body in place.

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