Ping Cars Vol.6: Roomette, a Columbus’s Egg of a Car

Most of the time, a car is actually not being driven; it’s just parked somewhere. A car was originally developed as a means of transportation, so in most cases, once you arrive at your destination, you tend to get straight out of the vehicle. But then you have a trailer like this egg-shaped one. The Roomette offers mobility that re-thinks what do when the car is stationary.

We often see trailers like this as caravans or food trucks. In Japan you need a special license to drive one. But the Roomette is astonishingly lightweight so actually you don’t need the special tow truck permit. All you need is a car heavier than the Roomette to hook it up to and then you can start towing it around with you.

We spoke to Croco Art Factory’s Yoshiyasu Tokuda to find out more about the inspiring Roomette.

roomette01

Tokuda is originally a car designer who handled concept car and production model design for major car manufacturers. His career path has been rather unique; at college he majored in sculpture before then graduating and moving into product design. His is especially adept at 1/1-scale clay modeling work and so he actually calls himself a “car modener” (car modeler/designer). No doubt the three-dimensional sensibilities he cultivated in sculpture have been incorporated into much of his work.

After turning independent, Tokuda worked for almost every automotive company in Japan, and this experience drove him to go back to basics and make the cars he felt they should be offering people. The first step in this project is planning, producing and selling a trailer with no source of power: the Roomette.

roomette02Deep inside Croco Art Factory’s studio there is this 1/1 scale clay model of the Roomette. The red things at the bottom right of the picture at the Roomette’s tail lights. More details coming up!

When all’s said and done, the Roomette’s most remarkable feature is its unique body shape, which seems unimaginable for usually rudimentary trailers. But this didn’t come about through prioritizing design. No, it was just that a round design was the most rational when it came to making something that was very thin, strong, and producible in large quantities. For the materials, they chose FRP (fibre-reinforced plastic), made through the special RTM process whereby the surface and reverse is molded into a vacuum and then fabric is injected through a hole.

roomette03

“What we were aiming for was an industrial design that could be made for a minimal batch,” says Tokuda. In other words, he wasn’t aiming to create an art piece unique in the world but to realize a product in the same way that a small-scale manufacturer does. This fastidiousness can be seen all over the Roomette.

So, to get close to the secrets of the Roomette, we had them make a PingMag mobile office for us!

roomette04Desk? Tick. Laptop? Tick. Alarm clock? Tick. Coffee? Of course! And here it is, our very own stylish PingMag mobile office. Note the counter at the back, complete with sink, so you can even prepare snacks (perfect for when the PingMag editors get peckish). And if things get stuffy inside, just pop outside when you reach your next destination, enjoy the new scenery and refresh your idea bank!

roomette05(1) As the outer shell is round, it comes as no surprise that the interior is shaped like a dome. (2) The picture shows the compact model of the Roomette, which might look a little small but actually still has plenty of space inside. (3) Another thing we have to point out is the air-conditioning unit, which is completely hidden away so it doesn’t interfere with the shell design. (4) This is how you jack up the Roomette, as being demonstrated by Mr Komatsu from Croco Art Factory.

roomette06The rear features round tail lights and triangular wingers, topped off by a rectangular license plate. Both retro and futuristic! The tail lights are actually Daihatsu Move Latte parts and we have to take our hat off to such a clever twist. The triangular winkers have also been carefully treated so as not to stand out, since they are placed on a curved surface. The devil is in the detail, as they say.

Tokuda et al’s devotion to their task is obvious and the result is a superbly honed product, with even the door hinges produced one-by-one. Far from resting on their laurels,though, they took the Roomette out on test drives up north to Hokkaido and south down to Kyushu, and discovered lots of things that needed tweaking.

roomette07

When the Roomette went on sale, it became obvious that the applications for this trailer are almost endless. It could be used by communities as a food truck, a mobile hair salon or care facility, and Tokuda even had an inquiry about using it as an emergency evacuation location in Tohoku. (A real twenty-first century Noah’s Ark!) And on a more personal level, it could serve as your bike garage or even be placed in your garden as a smoking room.

Ping Cars would also love to find a unique way to use the Roomette. Okay, folks! We’re waiting for your ideas!

Thank you, Yoshiyasu Tokuda and everyone from Croco Art Factory!

Croco Art Factory
www.crocoart-factory.co.jp