The Car Of Theseus Boldly Goes Where Many Cars Have Gone Before

We could all use a good chuckle every once in a while. [William Osman] revisited the ship of Theseus in a simplified manner. How many parts can you remove from a car and still be a car? (Video, embedded below the break.)

Of course, there are legal definitions of what a car is and a minimum set of requirements to be met to drive on the road. So, with two older cars ready for hacking and a group of hackers gathered, they split into two teams and started ripping parts of the vehicle. It becomes pretty humorous as it reminds us of many refactoring projects we’ve undertaken. For example, you move one BGA chip, and suddenly, it might be faster to reroute the whole board. Or you remove one component, you have to rip it out of three other modules, which affect four or more other modules, and so on. Accidentally cutting part of the electrical harness meant that one team had to dig further and further into the car to get back to a working car state. It was a race to get back to street legal while taking off more parts.

By the end of the exercise, they have a technically street-legal car they drove around, enjoying passersby’s pointed looks and confusion. They even take it to a dealership to see how much they could get for it. [William] points out that their abysmally low offer proves that a car with less stuff costs less. While we doubt that car manufacturers will follow his lead, it’s a good 15 minutes of fun.

We’ve got you covered if you’re interested in more minimal motoring.

45 thoughts on “The Car Of Theseus Boldly Goes Where Many Cars Have Gone Before

      1. Hacking is great. And doing something risky is sometimes worth the risk.
        But doing something like taken the structural integrity out of a car, then driving it on a public road, is just stupid. Sure, if you want to do this and then drive it around your own property like an idiot – go for it…

        But sometimes, stupidity for stupidities sake really isn’t worth it.

        1. Plenty of homebuilt cars out there, and I don’t mean ones you buy as a kit, being legally driven on the roads or the US.

          There are very few things that are required to make a car street legal in the US. Some of them include the basics like break lights, reverse lights, it must pass state inspections, etc, etc, etc. If you build a car yourself, there is not such thing as it needs to pass crash or structural tests.

          We can argue whether it is worth the risk of death or being sued by someone who gets hurt in case you car breaks in 2 while you drive it through a crowded place, but some things still do not apply just because it may be common sense to a few people.

          1. Not just the safety of the driver/rider to consider though – you ride a 2wheel deathtrap and its really really remote chance you will hurt anybody but yourself. The vastly heavier, larger 4 wheeler covered in sharpish corners and likely containing much more fuel is way more dangerous to anybody else nearby if anything ever goes wrong.

            Also Motorcycles sort of do have airbags – in that protective clothing for bikers exists, and some of it does have airbags.

  1. Striping down modern cars to make faster, more capable (e.g. off road), or more fuel efficient cars is super interesting.

    But this video is super lame, just lowest common denominator youtubers trashing stuff for clicks, there is nothing meaningful or useful in promoting this video. If you remotely like cars don’t bother watching, they are doing nothing new, and there are plenty of better videos doing similar things on yt.

    1. Where are they legal even, I know about 40 of the states and all the provinces would not pass that on a safety inspection. Maybe they did it in Arizona, which is why u-haul registers there, if it doesn’t actually kill a police officer looking in it’s direction from 50 feet or so, it passes.

      1. Compared to somewhere like the UK, where vehicles need a comprehensive inspection every 2 years, most places in the US seem very laxed in what is allowed to continue driving on the road.

        1. Not “every 2 years”.

          The “MOT” (Ministry of Transport) inspection is required EVERY year, starting from the third anniversary of the car’s delivery to its first owner.

        2. The US have a huge variation – California is super strict on emissions & modifications, other states have zero inspections and people drive stuff till it crumbles to dust.

          The UK MOT is a decent medium – people bitch about it but it’s pretty lax if you read the rules, and wildly modified stuff can still pass with no problem as long as it’s basically safe and passes the emissions test.

          Worth noting the MOT can be passed by a car that’s not actually legal to drive on the road.

          1. Yep, no inspections here and yes, some of us drive our vehicles for a long time. My truck is a ’97 for example. Plan on getting permanent plates in fact, as truck prices are just out of sight, a new one seems — not practical (plus all the stupid widgets on them now — more stuff to go wrong). Anyway, inspections are just another way for the ‘state’ to make money. Keep saying ‘follow the money’. Of course, here, if you have tail light out, or headlight, you might be stopped and asked to fix at your convenience. Things like that. Common sense stuff.

          2. California only test emissions and visually inspects for smog equipment modifications (every two years), a rust bucket with bad brakes, missing lights, and bald tires, can easily pass Smog and be allowed back on the road. I think the MOT inspection is much more in depth, and more likely to remove unsafe vehicles from the road, than the CA Smog check process.

    2. Agree – it would be much more interesting to see how much weight & hence fuel they can save and/or how much performance they gain through that while still keeping the car basically usable & safe.

      There’s a huge amount of spurious junk in modern cars – you could lose a lot of fat before you even get to oft-cited sources of bloat like all the airbags & impact structures which many people would probably prefer to keep.

    3. yeah i was gonna comment about how upsetting it is to see them cutting down a unibody — YOU JUST CAN’T DO THAT — but your comment made me realize i was missing the forest for the trees. rich fools throwing away resources for clicks. that’s all it is.

    1. Pickup trucks fail inspection if the tailgate is missing.

      It is very very illegal to add extra seats to a van.

      No way a car is legal without all the doors it was made with.

      Thank goodness for civilization and laws!

      1. Depends on the car. Jeeps (the good ones, Wranglers and predecessors, not Mall Utility Vehicles) don’t depend on doors. They are optional, even in CA.

        Not absolutely sure that’s true for FIAT jeeps. What kind of fool would buy one of those? For that money you could get a square fender that will appreciate, not Italian trash. I bet you could get a running power wagon for the price of a new Rubicon (maybe not but worth the difference).

        In CA the smog/safety referees are pretty smart old car hacks. You want to avoid getting sent to them. They’re like NHRA/IHRA safety guys. Got to stay up all night to get something over on them. They’ll call you back unexpectedly in 2 months if they see a fresh swap.

        Know a guy who’s permanently banned from NHRA races. They didn’t like his unsecured aluminum tube roll bar Redgreened into place. Not at all. High 9 second car. Fool and his life would have been soon parted.

        Laws are suggestions. Just don’t get caught.

      2. You could perhaps re-register as a heavy quadricycle. If you can get the mass down under 450 kg dry and limit the engine power to 15 kW you can register as an L7e in Europe. Then it’s basically a “motorcycle” by law.

  2. The ship of Theseus is about a ship where the parts were *replaced* with new parts, and at a certain point you could argue it was no longer the same ship as when it started out. I don’t see them doing anything remotely like that here, so why the ship of Theseus comparison?

  3. >> parts can you remove from a car and still be a car

    Sounds like my Super Seven ;-)

    520 kg
    0-60 mi/h 4.5 s
    0-100 km/h 4.8 s

    Caterham does this since dekades.

    And completely street legal, even here in Germany :-)

  4. I haven’t watched the video but I can imagine they just keep stripping bits off it.
    Welcome to the party pal. You’re very late.

    This has been a thing for at least five years in the USA, dare I say the southern states, where some kids figured they could go faster in cheap cars by making them weigh less so they striped them down to nearly nothing.
    Some bright sparks figured it might be dangerous so they added “crash bars” made from whatever cheap metal and poor welding skills they could muster.

    No surprises many people have died in these well death traps and it’s well publicized if you dare to look.

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