For the last 20 years, Luciano Molinari has been collecting all the wood he can find. His latest creation is a Fiat 500L decorated with over 200 rare and exotic species. Supplier’s technical editor, Philip Ashley caught up with Luciano in Hannover to talk about his unusual habit of gluing wood to vehicles.

Luciano Molinari has always worked with wood. He started building and repairing furniture, then collecting rare and unusual species in 32mm square blocks and exhibiting them. He collected sawdust too, something the rest of us throw away. Luciano admires the fact that it’s all natural with “special fragrances and precious sensations all their own”.

With his latest creation, a wood-decorated Fiat 500L, he’s transformed his passion for wood into an expressive art form that draws crowds wherever it’s displayed. Exhibited at the most recent Ligna and Holz-Handwerk trade shows and, of course, in Milan, Luciano and his odd creations are a real show-stopper.

It was in the Scm showroom in Rimini that the black Fiat 500L was transformed from an Italian icon into a powerful artwork that captures the expression and unique manner of woodworking that this craft-artist achieves using traditional Minimax woodworking machines. The project took three years to plan and two months to actually do the work. The car was covered with a fabric coat on which the wooden pieces were glued. It wasn’t quite as easy as it sounds and plenty of magnets, spring clamps and wooden guides were used to achieve the desired effect.

The timbers include ebony; lignum vitae; maple; snake-wood; purple-heart; amboyna and cocobolo. Australian timbers include blackwood; avocado; budgeroo; camphorwood; gidgee and beefwood. There are even pieces of petrified wood in the mix. In all, 5,150 pieces covering 200 species are included. They are all different shapes, some with bark, some showing pith and some moulded or turned. The colours of the wood are arranged so the top of the car is lighter in shade than the lower half – almost two-tone in appearance. The pieces are sanded with a very fine paper and then waxed, not sprayed.

Luciano tells me that like everything in Italy, it all started with a woman. Invited to dinner and with no money, he decided to make something from wood. His date was so impressed she talked him into continuing to make things and there it began. He made delicate spinning tops from the most beautiful woods and these became collectors’ items. He made wooden puzzles that, to separate, needed one or two elements pushed in a certain direction.

His work with Scm has been going on for eight years and also includes a 1963 Vespa Teresa scooter also covered in wooden blocks. Both vehicles are driveable but the author is unsure whether or not they would be roadworthy in Australia – not that it matters.

Luciano says of wood: “My dear old friend wood, warm and loyal partner of our entire life”. And when he passes, he tells me he wants to be buried under a tree, maybe with one of his pieces as a headstone. He’s that kind of character.