Lexus Ice Wheel

The Brief

Lexus approached us with an idea to create ice wheels that a car could actually drive on to explore how ice could be used in place of conventional alloy metal and rubber.

How we approached the design

This unique project took over 2 months of designing, planning and testing between the producer, model makers and our team at Hamilton Ice Sculptures. After initial discussions as to how we could execute the project aims we began the practical development.

However, once researching further our sculpting team concluded that pure ice wheels would not safely be able to support the NX crossover. The plan from here was to collaborate with the model makers so that they can create Perspex disks that were strong enough to hold the weight of the car. Once in place our team could then sandwich the ice wheels to give the pure ice wheel appearance.

As with any advertisement shoot, attention to detail is everything which is why four members of our sculpting team working tirelessly for 36 hours to produce each wheel. To do so we were sent full 3D CAD drawings of the wheel which we sliced in half to create a front and back to the wheel that could clad the Perspex disk.

We used modern CNC machining techniques to create the basic shape and size of the wheel, a process which took approximately 6 hours to complete. Our sculptors then reverted back to traditional sculpting tools to create the millimetre perfect tread using a very fine wood working V tool and Dremel.

Once we had created each wheel we then attached them to the Perspex disk with locating pins and Perspex screws that our team carefully tightened. The slightest overtightening or wrong movement could have caused the whole wheel front to break and become unusable so it was a delicate operation!

In order to ensure that the Lexus NX crossover model did not automatically melt the wheels once combined we chose to store the car in our deep freezer for five days at -30°C to form a crust of ice. Surprisingly, and to the delight of the Lexus team, the car started up first time!

The driver for the shoot was able to climb in through the boot of the car with a radio via which he would receive driving instructions as the ice layer surrounding the car meant he would be driving blind!

Our team then carefully jacked the car up, carefully placed the Perspex wheels on and even more carefully, placed the ice wheels on. Underneath the wheels were LED lighting to add an extra dramatic dimension to the cutting edge contemporary styling of the NX and to reflect beautifully through the ice.

This was one of our most interesting and unique commissions and we believe the first of its kind! Through laser scanning and replicating the NX wheel and tyres using computer design and numerical control techniques we were able to create an unprecedented fusion of art and engineering.

Challenges and how we overcame them

Creating functioning wheels out of ice was always going to be difficult but our team were up to the challenge! Mishaps are inevitable with such a complex and delicate job such as this but it wasn’t until the first shoot with all four ice tyres attached there was a slight problem. It was all going well aside from some slightly concerning noises until we realised that half way through the trial run, the director was having to chase one of the wheels down the road until it stopped and smashed in front of him- Take two!

Our team got straight onto replacing the wheel as we had premade 8 ice wheels to ensure we had replacements if problems such as this occurred. It then wasn’t long before the shoot was back underway!