A few years ago, masters of workshop silliness Garage54 decided to see what happened if you made a set of pistons from wood. To an extent, the experiment was a success - the Vaz 2106’s 1.6 did indeed fire up and run. For about 15 seconds.
The misfire was so bad the inline-four spat out its dipstick, and the beautifully-made wooden pistons quickly burned right through. Undeterred, however, those intrepid Russians are revisiting the idea, this time with plastic.
A material called ‘Kaprolon’ is chosen (this seems to be a brand name for nylon), with a billet of the stuff put on a lathe and trimmed to the right size and shape. After metal piston rings were added, the pistons were mounted on proper connecting rods. Perhaps Garage54 will try plastic con-rods at a later date.
The results are surprisingly good - the engine doesn’t just run, but run quite well. Up to a point, of course - as the plastic pistons warmed up, they expanded, seizing within the cylinder bores. After leaving the Gaz overnight, though, it fired up once again, before proceedings took another smokey turn.
A dissection shows the punishment endured by each piston varied slightly. Although all look a little worse for wear, they held up amazingly well!