Why don’t cars use metal wheels instead of rubber?

I asked my Dad this question when I was no older than five or six years. We were standing in a garage and there was a racecar on the lift.

I remember hearing the other men talk about replacing the tires. As a wee lad, it seemed obvious to me: if rubber wears out, just make the tires out of metal…

A good laugh was had over my uninformed question, though no one was unkind. I can’t remember if they tried explaining the realities of rubber tires and asphalt, or if they just moved on.

Now, 20 years later I realize that it wasn’t the stupid question that I thought it was.

Combat vehicles and construction vehicles both utilize articulated metal tracks on metal sprockets. They’re not high speed, but the application has precedent.

It goes to show that an absurd question can point to an unforeseen solution. Obviously, articulated tracks for armored vehicles and bulldozers were invented years before I was born, however, in my young brain there was a non-linear understanding that allowed me to ask the question.

I’m recounting this anecdote to illustrate the value of absurd and seemingly uninformed questions. A child’s question. The sort of inquiry that could lead to a solution too simple for the advanced logic of the expert, but no less useful.

I’m still asking questions like this. And for years I thought that my question about metal tires was silly. Today I realized that metal “tires” exist. I wonder about other questions from my childhood.

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