“The Box” – All Wheels Steer and Drive (Nov, 1970)

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“The Box” – All Wheels Steer and Drive

Look at this ultralight on-and-off-road vehicle that hits new highs in mobility

By JIM DAVIS / PS West Coast Editor

Racing car? Economy car? Dune buggy? Off-road vehicle? The answer, every time, is yes; the Box is all of these. It began life as a multipurpose car suitable for street, track, and off-road use; but because it has a fully watertight body, it even converts to an amphibian when paddles are fixed to the wheels.

The designers, Dan Hanebrink and Matt Van Leeuwen of Costa Mesa, Calif., aimed for aircraft lightness. They also had their own ideas on just about everything in the chassis department.

A radical departure. The Box is far from the norm. But when you analyze it, you see the thoughtful reasoning and the simplicity behind the design: four-wheel-drive as well as four-wheel steering; power by a rear-mounted motorcycle engine, and belt drive to transmit the power. With the two-stroke, 500cc, 60-hp Kawasaki engine, the Box will top 100 mph and do the standing quarter-mile in 13.5 seconds at 95-mph terminal speed! A four-stroke LaVerda engine is now being tested.

From the engine, power is transmitted to the rear differential via a pulley. Suspension is an independent swing-axle affair, front and rear. It utilizes a hydropneumatic nitrogen-oil system, with separate reservoirs for each wheel. Over rough terrain this system really proves itself, taking the bumps out of ruts and gullies, and making off-road driving almost comfortable.

There is no separate frame. The body structure is what holds the parts together. The body is made in two sections, a top and bottom, bolted together. The Box is a two-seater. You step into it through a single front door, which also serves as the windshield.

The Box is made of balsa wood (the ultralight stuff you build model planes of) and fiberglass (the kind used in big aircraft). The balsa, end-cut into small pieces, is fitted between layers of the fiberglass.

Although aircraft fiberglass is harder to work and requires more attention to detail, it gives greater strength. Using this balsa/glass sandwich construction made it possible to strengthen points exposed to the greatest stress—such as suspension mountings—without beefing up areas that don’t need it.

Controls for the Box. They’re simple—borrowed from motorcycle components. Gear-changing is managed with the right hand, and so is the clutch control. The left hand controls the throttle by a twist-grip arrangement, as used on motorcycles. Brakes are applied simply by pushing the throttle grip forward.

You steer with your feet. It sounds weird, but really isn’t. It’s like the steering on those soap-box carts you had as a kid. When you pushed with your right foot, the cart turned left. When you pushed with the left, you turned right. But in the Box, instead of pushing directly on the axle, you are operating a hydraulic four-wheel steering system. The surprising thing to the designers was that it proved easier to make than a conventional two-wheel mechanical steering gear and linkage.

When can you buy? Plans call for about half a dozen of the Boxes to be built by the end of the year. A team of them will be entered in the Mexican 1000 off-road race this winter. They’ll still be experimental. After that, start watching for yours.

  1. Repack Rider says: June 2, 20089:58 pm

    Wow. I met Dan Hanabrink about 15 years later, when he started designing shock absorbing systems for mountain bikes. He was ahead of his time then also.

  2. patron_zero says: August 31, 200811:56 pm

    I may be mistaken but believe I spotted The Box during a recent screening of Soylent Green. A good midway through the film the vehicle may be seen parked outside the inflatable dome which contains the remains of Central Park.

  3. sib says: September 12, 20087:26 am

    >>>patron_zero: that is a Brubaker Box in Soylent Green. I like that car too, but this “The Box” is awesome!

  4. patron_zero says: September 12, 200811:52 am

    Thanks sib, the shot in Soylent Green is very brief but just enough to confuse the two vehicles.

  5. Dennis Cady says: October 5, 200812:37 pm

    Does anyone know if plans were ever made available? Anyway to contact Dan Hanabrink? Thanks

  6. Patron Zero says: October 6, 20083:14 pm

    Try the contact info on this page, best of luck !


  7. Vince Homer says: November 28, 20092:03 am

    Did anyone every come up with a set of plans for the Box?

    V. Homer
    [email protected]

  8. Vince Homer says: November 28, 20092:05 am

    Did anyone every find a set of Box plans? (resubmitted with follow-up via email)

    I have an original brochure from about 1976 and a quote for a Honda powered version.

    V. Homer
    [email protected]

  9. gavin quigley says: November 19, 20108:30 pm

    Dan Hanebrink is my grandfather. Im 10 years old and found this site on the “Box”. In answer to V.homer’s question, Dan sold them as kit cars with plans enclosed.

    In my house is a photo of the first “Box” test driven by Dan and he raced it at Saddleback in Orange County and went over a 500 foot cliff. If this had been a steel vehicle he probably would have been hurt badly, but he just had a head ache, and a broken A-Arm. The body and frame were one (“monocoque structure”)>

    The singing group “The Association” were investors in “Monocoque Engineering” in the 70’s.

    Gavin Quigley

    They were shipped all over the U.S.

  10. Bob Place says: December 19, 201010:37 am

    Yeah I recall this article as a kid. I cant believe that any were shipped to Canada as I have NEVER seen one – too bad I would have killed(figuratively) to have gotten my hands on one TOO COOL even for today (just too far ahead of its time like the Quasar motorcycle). Is there any plans to resurrect this I’d put my name down for one!!

  11. Rani Figueroa says: December 14, 20117:00 am

    This was before my time but a great design. Too bad it was not marketed better. My dad (Dan Hanebrink) has blown my mind over and over again throughout the years with his amazing out of the box thinking.

  12. Vince Homer says: December 14, 20118:00 am


    Does your dad have any plans or other material beyond the published articles and the sales brochure that I have? Istill think building one would be a great project.

    Vince Homer

  13. Patron Zero says: December 14, 201111:03 am

    If plans ever do surface, I’d love a set to build a kid-sized version for my nephews !

  14. Vince Homer says: December 15, 20115:39 pm

    I have a brochure and a quote for The Box that I got in the 70’s. If anyone is interested I could scan and post them .

    Vince Homer

  15. lrderrick says: July 24, 201512:08 pm

    I’m obviously late to the game but I got here! I’ve googled the box many times over the years, to no avail. I purchased a packet of information when I was a teen, loved the whole idea of 4×4 and 4 wheel steering. If the plans were available again I would definitely be interested. Glad to see this up on the net!

  16. hover-one says: February 10, 20168:50 am

    Irderrick could I get a copy packet about the Box Thanks Brad

  17. cfarrow2112 says: July 26, 20196:14 am

    My father-in-law owns 2 of these. Does anybody know a collector who might be seeking one? Thanks!

  18. Jimbo007 says: October 16, 20197:12 am

    I would be interested in a set of plans for ‘THE BOX’ if anyone has any copies or scans.

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