2010: MAX's* third year on the road

(a high mileage homebuilt for Mother Earth News)

*MAX now stands for Mother's Automotive eXperiment

Winter '10

Jacky's holding the fort, Sharon and I are zooming around doing non-automotive stuff, Jacky's ordering and receiving parts, and parts are getting shipped to our customers, but there's no R&D happening right now, unless you count the cerebral kind. I've been looking over drawings and trying to figure a simple but streamlined body, since I'm not going to have time to get the exotic body built by spring.

The joy of the internet—one can do research at 3AM. I've been looking at antique (rather than maerely vintage) racecars since autumn, and the Bugatti Type 32 "Tank" caught my eye. Anyway, I Rhino'd up a modernized version (and rendered it in Bugatti Blue) and here you have it:

A coupe will be forthcoming.This modernized "Tank" body would be relatively easy to build, but it has one flaw that (thanks to my years of aircraft design and development) I hadn't thought of: it would be quite draggy in a crosswind. Other than during takeoff and landings, airplane don't deal with crosswinds. From the airplane's point of view, it's always going straight into the wind. Cars drive in crosswinds most of the time, and this car body needs rounder edges to work well in anything but a headwind, a tailwind, or a lull.

A colleague on ecomodder.com (botsapper is his screen name) invested an evening and came up with this variation on the "Tank" theme...

...which is pretty amazing, and I could put his 3D data into the Foam Ranger, and let it carve out a solid styrofoam pattern for me, but I won't have time for the finish work on a body that complex, plus that translucent roof would call for the air conditioner to run on 'High' all day. Meanwhile, I drew the coupe:

Oh well, at least I put a place in it for the centerline stop light—it's in the vertical fin, and high enough to be 50 state legal.


April '10

Sharon Westcott passed away in her sleep around 5AM Friday morning, April 16. It was so peaceful and easy that I had to say "...plus or minus half an hour..." when I gave the hospice nurse the time of death; no pain, no fear, the only thing wrong really was it came 30 years too early.

For those who knew her, I want you to know that your thoughts and prayers were appreciated. For those of you never met her, and who missed the experience of her friendship, well, she was a wonderful human being and you have my genuine sympathy.

From a practical standpoint, this means Kinetic Vehicles will be back to normal soon (though MAX may not win many competitions without Sharon on board—it will be tough to find an assistant/associate/adventuress/accomplice with her talent and flair), since I'm now retired as a caregiver. I appreciate everyone who supported me through this experience; your patience and understanding have been a huge help.

Our 2008 Escape from Berkeley adventure was her and my last competition together (though not our last blat, or even our last public appearance with MAX) and gosh but we had a great time. We made an unbeatable team (as proven by the fact that nobody beat us) and I'm so glad Sharon and I got to share that experience. We'd done a lot together, and she'd done plenty before we met, and goofy as it sounds I'd like everyone involved to know that in her retrospective last weeks, Sharon looked back on that event as a highlight of her well lived life.

May '10

I drove MAX down to Curtis Unlimited, where Fay and Burt Curtis make metal and fiberglass components to keep the world's fleet of vintage race cars running. The vintage racers are an interesting group; quite different from the folks that keep their collections under glass, and they're more interested in campaigning their cars than having every part authentic and traceable back to the factory. The rule of thumb seems to be, if a part is no longer available from the original manufacturer, a replica replacement part is acceptable, and few of the original manufacturers want to be bothered with keeping 50 year old parts in stock, so the Curtises have a nice little niche market.

The purpose of my visit was to see if a Lola Mk 1 body could adapt to MAX's chassis. As you might guess, I'm hugely behind schedule on the streamlined body development project...so if MAX is going to get slippery this summer, I'll need a little help from my friends. The late '50s was the peak of development of streamlined racecars (in the '60s the designers discovered that downforce was more important than streamlining and body design changed directions accordingly) so I'm looking at the first Lola.

As you see, it doesn't quite fit—it's too narrow andit needs to come up in the back a bit—but I can work with it. I came back a couple weeks later in my van, and yes, a Lola Mk 1 nose will just barely squeeze into a Dodge Caravan if you pull the seats out first.

Back at the shop, I roughed out the fit. I'll probably only use the fenders so I bravely took a sabre saw right down the middle, veering a bit for a 'speed bump' bubble. In the '50s it was not uncommon to add body bulges when needed to fit a new (usually bigger) engine, now the serious race teams create a whole new body. On MAX, I'm going to have to move the bump to cover the turbocharger, so I cut that part out and saved it.

June '10

I won't show you the whole nose modification process (though you can find it here on LocostUSA.com if you're curious) but it's sure going quicker than starting from scratch. Still, it took a month to get this far; shaping patterns, making molds, cutting and fitting and carrying on. Here are the front end parts, out of the molds and stacked up on each other, pretty much as they're going to fit. Now to make a structure to hold the noseon the chassis..and then a scuttle...and then pontoons and doors...and then a rear body section...man, I won't be seeing many movies this summer.

November '10

Can you believe it? It's November already. July, August, September, October...they all zipped by before I could grab the time to update this web site.

To summarize, I got the new body pretty well finished in September. In honor of the Lola (sorta) I named it the Lalo. It had doors and everything, just like a real car, though at 29" tall, it was just as easy for me to step over the door to get in.

It wasn't completely finished-—I didn't have the head fairings yet (nor the roll bars they would cover) and I intend to make clear plastic covers for the headlights, but it was done well enough to drive from Oregon to Pennsylvania, to the Mother Earth News Fair, September tewntysomethingth. It was, but I wasn't.

Here's MAX in its slippery suit, with me behind the wheel. You Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy readers will note my peril sensing windscreen. It's opaque because A) opaque ABS is a lot cheaper than transparent polycarbonate, and I was using trial and error to find the minimum obstruction that would boost the airflow over my head, and B) I didn't want it to look like a windshield, since automobile windshields must be made of safety glass and must have windshield wipers, and I didn't want to waste taxpayers' dollars with unnecessary conversations with the state troopers. Eye protection is required (I wear replica Battle of Britain Spitfire goggles) but windshields are not.

Jacky Leggitt took these photos. She's a fine photographer but for some reason I was doing something goofy every time she clicked the shutter. Here I'm humming to myself and looking into the footwell for something—probably a lost melody line.

Here I'm backing out, having just finished yelling at Jacky that she could take all the pictures she wanted when I got back from my trip. God laughs when we make plans. I'm covering my face for some reason, possibly to discourage paparazzi, but since I'm wearing a bandana across my face it's a belt-and-suspenders move..

And off I go, on my way to a date with destiny. This is the last pretty picture of MAX with its Lalo body. Yes, there's more to the story, and yes, I'm fine, thank you very much, and I'll post again soon.