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MAX Update No. 98: This Year's Top Story

12/31/2012 2:18:00 PM

Tags: MAX, 100 mpg, high mileage, convertible, streamlining, Jack McCornack

This just in: Happy New Year!

No, that’s not our top story. If you’ve wondered why I’ve been so stingy with the MAX Updates of late, it’s because we’d planned on telling the entire story in 100 postings, and I wanted #100 to coincide with the publication of the final MAX story in MOTHER EARTH NEWS, which is scheduled for the April/May 2013 issue. Now, I’m not promising that issue will be “The Thrilling Conclusion To The MAX Saga” (for one thing, schedules can drift in the wacky world of magazine publishing, and for another, MAX might win another cool competition like Escape From Berkeley, which would call for another entry in the magazine's Green Gazette pages).

Anyway, my point is (yes, I’ve got one, thanks for your patience) that the editors and I have decided the 100 post line-in-the-sand was dumb, and I should continue writing the MAX Updates blog until I run out of things to say. I think a post every two weeks would be good, and my adult supervision at MOTHER EARTH NEWS asked, “Why don’t you make that your New Year’s Resolution?” so we’re going to give it a shot.

And that’s not our top story, either. I’m much more literal than that. 2012 is the year that MAX got a convertible top, and here’s the story:

MAX is huge fun as a roadster, and I’ve been driving MAX topless (no jokes, please) for years, minus a brief stint in the winter of ’08 when I put a fabric top on the old MAX body. That stint was not an unqualified success. First of all, though it looked like a convertible top, it took about 20 minutes to put it up or down, and MAX didn’t have doors at that time. Getting into MAX involved climbing through the window opening, like a NASCAR racer or a cat burglar. Problem was, when I was dressed for winter…098aPanda…I looked more like a panda burglar than a cat burglar, and people with any shred of dignity refused to ride with me.

The other problem was aerodynamics. I wanted to make MAX an all-weather car, and the presence of the top sucked air (and whatever might be in the air at the time) over the front fenders, around the windshield, and in through the window openings, making MAX all-weather only in the sense that all the weather got in the car with me. I took off the top and brooded for a couple of years.

With the new streamlined body, crawling in through the window isn’t even an option, so I had to make a quick-release convertible top. Let’s face it, even with doors, MAX is so tiny that the top needs to be open for ingress and egress. The 2012 solution was to make the sides of the top rigid, pivot them at the front, and hold them down in the back with a conventional automotive door latch.

Here’s how to get out of MAX with the top on: Open the door and remove the side window. Reach behind the roll bar and unlatch the top’s side brace…098bUnlatch…flip the side brace over your head and lay it on top of the forward roll bar…098cFlip…and step out.098dExitTo get in (or close up the car), reverse the process. The side brace can be pulled into position without sticking your arm through the window, and it latches down with a satisfying automotive cla-clack, just like closing the door on a real car. It's still a bit clumsy but it'll get me through this winter. On warm days I can unlatch both sides, roll up the roof and stuff it into a front fender.

Man, look at the size of those…sweatpants. Do these sweatpants make my butt look big? Sadly, it’s not an optical illusion—in 2012 I went from Peter Pan to Peter Panda, and all it took was a thousand satisfying meals and some snacks. Maybe it’s time for another New Year’s resolution.

 Photos by Louise Gettle and Jacky Leggitt, who tried not to laugh. 

Browse previous MAX Updates.

Check out the 100-mpg Car page for all things MAX.


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