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bike  lanesThis is a modified version of a guest post written by Zach O’Connor, Communications and Publications Coordinator for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), for Adventure Cycling Association’s Building the U.S. Bicycle Route System blog. I thought it worth sharing, with the author’s permission, on the Green Transportation blog. In it Zach explains how his coworker’s multi-modal bicycle commute from the suburbs to the heart of Washington, D.C., makes use of the District’s newly improved bicycle facilities.

Most of us commute to work in our own way, whether it’s by bike, car, walking, mass transit, or a combination of two or more of these. My commute is boring compared to those of some of my co-workers at AASHTO; I walk to my nearest Metro station, transfer downtown, and walk to the office. I pass by two Capital Bikeshare (DC’s awesome bike share system) stations on my way to work. I could use this method; however, I tend to be a bit of a transit nerd and enjoy taking Metro. AASHTO Communications Director Lloyd Brown’s commute is far more adventurous.

Lloyd commutes to work from his home in Bethesda, a Maryland suburb. At least twice a week he’ll commute by bike all the way to AASHTO’s headquarters in DC. The District has recently become known for investing in bicycle infrastructure, but how do the suburbs score? It all depends where you live.

Lloyd will leave his home and take Old Georgetown Road to either the Metro or, on the days he bicycles all the way to the office, to the Capital Crescent Bike Trail. This first leg on Old Georgetown Road is where he feels he’s taking his life into his hands, as he rides 3.5 miles on this four-lane highway full of potholes and traffic. It can be risky for a cyclist during any time of the day. Once he reaches downtown Bethesda, Lloyd is able to hop on the Capital Crescent Trail, a rail-to-trail project that is a backbone of transportation for pedestrians and bicycle commuters. The trail, which serves more than a million bikers and walkers a year, ends in Georgetown, where Lloyd will utilize the city’s bike lanes for the rest of his commute.

Although DC’s bike lane network is extensive, Lloyd has noticed some problems with both cyclists and motorists. “Cars don’t make it easy for bikes, but bikes don’t make it any easier for cars,” he says. On occasion he’ll see both drivers and bicyclists ignoring signals, while car drivers often ignore bikes on the road. The DC government banned U-turns on Pennsylvania Avenue, where there is a two-way dedicated bike lane in the middle of the street. There have been blog articles, videos, and photos posted of cars breaking the law, and thankfully their actions come with the consequences of a hefty fine. But there is equal blame to go around. On the bike trail into DC, Lloyd often wishes cyclists would show one another some common courtesy, such as alerting other riders when turning or passing another rider.

This isn’t a car vs. bike scenario, but more commuter vs. commuter. The point is to be courteous, no matter which modes of transportation you utilize. That way we can all reach our destination—the weekend—safely.

Photo by Elvert Barnes


Children riding bike on a sidewalk. Photo by Fotolia/dasharosoto

Reposted with permission by The League of American Bicyclists.

Here's a look at biking on sidewalks — which is a perfect microcosm of the complicated relationship between traffic and bicycle laws in most states.

What Are Sidewalk Riding Laws?

Sidewalk riding laws define the rights and duties of a bicyclist when riding on a sidewalk. Whether a bicycle can be legally ridden on a sidewalk highlights the complicated and hybrid nature of the bicycle under current traffic laws in most states. A bicycle is at once a vehicle, given all the rights and duties of a vehicle; its own entity, subject to specifically tailored alternative rules; and in some cases treated as a pedestrian, with all accompanying rights and duties. In some instances, laws related to sidewalk riding can also highlight a division between adult and child bicycling.

When states do not explicitly allow bicycles to be ridden on sidewalks, court interpretations of statutes may still allow bicycles to be ridden on sidewalks. In most, if not all, states, either statutes or court decisions say that whatever laws govern bicycle behavior on sidewalks will also apply to crosswalks.

In addition to these issues caused by the hybrid nature of bicycles, many states leave their traffic laws open to change by localities, either in limited circumstances or through a general grant of power. Whether a bicycle may be ridden on a sidewalk is often explicitly allowed to be a local decision and may also be limited in central business districts, where pedestrian traffic is likely to be heavier.

Here's a full chart of laws and regulations (PDF).

Why Should You Care?

The League recommends that bicyclists ride on the road. Riding on the sidewalk is a significant cause of bicyclist-motorist crashes and creates unnecessary conflicts with pedestrians. There are many reasons that bicyclists belong in the road rather than upon the sidewalk, including obstructions, unpredictable pedestrian movements, limited visibility, and the limited design speed of sidewalks. However, there may be appropriate times to ride on a sidewalk or crosswalk, such as when crossing an unsafe high speed roadway or when the skill or ability level of the rider is not suited for the adjacent roadway, as can be the case with children.

When a bicyclist chooses to ride on sidewalks or crosswalks, sidewalk riding laws can clarify expectations for pedestrians, motorists, and bicyclists regarding how each mode will interact. When states fail to make the rights and duties of users of different modes clear in these hybrid situations they make it more difficult for public education efforts to be authoritative, create confusion regarding who is “right,” and may unintentionally limit the ability of crash victims to recover. It is possible that this lack of clarity may be a sign that these hybrid situations are thought more suitable for court decision-making rather than legislative decision-making because of the individualized and context-sensitive nature of these mode interactions. Even in states where there are “good” laws that make the rules for each road or sidewalk user clear the best answer to these context-sensitive situations is to create a better context. Dedicated bicycle infrastructure is a demonstrated way to reduce sidewalk riding by bicyclists and an appropriate response.

How Many States Have These Laws?

Vehicle Laws

  • 8 states prohibit bicycles on sidewalks because bicycles are vehicles, and vehicles are prohibited on sidewalks.
  • In 10 states it is unclear whether bicycles are prohibited from sidewalks because they are not defined as vehicles, but a bicyclist has all of the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of any vehicle except as to those provisions which by their nature can have no application, and vehicles are prohibited on sidewalks.
  • In 8 states no law was found regulating the use of sidewalks by either bicycles or vehicles.

Bicycle-specific Laws

  • 21 states require a bicyclist to yield to a pedestrian while riding on a sidewalk.
  • 18 states require a bicyclist to give an audible signal before passing a pedestrian while riding on a sidewalk.
  • 4 states limit the speed of at which a bicycle can be ridden on a sidewalk.

Pedestrian Laws

  • 13 states say that a bicyclist riding on a sidewalk has all the rights and duties of a pedestrian in the same circumstances.
    • In all but one of these states there is a variation of the requirement that pedestrians cannot suddenly leave a curb into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.

Spotlight State – Utah

Utah clearly navigates the hybrid nature of bicycling on sidewalks using statutes that address a bicycle as a vehicle, as a quasi-pedestrian, and as its own entity. In Utah, bicycles are vehicles and vehicles are prohibited from operating on sidewalks. However, bicycles are explicitly allowed to ride on sidewalks in the same statute that prohibits vehicles from doing so. In a separate statute the rights and duties of a bicyclist on a sidewalk are given. In general, bicyclists have all the rights and duties applicable to pedestrians on a sidewalk, path, trail or crosswalk, but there are several exceptions. These exceptions generally do one of two things:

1) Give priority to pedestrians

  1. A bicyclist must yield to a pedestrian; and
  2. A bicyclist must give an audible signal before passing a pedestrian.

2) Establish rules specific to bicycles on a sidewalk

  1. Bicycles may be prohibited from sidewalk, path, trails, and crosswalks by sign or ordinance;
  2. Bicycles must not be operated in a negligent manner so as to collide with pedestrians, other bicyclists, or other vehicles or devices propelled by human power; and
  3. Bicycles must be operated at a reasonable and prudent speed.

Upon the shared space of a sidewalk, path, trail, or crosswalk a bicyclist is most likely to be the largest, fastest moving user of that shared space, with the most potential to injure another user of that space. The exceptions that are found in Utah’s law reflect the idea that a more dangerous user of a shared space should be subject to rules that account for that danger. Several states make a distinction between bicycles and motorized bicycles to further account for the real or perceived danger of heavier, faster, moving users on a sidewalk and prohibit motorized bicycles. Whether these additional rules are necessary or desirable can be debated, but they provide some parallels for discussions of appropriate rules for shared roadways.

Ohio also has a statute provision worth mentioning: In the Buckeye State, bicycles can be prohibited from sidewalks by sign or ordinance, but cannot be required to ride upon the sidewalk by sign or ordinance. This ensures that bicyclists can always use the road, and is an at this time unique provision to bolster the vehicle portion of the hybrid rights and duties of bicycles.

Photo by Fotolia/dasharosoto



Man, I’d better get this right.

Those who’ve been following the MAX Updates know how hard it was to build this body, and how hard it was emotionally to build the rear fenders twice. To avoid ever doing that again, I made molds for the second set of rear fenders (see MAX Update No. 73: Fenders Sans Benders) and now I can pop out replacement rear fenders like Pepperidge Farms pops out cookies.

Now that MAX has shown its stuff, there’s been a bit of clamor from DIYers who want to make similar* cars, and it’s clear that the streamlined body is a key factor in MAX’s fuel sipping ways. I’ve shown how I made MAX, and the nose alone took two solid months, and other builders could duplicate my steps or we could make a mold of the entire nose and pop out noses too.

As long as you’re making a few of them, molded parts aren’t much more expensive than start-with-a-block-of-foam-and-knock-off-everything-that-doesn’t-look-like-a-car parts. You use the same amount of resin and glass in either one, and there wouldn’t be any cost difference at all except A) the mold itself takes about triple the materials that go into a part (the mold has to be substantially stronger than the part) and B) you have to make the first part first anyway so you can have something to make the mold off of, and if you’re only making one part, you’re done, and if you’re making a mold, your work has just started…and if you mess up on making the mold (hey, it happens) you don’t have a part or a mold and you get to start over anyway. To thoroughly abuse the metaphor, you have to make a lot of cookies to pay for an industrial cookie forge.**

The long story short is, I figured if I spread the cost of the mold over ten cars, it would be just about as cheap*** for builders to buy the body parts as to make the parts themselves, and when people asked if I’d be making (and selling) copies of the MAX body, my answer was: when three people commit to buying bodies, I’ll make the molds.

The third builder committed about a month ago, so I’ve taken the nose off MAX and am transforming it into a pattern, or “plug” as it’s known in the colorful patios of the fiberglass industry. The scary part is, once I’m done converting it from part to plug, it will never be a nose again. I’m having to fill every hole (including the headlights and radiator air intake and the hole in the hood where the turbocharger sticks up), and having to brace it inside with bonded plywood panels, and bond flanges to the edges and…if this doesn’t work, MAX will never look like MAX again, and win or lose, MAX is out of the picture for a few months.

Of course, it’s going to work out great, and the first nose out of the mold will go on MAX, and I’ll use all the lessons I’ve learned from this prototype to make MAX prettier and slicker than ever, but it’s still a little scary. I’ve already looked like a dork at one Mother Earth News Fair (in Seven Springs, 2010) and I’d hate to double-dork.

Whew. I feel better, getting that out of my system, and I should stop with my “what if…” worries, since I’m already past the point of no return. MAX’s nose is hanging in my hangar (hence the name), upside down, getting its braces installed and its holes fiberglassed flat; it’s happening and that’s that. And maybe it’s a good thing that I can’t cruise around in MAX for a couple of months, because that allows me to work on the enclosed cabin without distraction.

*If you have a Cocker Spaniel named Trixi, her puppies are Cocker Spaniels, they’re not Trixis. MAX is only the name of this one specific car, and we need a name for this model of car. You can help; our lines are open, and operators are standing by.

**And if your first cookie gets jammed between the cookie hammer and the cookie platen, boy are you in trouble!

***The cost/labor comparison is about 35 cents an hour.

Photo by Jack McCornack 

Browse previous MAX Updates.

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


MAX has a smooth belly pan under the engine compartment (it’s the black ABS sheet shown in MAX Update No. 82: The Dark Underbelly) and under the passenger compartment (the cockpit floor is a sheet of 16 gauge steel) and last year I completed the belly-smoothing operation by adding a sheet of quarter inch plywood between the rear of the cockpit and the rear of the body. The modern term for this tapering-upward-in-the-back-bellypan is "Diffuser".* The wind tunnel folks have determined that minimum drag comes with a diffuser angle of six degrees from horizontal, so that's what I used with MAX.

Here’s a video of the air under the rear third of the car, shot with the remarkable** GoPro HERO2 sport video camera, and edited on my Mac laptop with iMovie. I’m starting to have some fun with this setup.


It makes obvious sense that making a car smooth on the bottom will reduce drag***. Half a century ago, most cars in America looked pretty terrible from the bottom, with all kinds of things hanging in the breeze and no money wasted covering them up. New cars are much smoother underneath than old cars, and I think there are three main reasons for that improvement:

A) Cars are a lot more sophisticated and a lot more expensive nowadays, but a smooth belly doesn’t cost much more than it ever did, so percentage-wise, a smooth belly doesn’t increase the cost of a car as much as it used to.

B) Cars last longer than they used to (I expect 300,000 miles for a new car today, I expected 100,000 miles circa 1960) so the cost per mile for a smooth belly is greatly reduced.

C) Fuel is now the biggest expense of owning/operating a car, so people today will pay a little more for a car that burns a little less fuel. They may never see how pretty their car is from the bottom (I painted my plywood panel white, but that was 7000 miles and a trip to Pennsylvania ago, so it’s looking a bit smudged under there lately) but they’ll see the mileage on the window sticker and that’s enough to sway most of us.

Here’s some cocktail napkin math for you: a 1960 economy car that cost $2000 and got 25 mpg on thirty cent gasoline for 100,000 miles cost $1200 for fuel in its lifetime; the fuel cost 3/5 what the car cost. A 2012 economy car that costs $20,000 and gets 25 mpg on $5 gasoline for 300,000 miles will cost (gulp) $60,000 for fuel in its lifetime; the fuel will cost 3 times what the car costs. If belly smoothing increases the cost of a new car by $200 but improves mileage by 2%—1/2 of a mile per gallon—it will save a lifetime $1200 at the pump.

As you can see in the video, MAX hasn’t achieved a baby-butt level of smoothness yet. There’s still a good deal of flutter in those tufts of yarn. However, additional streamlining improvements may not be worth the time and money. MAX is getting its 100 mpg just the way it is. Now it’s time to make MAX more versatile, so we can drive it 12 months a year. I'll be developing a fully enclosed cockpit before I do any more streamlining work.

* [dih-fyoo-zer], noun, a device for utilizing part of the kinetic energy of a fluid passing through a machine by gradually increasing the cross-sectional area of the channel or chamber through which it flows so as to decrease its speed and increase its pressure.

** Small, lightweight, inexpensive, robust, and cranks out excellent videos for internet use.

*** I’ll acknowledge there are shapes which are improved by unsmoothing them—dimples on golf balls reduces drag, as does fuzz on tennis balls—but the reason doesn’t particularly relate to car body design. Yes, if you want to make a spherical car, dimples will help, but dimples aren’t good streamlining; dimples are a band-aid on bad streamlining.

Video by Jack McCornack 

Browse previous MAX Updates. 

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


“What kind of car is that?”

Hmm. “That’s a long story…”

The best description came from a stranger waiting for the ferry with me, who said “It looks like an Elva crashed real hard into the back of a Lotus Seven,” which is not far off, except for the crash part.

094GreyNoseIt’s been over a month since the streamlined nose came off MAX and began its one-way trip to the fiberglass shop. That nose has been shaped and smoothed and braced and flanged and painted and waxed and sacrificed to the mold making process, and it’ll be the end of August before the first new nose comes out of the new mold (which is currently under construction). The MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Seven Springs, PA, is coming up in September, and I’ve got plenty to do to get ready (roof, doors, and windshield come to mind) but I’m not hiding in my garret — MAX is taking its first international excursion this weekend. So I needed a temporary nose replacement that wouldn’t take much time or effort.

Good thing I hung on to MAX’s Prisoners of Petroleum body parts from Escape From Berkeley, so I could cobble something together. I think it’s fair to call the result (cue the creepy organ music) FrankenMAX!


I’ll be crossing the world’s longest undefended border in an hour, and it’ll be MAX’s first boat ride — we’re on our way to the Vancouver Island Sevens Meet; the annual Western Canada get-together of … of cars that look kinda like MAX looked in its first year on the road. They’re called Sevens because their inspiration is the Lotus Seven of yesteryear (wow, it’s been over half a century already); they’re light, small, and they go like stink thanks to their spectacular power to weight ratio and no thanks to their disastrous aerodynamics. It was 665 miles from the Kinetic Vehicles shop in Cave Junction, Oregon, to the Black Ball Ferry Terminal in Port Angeles, Washington, which was enough miles and hours to remind me of a couple features of Ye Olde MAX, which are A) it really is an aerodynamic disaster, and B) when you’re driving a Seven, you’re not driving a car, you’re driving a parade float.

As for A), MAX was pretty good when it first had its Seven body, and the streamlined body made it even better, but I didn’t know in my heart how much better until I put the old nose and front fenders back on the chassis. I’m sufficiently spoiled by the new body that now when I drive with the old body, I feel like I’m driving through high fructose corn syrup.


And as for B), there’s something about the small size and pug nose and swoopy fenders that makes Ye Olde MAX terribly cute and friendly. People like MAX, people like to take pictures of MAX, people like other people to take pictures of themselves with MAX, and I like taking pictures of people taking pictures of people with MAX (such as these two sisters on vacation who shared the ferry with me). I don’t think MAX is a good car for introverts, but if you like talking with strangers (or as Will Rogers called them, “Friends I haven’t met yet”), you can’t get better bang for your buck than if you Make Your Own MAX.

Photos by Jack McCornack 

Browse previous MAX Updates.

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



In case you haven’t noticed, car marketing tends toward irrelevancies. The objective of a car advertisement isn’t to sell you the car — there are professional salespeople for that — it’s to make you aware of the car, and get you thinking about how your life would improve if that car were your own.

When I was growing up, car advertising was pretty dang sexist, but those days are gone. Women are half of today's car market, so of course…wait a minute, there’s one sector of the car market where the message remains unchanged, and that’s the high performance sector. The message is: Buy this hot car, and hot women will seek your company.

"Men talk about women, sports and cars. Women talk about men inside sports cars."

That’s a quote from a Mercedes ad. Mercedes may be right, but in my experience, often women are saying, “What a poser!” when talking about men in sports cars, and that’s when they’re being polite. Mercedes advertisements pitch their regular cars to everybody, but they target guys for their performance cars. The 571 horsepower engine in their SLS AMG gullwing is electronically limited to a top speed of 197 mph, which presumably is fast enough to get you to your next supermodel in time for your next date.

How about Lexus? They produce a wide range of models, including five hybrids, which they promote to women and men alike, but the only ad I’ve seen for their LFA was in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, with a Lexus LFA, Supercar, doing tire-smoking donuts around Rianne Ten Haken, Supermodel.

The LFA is covered in bright yellow paint. Ms. Haken is covered in…in skin, for the most part. Apparently the $400,000 car took up most of the budget and there wasn’t a lot of money left for swimsuit fabric, but the swimsuit is bright yellow too, so it is perceptible. The ad’s tagline is “What does it take to stand out in a magazine full of beautiful women? About 552 horsepower.”

Perhaps Rianne Ten Haken is in the ad just to catch our eye. Perhaps there’s no implication that girls like her would be drawn to guys like us if we had a car like that. I found a making-of-that-ad video on YouTube that knocked the “perhaps” out of the park. Quoth Ms. Haken, “I really think the car just sounds like testosterone, like full on, like strong power…” and her demeanor indicates that she finds this favorable. Yes indeed, The Sound Of Testosterone; women love that stuff, it's music to their ears.

Okay, let’s get real. We’re not going to buy an LFA, so let’s check out the Lexus GS, their latest sedan. They have a high performance model of that one, the GSF Sport, “With a range of performance enhancements and exclusive styling, this is a GS honed for even more exhilaration.” It has roughly 10 times the horsepower MAX has (306 vs. 32) so naturally, they got a race driver and a stunt driver to race in the Tori 500. Let’s see what the participants have to say.

Tori Praver, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model: “I thought it was so awesome when I found out that Lexus wanted to make a track around my body, I thought it was a really cool idea.”

Scott Pruett, Professional Race Car Driver :“You know, I have driven on tracks throughout the world, but I have never driven one in the shape of a woman’s body.”

Okay, you get the idea. They made a race track traced over a photo of Ms. Praver, blown up 1200 times, and the winner got to take a hot lap with the real Tori Praver, who said “I would love the chance to drive around the curves of my own body.” Many men who watched that video felt similarly.

Believe me, I have loads more examples, I just picked Mercedes and Lexus because they’re considered to be classy car companies; and yet they gave us Women-talk-about-men-inside-sports-cars and the Tori 500.

So here comes my point (and about time): the people I like to hang out with, the people I like to meet, those people think MAX is pretty cool, and that includes people I haven’t met yet. When I take MAX on trips, complete strangers start conversations and sometimes they have intriguing questions and the conversations go on for a while. Most (not all) of the long conversations are with women (I lose a lot of guys after “What’cha got under the hood?” and “How fast does she go?”) who for some reason are more likely than men to be impressed by MAX’s low environmental impact, and much more likely to ask insightful questions such as “Can I take a picture?” and “Can I have a ride?” and “Have you ever been to the Hot Springs?”

MAX proves daily that you don’t need 571, or 554, or even 306 horsepower to draw the attention of interesting women. I wish more guys knew that.

I was talking with Charis Carter at last September’s Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs, about this very subject. Charis is an activist, educator and performer, she was touring with the Sustainable Living Roadshow when we met, and currently she’s a driving force for sustainable living and social responsibility in her home town of Johnson City, TN. If you’re in the neighborhood of Northeastern Tennessee this Saturday (May 24) don’t miss the Bike Kitchen Event and Benefit, and plan on staying ’till 2 AM because they’ll have lots of live entertainment; Charis will be playing with the Penny Dreadfuls and I think she has a solo set in there, too.

The point is, Charis is an archetype of Interesting Woman, and she was riding in MAX with me while we were talking, and I doubt she would have even given me the time of day if I’d showed up in a car that costs as much as a house and gets 12 mpg. She totally gets the absurdity of how performance cars are marketed to men. And how can we convince men that guys in small footprint cars can out-allure guys in conspicuous consumption cars? That’s easy: interesting women have to tell them. So when the Fair was over, she tasked me to park MAX next to the SLR bus, and bring my camera.

Nothing draws attention to a car like draping it with an attractive woman in eveningwear, particularly late-in-the-evening eveningwear. Admit it, my fellow fellows, that photo up there at the top caught your eye, and that was a thousand words ago and you’re still reading. You can see the first draft of this MAX ad here — don’t worry, it’s safe for work — and I think it presents a positive message. I recognize that Charis is making playful fun of us guys for being such goofballs, but I’m okay with that…and by the way, she chose her own hairstyle and pose and outfit; all I did was loan her some goggles and make her take her shoes off before she climbed on the car.

I know I’m preaching to the choir on this blog, and if I want to make my teeny tiny positive difference in the car culture, I should get the message out to the muggles. Carmakers advertise the way they do because it works, and I’m willing to fight fire with fire if I can do so with some wit and style. I’ll be bringing MAX to the Mother Earth News fair in Puyallup, WA in a couple of weeks, and the one in Seven Springs, PA in September, and I’ll be bringing my still camera and my GoPro video camera. So if you have some clever marketing ideas, I’m eager to hear them. Just don’t mention the sound of testosterone.

Eyecatching photo by Jack McCornack 

Browse previous MAX Updates. 

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


I’m done with drawings. I don’t intend to have any more drawings in my instructions, or on my web site, or in this blog for that matter.

If you go through the Kinetic Vehicles web site you’ll find lots of computer drawings for how to make this and that, but I’m replacing them with DraftSight .dwg documents, which are two dimensional CAD (Computer Aided Design) files and a whole lot more useful than drawings. If you keep reading, I’ll tell you why, and I’m going to use MAX’s engine mounts as an example.


It’s dark and crowded under MAX’s hood, so I’m using a water bottle as an engine substitute and a 2x4 as a chassis substitute. The upper half of the engine mount bolts to the engine, the lower half bolts (or welds if you prefer) to the chassis, and a rubber damper fits between them. It’s a somewhat complex bit of steel origami, so I want to give precise instructions on how to make your own—a description isn’t going to cut it, and a drawing is going to leave you with a lot of work, so my new standard is .dwg documents generated by DraftSight.

DraftSight is published by Dassault Systèmes, and in interest of full disclosure I must admit that Dassault gave me free copies of DraftSight for all my computers, both Mac and PC, and…

Wait a minute. They’ll give you a copy of DraftSight for free too. They give away DraftSight to anybody that wants it. It’s a professional grade 2D CAD program, it’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems, it’s not a trial copy, it’s not going to expire, it doesn’t want to see your student ID; it’s world class software and it’s absolutely free.

I’ve resisted using 2D CAD documents on my web site because, previous to DraftSight, it cost you a grand to do anything useful with them. And why is Dassault Systèmes giving away a program they could be selling for a thousand bucks and nobody’d flinch? For the same reason tuna fishers throw chum in the water—if you like DraftSight and turn pro, you’re likely to buy Dassault’s SolidWorks instead of Some Other Brand. Not only that, but it gets bloggers (me, for example) raving about their products, and various information providers (me, for example) putting their files on our web sites and saying “To open, download DraftSight,” which increases awareness of their products. Lastly, the software works so well that you can’t help thinking, “Dang, these people sure are good at this CAD stuff,” every time you use it. By the time you’re ready for 3D CAD software, you’re already a Dassault Systèmes fan.

So I think it’s good marketing. Now let’s go take advantage of it.


Here’s a screen shot of the .dwg file for one side of the lower half of MAX’s right engine mount. This part has a number of features you may not care for, such as alignment nubbins on the upper corners and a fold line on the lower mounting tab. In Ye Olde Dayes, I’d have supplied this drawing with the dimensions I think are important, but by giving you the CAD document…


…you can show the dimensions that you find important, and you can modify the part to fit your needs. You could lay out the dimensions (or print out the part full size and trace it) onto steel sheet and cut it out yourself, or you could send the .dwg document (either the original or one you’ve modified) to a CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) fabrication shop and have them cut out with laser, water jet, plasma cutter or mill.

Why would you want to modify the part? Here’s a close up of a lower mount after it’s folded together.


Maybe you car has a slightly different chassis than MAX; maybe your frame tubes are a bit farther apart than mine, and if so you’d want to move that hook on the bottom a bit to fit. Or maybe instead of using my nubbin-in-hole alignment system, you just want to align the parts by hand and tack them together; that’s how I’d do it if I were just making one and cutting the parts by hand—it would make the individual parts a whole lot simpler and the assembly only slightly more complicated, and the easy way to make the change is with CAD.

I’m not going to tell you how to use DraftSight (tutorials abound and it’s beyond the scope of this blog) but I’ll tell you it’s worth using. If cost and complexity have kept you from CAD, well, if you’re capable of building a car and you have the skills and equipment you need to read this blog, then you have sufficient talent and hardware to take the CAD plunge. And with DraftSight, you also have the budget.

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MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.