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MAX Update No. 31: A Cheap Lesson

MAX cheap lessonThis is Tom and his Geo Metro. Tom is holding the Metro’s crumpled left fender. The front bumper got so bent up that Tom had to take it off to drive the car here to the shop.

Tom works summers at Kinetic Vehicles. I've known him since he was an auto shop student at the local high school, where he graduated this June. He spent last week getting a beater of a Geo Metro running and legal, got his driver's license on Friday, and Monday he ...

I'll let you guess what happened. Here's a clue: He lives on Deer Creek Road.

As you can see, Tom is fine, but the deer he hit is currently scampering around in deer paradise, telling the other deer spirits, “Honestly, they should have named it Car Creek Road, they're just everywhere out there.”

All I can say is, I'm glad Tom wasn't driving MAX.

MAX is on the inactive list for a few days while — by amazing coincidence — we work out mounting an auxiliary roll bar behind its windshield (see Update No. 30). I wasn't expecting to be able to say, “See, I told you so!” so soon, but there you have it.

Combine this lesson with the one I learned a year ago (see Update No. 4: Crash Test Dummy), when shiny new MAX got rear-ended before its paint was even dry, and I'm now convinced there's no “grace period” or “honeymoon” where driving is concerned. The risk is there every time you turn the key, starting with the first time.

Tom plans to build himself a MAX-like sports car next summer, but you know, the car he has now is a perfect first car, particularly for a young man in college. His Metro gets good gas mileage and his school is a 50-mile round trip from home — it should take him little more than a gallon to get there and back.

His car isn’t a hot rod, so he's not going to get lured into what the police of my youth referred to as an “exhibition of speed.”

And best of all, his car is totally bereft of any class, style or status. If he can make it a year being green instead of green with envy, maybe he'll miss out on the urge to define himself by the car he drives, the urge that got our culture into this gas guzzling mess to begin with.

Photo by Jack McCornack 


Browse previous MAX Updates.
Read the introductory MAX article, Here Comes the 100-mpg Car.
Visit the Kinetic Vehicles website for more technical details on MAX.
doug smith
7/24/2009 11:38:45 AM

This is a great article. I can see that no one has yet noticed that you hit the nail on the head when you referred to what I like to call "car envy". We are so caught up in what we drive and what we own that we hardly take the time to research how we can live more efficiently. That is now changing, and people are starting to jones over who is greener (a plus or a negative you decide). I for one believe that is a good thing. If we can get everyone jonesing over sustainability and renewability, then we will all be better off. I am done. Good luck with your project. I am not sure if you have heard yet, but an outfit has just recently taken a trip to the north pole on B100 without any modification to the vehicle!!!! They call their product Permaflow Biodiesel and they use Urea at some point to "weed" out the lower cold flowing glycerides. I am still trying to find out as much as I can about it.

7/15/2009 6:16:37 PM

Maybe, Tom could build a MAX clone with the metro engine as it's propulsion source. 50 hp with good rev capability and economical to boot. You could even use the transmission/suspension with some engineering - as a mid-engine placement. An auto trans is easier to set up in this configuration but a manual is doable with some parts stolen from a Honda. BTW, Jack, what happened to the link from the Xpize team page? I had gotten used to punching over from there, but, now it's gone!

7/15/2009 3:52:35 PM

A cheap rolling door wedge inspire by Lamborghini would have most of the same construction of the MAX. I understand newer Mustangs have an independent rear suspension that would allow the engine to be moved back all the way to the rear axle for the mid-engine placement and should give it more stability and traction than it would ever use. You just need to find a Mustang of the right vintage in a wrecking yard. Maybe one that hit a deer :) The rest would just be a variation on the techniques you are already using.

jack mccornack
7/14/2009 6:15:58 PM

Hi UncleRice, we're deerproofing MAX some and improving its mileage at the same time with the steeply angled split windshield (with the front roll bar hidden behind it), and the consensus 'round here is it's making MAX look older rther than newer, which is okay by me. The main problem with a Lamborghini Diablo style of body is, how the heck can you make one cheap? Good point re the up-and-over, I might want to redesign the front roll bar to make it a bit less...obstructive.

7/14/2009 11:49:52 AM

That's bad. I lost my favorite car to a deer. You've designed the MAX for MPG first, not deer survival so your options are limited. If Tom want's to build a car that is more deer proof, he may want a body style that looks more like a Lamborghini Diablo than a 1930's car. The rolling door wedge body style will be more likely to deflect the impact like a modern battle tank deflects incoming warheads instead of trying to absorb their impacts. He'll need a sturdy bumper as it is the leading edge, but beyond that it should slide up over top of the car with minimal impact force.