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MAX Update No. 19: A Roof over Our Heads

We interrupt this science project for something practical. We'll get back to the subject of drag soon enough.

I have a speaking engagement next week, at The EG, down in Monterey, Calif. They're paying my expenses to get there from my home here in Oregon, which, since I'm taking MAX, should be about $18 of fuel. That, and lots of cough syrup.

It is, after all, the middle of December, and I whimsically refer to MAX as “an all-weather car,” meaning when you go anywhere in MAX, all the weather gets right in the car with you. That's fine for Berkeley-to-Vegas in October, but not so great for Cave-Junction-to-Monterey next Wednesday.

MAX roofStill, this is a great gig — they put out a call for Progressive Automotive X Prize registered competitors to show our cars and talk about our progress — and I sure wasn't going to turn it down over a mere question of comfort. “I'm tough,” I said to myself, going to my laptop for a long range weather forecast. “Good thing I'm tough,” I muttered when I saw the forecast.

Yes, roadster season is over. The trip down will be cold; the trip back will be damp, or at least, that's the way to bet. It's time for MAX to become a convertible. Besides, the final competition rules are predicted to require a top, and I don't think we can achieve 100 mpg with an open car. So I might as well get some experience.

So here's the plan. I've made some fiberglass braces to bridge between the windshield and the roll bar, and I'm covering the gap between them with awning material. The process involves (among other things) learning how to sew.

Here's my progress so far, I think it will keep the raindrops from getting a straight shot at me. And though it's going to look a bit crude close up, it should match the excellence of the paint job at 50 mph from 50 feet away.

12/13/2008 8:54:06 AM

The vinyl idea is your best bet. Do a flat fell seam so the water doesn't come thru. I've made several tops for a Blazer in the past and it works. You can make it snap on and off with grommets. If you use a flap over the grommets they won't have a tendency to come un-done. The old rag top idea of putting a wire thru the seams also works to give it stability at speed. Good luck with the project. My 88 Jetta got 38.6 mpg. And that is at any speed, an average, highway and around town. I know with some modifications, almost any FI unit should get better. Thanks for taking on the project!

12/10/2008 10:45:17 PM

Since you're designing the top from whole cloth (so to speak) have you considered doing a kammback?

brian a. stewart
12/8/2008 6:52:24 PM

If all you are having is cold and/or damp weather, you are lucky! Here in Wisconsin we are having freezing rain for at least the next twelve hours. (And, since Blain's Farm & Fleet over on Stoughton Road had me order and pre-pay for the wrong part, which it then took them an hour and a half to discover when they were supposed to be installing it, I am stuck on a bicycle until the 23rd-- assuming my car actually gets fixed then!) Anyway, I wonder if billboard vinyl would work as a material for the top of MAX? It is made to stand up to all sorts of weather, and wind-- with the added bonus that you can generally get it for free from advertising companies. I am toying with the idea of using it for the body of the velomobile I plan on building, since it would be lightweight, and almost certainly durable enough. Of course, it does have the drawback that, on one side of it, you will have part of someone's ad...

tom whitehead
12/7/2008 2:11:56 PM

Wow, that's one expensive shin-dig you're going to. At 4000 bucks, it's pricier than Woodstock II----by about an order of magnitude. Jack is probably the only contestant who's planning on driving himself. All the other X-prize contestants will probably arrive in enclosed trailers, pulled by SUVs. Whadda you wanna bet? Better wear a clean shirt, and don't forget your Ray bans. Your neighbor, Tom