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MAX Update No. 89: Good Work Car

3/4/2012 10:13:30 PM

Tags: MAX, 100 mpg, fuel economy, cargo, luggage, Jack McCornack

Having achieved 100 mpg (and then some) I find I’m now more interested in improving the utility of high mileage cars, than I am in further improving their mileage. There’s one really obvious utilitarian improvement in the works for MAX (I’ll bet you can guess), but first I want to brag about a feature MAX already owns: cargo capacity.

MAX’s streamlined body holds a lot of luggage, if you pack it right. MAX will carry two people, plus enough clothes and provisions for a week long “roughing it” camping adventure, or enough for a fancy weekend with considerable style. MAX will also carry clothes, provisions and tools for a freelance writer with a month on his hands and a whole country in front of him, but that requires filling the passenger’s seat with computers and cameras.

The trick is, don’t put clothes and provisions in suitcases. If you stuff your belongings loosely into duffle bags and backpacks, you can stuff the bags and backpacks loosely into MAX’s various nooks and crannies, like inside the front fenders, and still have room for a two-person tent and a couple of sleeping bags in the pontoons.

If your trip includes attending the Governor’s Ball, don’t plan on being gone for more than a couple of days, because even when you roll them up, a tuxedo and a ball gown demand a lot of storage space. For the gown, I recommend crushed velvet rather than linen.

But what if you’re doing something constructive, like Perma-Chinking a log cabin, or painting a hangar roof, or making a cement footing for a roadway gate? Well you could do the same thing you do when you’re taking your kids’ soccer team to a game—you could take a different vehicle, because there are transportation tasks that MAX simply isn’t suited to. Or…you could pop out the passenger’s seat and shift to Small Package Express mode.


Here’s MAX at the local paint store, loaded up with 18 gallons of De Voe High Performance Exterior Coatings, for finishing up a 3000-foot metal roof refurbishment. It was an all-volunteer project, including the supply-fetching portion of the job. Trouble is, ‘local’ can be a fair piece out here in rural-land; the supplies were in Grants Pass, the building was at Cave Junction’s airfield, and the round trip was 70 miles. Since we were making this job up as we went along (most of us had heard about roofing, but never actually done it before) we had a few false starts and even had one false finish, plus we had some other little jobs that popped up (the six bags of concrete mix were not roof related), so this wasn’t the only supply run of the week.

I took the van when I went for lumber (fortunately available in the town of Cave Junction, which shortened those trips by 60 miles) but I used MAX to ferry everything else. As a rule of thumb, I favor using the smallest available vehicle that will do the job at hand, and for me, that’s usually MAX. My motive is simple: a local trip that costs me $12 in fuel in my minivan costs me $3 in MAX, and a bunch of local trips that cost me $12 in MAX cost me $50 in the van. That’s a big savings for spending two minutes removing three bolts and a seat. Taking off the doors was a courtesy to the nice young man who had to clean and jerk three 60 pound pails of paint from his cart to the car (one of them’s under the dash), and besides, it was a hot day (and besides that, it only takes ten seconds each to take MAX’s doors off).

In my experience, cars are used to move people or stuff, but rarely both at once—you’ll want your spouse with you when you’re picking out the colors for the bedroom, but not the next day when you’re picking up the actual paint.

If you have an economical beater (or as they say on Craigslist, “a good work car”) and you’re past worrying about what the neighbors will say, a quickly removed passenger seat makes a car much more versatile, so maybe you can leave the gas hog pickup in the carport, the next time you go to the feed store.

Photo by Jack McCornack 

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