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MAX Update No. 88: The Minimum Windscreen

Sorry for the delayed update, folks, I’ve been mastering iMovie and YouTube and the GoPro Hero2, which is an amazing little solid-state HD video camera.

And speaking of little and amazing, you ought to check out my amazing little windscreens.


I pride myself as a minimalist, and to maximize comfort and minimize drag and expense, I’ve been experimenting with…

A minimalist? The pessimist says “The glass is half empty,” the optimist says “The glass is half full,” and the minimalist says “We’ve got about twice as much glass as we need here.” In keeping with that philosophy, I’ve been working on the minimum windshield capable of perform its titular task—that is, shield me from the wind—and found I don’t need a windshield at all; a windscreen will suffice.

You’ll find the difference between an automobile windshield and a windscreen defined in your local Vehicle Code, but in brief, a windshield is something the driver looks through, and as such, it must be made of safety glass and be equipped with windshield wipers. Well, MAX’s windscreen comes up to my moustache and I don’t look through it, so I can make it out of whatever I want. It’s a little-known fact, but very few states require windshields, though they all require eye protection (which I provide with safety glasses and/or goggles), and if you do have a windshield, the all demand it be made of The Right Stuff and have at least one wiper.

The most common windscreen-related question I get on the road is, “What keeps your hat on your head?” most often yelled through the open passenger side window of a passing car. If it’s the driver doing the yelling, I point to my ears and yell “Can’t hear you,” in hopes that he’ll focus his attention back on the road, but when it’s a passenger doing the asking, I yell back “Velcro.”

When I’m ask the hat question while parked (such as when folks are so curious that they follow me to a rest stop) I give them a long dissertation on how the windscreen’s sloped sides direct the air over my shoulders and past my ears, and how the little upright lip in the center of the windscreen bounces the airflow just over my hat brim, and how that’s the critical issue for hat retention—above the brim = hat stays on; below the brim = hat disappears in the side mirror, which has Objects In Mirror May Be Closer Than They Appear written on the bottom, and I mumble to myself, “Not that hat, it ain’t no closer than it appears, and it ain’t coming back, neither.” Then they say, “But your hat brim is up here and the windscreen is down there, so…what keeps your hat on your head?”

It’s easy to tell it works from the driver’s seat, because you can reach up and touch the airstream, but it’s hard to describe convincingly, so I made this video:


Okay, so I haven’t really mastered computer videography yet, this is my first try and I overcompressed the file so it’s not as crisp as it was when it came out of the camera; I doubt you’ll be impressed with the picture quality. Everybody’s impressed with how steady my cameraperson is, but truth is, I replaced her with furniture for this run.


One of the pleasures of driving a science project instead of a show car is, I don’t have to think twice if I want to add test equipment, so with the passenger door removed, I screwed a desk drawer to the door sill (I don’t have to worry about multitasking the shop furniture either—expedience trumps elegance at Kinetic Vehicles) and planted one of GoPro’s peel-and-stick camera mounts on top, and that cute silver box there is the Hero2 camera.

BTW, if you’re in the mood to be impressed with picture quality, go to YouTube and type “GoPro” in the Search box. Some day I’ll feel artistic and I’ll make a video that pretty, but as long as I’m playing like I’m a scientist, an informative video is good enough for me.

Photos and video by Jack McCornack 

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