Way back in the first MAX article (Here Comes the 100-mpg Car) we showed a photo of a Lola Mk 1 race car, circa 1960, as my inspiration for MAX's future streamlined body.
Why is a 50-year-old race car more inspirational than a modern race car? Because by the mid-1960s, racers had enough horsepower that sticking to the ground became more important than streamlining and so race cars started developing scoop noses and wings and the like. Before then, road racing aerodynamics was all about slipping through the air and getting down the straightaway fast. Afterward, it was mostly about pressing the tires firmly against the asphalt and getting around the corners fast.
Then I found myself bumping up against budget restrictions (our target for MAX is 100 mpg for $10,000). Then my shop got burgled (see MAX Update No. 36) and we lost all our Rhino documents (3D drawings in digital form). So I looked into simpler bodies, circa 1930 instead of circa 1960. All of this has been covered in various MAX Updates, and the Tank was going to be my winter project.
But as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you're making other plans.” We recently lost my dear friend, co-worker, and adventuring companion, Sharon Westcott, to a sudden disease that took her away from us in a brief four months and made me a full-time caregiver in the meantime. Discerning blog readers probably figured something was up when we put tufts of yarn on MAX in November (MAX No. Update 37) and drove MAX with them in April (MAX No. Update 43).
So now I'm dealing with a body-building time crunch. I have a backup plan if I need one — a vastly accelerated program with the help of Fay and Bert Curtis, a northern California couple specializing in keeping vintage race cars on the track. Factory replacement parts from The Day have been out of production for some time and Curtis Unlimited fills the need with replica components, including complete bodies.
However, I don't want a complete body. If I put a Lola Mk 1 body on MAX, people might mistake MAX for a genuine Lola Mk 1, which would be unfair to both Lola Cars Int. Ltd. and the vintage racers who have a quarter-million dollars invested in their own pieces of automotive history. So the backup plan is to make a patchwork body using — among other things — front fenders from a replica Lola Mk 1 nose (like the one draped over MAX in the photo). I'll build a hood (“bonnet” to you Brits) to fit over the Kubota engine. I'll try to make it vaguely Lotus-looking and the rear ... I don't know exactly how I'll do the rear section yet. But I think once the dust settles MAX will look very much like a 50-year-old race car, but it'll be hard to pin down which one. So if you see MAX on the road, wearing this body, you'll be able to impress your date by asking me, “Excuse me, sir, is that a 1959 Lolaloturrari Type 61?” I'll answer, “Why yes! Very few people know that.” At least, only the folks who read this blog.
Photo by Jack McCornack