The Pursuit of 100 MPG: Meet Jack McCornack, DIY Car Wizard

By Staff
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Name: Jack McCornack

Recent Articles for MOTHER EARTH NEWS:

100-mpg DIY Car: Meet MAX, the Fun and Fuel-efficient DIY Car. You can keep up with all things MAX on this page.

Here Comes the 100-mpg Car: the origins of MAX

Our DIY Car: The Quest for 100 MPG: the further evolution of MAX

MAX Wins 800-mile Race, without Gas: MAX’s competition debut and victory in the Escape from Berkeley race

Occupation: Writer, designer, and motorsport competitor. To quote one of the glitzier automotive magazines (Intersection, winter 2008 issue) “Job: Designs Cars and Wins Races”

Place of Residence: Cave Junction, Oregon. Never heard of it? We’re not surprised.

Background: Jack began his fascination with vehicular efficiency in the early 1970s, where his aerodynamic skills were focused on making cars and motorcycles go faster around race tracks. He retired from motorcycle road racing in 1974: “All that work making bikes faster just meant I was crashing faster.” Although he continued to work as a race tuner and designer, his personal goals were redirected toward reducing power requirements rather than increasing speed. He then built a series of lightweight, high-efficiency sport/commuter motorcycles, breaking the 100 mpg barrier in 1978.

Today, Jack owns and operates Kinetic Vehicles, providing materials and advice to DIY car builders.

Personal History: Jack was born in Port Orford, Oregon (never heard of that one either, have you?) some mumbledy-mumble years ago. He was raised and educated on and about California’s Monterey Bay. When other kids wanted to be firemen, Jack wanted to grow up to be John Steinbeck and write bestselling novels about Cannery Row.

As he matured, his plans grew more realistic — he wanted to grow up to be Ian Fleming and write bestselling novels about spies and secret agents. He discovered his writing skills were better appreciated in nonfiction, and that dang near anything that interested him could interest a magazine or book publisher. His brief foray into computer game development became Hayden Book’s Tricks of the Mac Game Programming Gurus. He also discovered that dang near anything he was forced to endure could be grist for the mill: His discussions with the IRS regarding why a $3,000-a-year writing career required him to learn hang gliding in the French Alps became Small Business: The Tax Advantage.

Other than early stints as an auto shop teacher and mechanic, Jack has been self-employed his full adult life, taking brief gigs for story research and writer’s qualifications. He has represented the United States in a number of international aviation competitions and has twice been U.S. National Microlight Champion. Jack is now almost qualified to be an action novelist, lacking only the required entries in the mercenary-soldier/drug-smuggler and deepwater-oil-rig/deepwater-commercial-fishing categories.

Current Projects and Other Fun Facts: Jack’s current obsession is MAX, the high-mileage sports car he’s designing and building. It was originally meant to be an entry in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize (MAX is an abbreviation of MOTHER EARTH NEWS Automotive X-Prize entry), but the competition changed so much that it was no longer feasible to enter MAX (Read the details in MAX Update No. 32: Why We Resigned From the Auto X Prize.) Nevertheless, progress continues on MAX. You can read about the project via the links above.

You’ll also find more detailed technical information about MAX on Jack’s Kinetic Vehicles website.

MAX isn’t Jack’s first project for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Thirty years ago, when ethanol fuel was grown and distilled at home, he converted one of his microlight aircraft to run on MOTHER EARTH NEWS-brewed alcohol and he flew it from coast to coast. You can read his story of the adventure in The Flight of the Microlights.

His current aviation designs tend to the fanciful and exotic, and he finally made it in the world of spy fiction by developing functional special effects devices for James Bond films. Have you ever seen one of Jack’s aircraft? You have if you saw Die Another Day or its many television ads — that was Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry mounted on one of Jack’s “Switchblade” stealth gliders.