MAX Update No. 38: Make MAX a Tank?

| 12/9/2009 2:36:25 PM

Tags: MAX, 100 mpg, Bugatti body, Tank,

Here’s the first thing off that clean slate I mentioned in Update No. 36. It looks like the box that MAX came in, doesn’t it? 

A colleague on tipped me off to a 1923 Bugatti Type 32 Grand Prix racer, known far and wide (in its day) as “the Tank.” The photos you’ll see via the previous link were taken at the 2003 Monterey Historic Automobile Races. 

My first impression was “That looks easy to build!” Followed by “Too bad it won’t work for MAX — too short, too much lift, too many louvers and buckles, and is that a starter crank I see peeping over the license plate?” 

But the Tank kept haunting me. We’ve learned a lot about aerodynamics in the 86 years since the Type 32 was born, so I thought maybe I could bring some of that knowledge to Ettore Bugatti’s original concept. It won’t have much eye-appeal. It won’t look modern and it won’t look classic, and it’s not easy to miss both those trains at once. Instead of looking neo-classic I fear it’s going to look paleo-modern — something dreamed up by George Jetson’s great gandfather. But golly, it sure looks easy to build. 

MAX Bugatti bodyWell, easy to build may carry the day. I’m not just looking for the best bang for the buck (though that is one of my major motivators), I strive to find the most reward for the least work, and this body style looks hard to beat.

The only complex body parts are the fenders. Everything else is flat sheets with simple curves, and the fenders can be their guides. The hood, trunk, and front and rear bellypans can drape between the fenders right to left, the side pods (which will have to be pre-bent if they’re metal) will fit between the fenders fore and aft. The headlight windows won’t have to be thermoformed to shape; one-sixteenth-inch thick clear plastic sheets can flex flush to the hood. 

jack mccornack
1/5/2010 5:13:02 PM

Glad you like it, UncleRice. I plan to put a roll bar behind the windshield (and use safety glass, of course). Maybe a center brace behind the windshield is a good idea--probably won't want one in front 'cause it would be a source of drag, I'll give it some thought. And indeed it'll get a top...but I think I'll leave the snowplowing to the professionals. :-)

1/3/2010 7:16:45 PM

I like the look. It's aerodynamic, it would do a reasonably good job of deflecting instead of absorbing the force of a deer impact, and if you give it a sturdy bumper that is just lower that the under carriage, then it may plow it's way under snow instead of getting itself high centered on snow like most cars. A weather proof top will finish the job, so keep it up. If you are still looking to make a split windshield, you might want to make the center divider sturdy and stick out a few inches in front of the windshield in case a deer comes up onto the widshield.

jack mccornack
12/28/2009 12:08:04 AM

Thanks Gordon, I agree that parts availability is of great (indeed major) importance. There are a lot of kit cars and scratch-built cars that expect you to get parts from a dozen different vehicles. The only non-Corolla car part MAX has is a steering rack from a front engine Volkswagen. Grant, I agree, this body is going to make a substantial difference. I haven't found access to the book you mentioned, if you know where I can find one would you please write me at Kinetic Vehicles? The Aptera body may be compromised some by the separated body and wheels, and it sure would be hard to replicate at home. I've made some aircraft with staggered seating but for that to work in a car you need the engine and drive wheels at the same end of the car--MAX is front engine with rear drive, so the driveshaft limits the gains available from staggered seats. It's a good idea if one starts with a clean slate, but MAX is working well and it's getting lots of attaboys when it shows up in public, so MAX is one horse I won't change in midstream. The next horse, maybe?

grant connor
12/15/2009 8:58:27 PM

I think you'll be pleased with your efforts. I have been building bicycle fairings for a number of years. A good fairing will cut drag in half or more so a standard 3 spd can be geared 44/13T to cruise at 30 mph. The Aptera shape based on Albert Morelli's design reduces drag even more than current race car designs. It is similar to the shape of a Piper Cub fuselage. See Frank Kastener's book Vehicular Areodynamics from Bentley Books. One thing airplane designers do is to place the left seat several inches ahead of the right seat so that they can be placed closer together reducing overall width. Modern race car and aircraft designs incorporate materials and geometry to maximize safety with a rigid occupant cell and crush zones. Seat height should be at least 20 inches and bumpers should be 18 to 22 inches from the ground. Read alot, think out loud, and document all tests.

12/14/2009 4:28:23 PM

THE most important thing, to me, if I were to build this project is AVAILABILITY of the "donor" car, if there is to be one. Most "Kit cars" I have looked at use a car that hasn't been built for years (like the Fiero). I don't mind welding, etc. if you're going to design the frame, etc. But you'd still have a lot of "bits" that would probably be adapted / borrowed from other cars / trucks. I DO like the sleek look and simple lines on your prototype. Cheers-> Gordon

jack mccornack
12/14/2009 2:41:20 PM

Thanks, guys, these comments give me a boost, the encouragement is appreciated. Michael, you hit the nail on the head. We've been doing tests and demos with an already-had-one-out-back body, already in production for the sports car we offer the performance crowd--they're great fun and greener than most, but nowhere near what's possible. The second body design, which you've seen in computer graphics form over the years, was a compromise between streamlining, and a look I liked. But this latest body... > A fuel efficient design is rarely the most pleasing to the eye. uncompromised by any quest for beauty--the only compromises between this body and a full tilt Bonneville streamliner are: -it has to be street legal (lights windshield etc) -it has to be inexpensive and easy to build -it has to carry two people, and... -those people have to be able to get in and out of it If it comes out with a face that only a MOTHER could love (or us MOTHER readers), at least I'll be among friends.

eddie colon_1
12/14/2009 1:04:36 PM

Please continue with this new design. I think it will improve the drag coefficient. This blog is the most interesting story at the moment on this website. I look forward new updates. Continue this wonderful, interesting quest for an owner-built green car. Great story.

12/11/2009 8:04:30 PM

I'm looking forward to seeing more of this design. When you first went back to the drawing board I was going to suggest basing it on the Austin Healy Sprite Mk I with a more tapered tail to reduce drag. Keep up the good work

12/11/2009 2:16:32 PM

I thought the original design was a bad one used only because the builder either liked the look of it, or was attempting to save money by using something he already had parked out back that "kind-of" fit the weight and size profile. A fuel efficient design is rarely the most pleasing to the eye.

tim nelin
12/11/2009 10:11:31 AM

Looks good as far as efficiency is concerned, but a few things are not accounted for. I'm sure that this is not the final draft, so I'll just sit back and wait for a future update. Thank you for your efforts and please don't become discouraged.

jack mccornack
12/10/2009 1:54:36 PM

Right you are, Brett, it needs a cabin. That "user friendly" part particularly interests me, I'm getting to be more of a weather sissy as I get older. And the cabin should be an integral part of the design rather than an add-on, but since I want MAX to work both with and without enclosure and I want the cabin removable, there are going to be some compromises.

12/10/2009 11:42:51 AM

To max out mpg, (and be more user friendly) you will need an enclosed cabin, but its a good start.

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