MAX Update No. 16: Charmed Looks vs. Fuel-efficient Design

Reader Contribution by Staff
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OK, fun’s over, time to get back to work.

I am getting so spoiled. When MAX’s gas mileage drops into the 50s, I get grumpy.

I wanted to put 5,000 miles on MAX before the weather got wet (next project — a convertible top), a somewhat arbitrary figure, but it’s been my experience that 5,000 miles (or 100 hours) is enough to say, “Yeah, it looks like this is going to work.” So for me it’s a benchmark. I made it, but it involved a lot of road trips, and those involved a lot of freeway flying.

The freeways are not my favorite environment — one reason is they tempt me to go too fast for fuel efficiency. At 70 mph, MAX is no more fuel efficient than a … well, actually, there aren’t any production cars that get better than 50 mpg at 70 mph.

MAX does (barely), so I guess I shouldn’t kick myself too hard. But heck, MAX is supposed to be spectacular, not just good. With its upcoming streamlined body (currently in that gray area between the drawing board and the highway), it’s going to be spectacular. But gosh, can’t it be kinda spectacular and still have the look-and-feel of a classic sports car?

I sure hope so, because — I know, I know, I should be ashamed of myself — I’m greatly enjoying driving MAX around in its Vintage/Prisoner/Escape from Berkeley regalia. Everybody digs “Classic MAX”, and I love all the attention. Total strangers say, “Ooooh, that car is so cute, can I take a picture, can I get in it, can you take a picture with me in it?” and I know I’m going to lose some of that attention when MAX goes all streamlined and serious.

Sadly, the lovely, swoopy front fenders are part of MAX’s visual charm, I say “sadly” because recent fuel consumption figures indicate that those fenders have increased MAX’s drag at cruise by about 10 percent.

As you can see, those fenders make up a lot of MAX’s frontal area, and that has to translate into lots of drag. I don’t know how much drag, but there are ways of finding out. Tune in next week, and I’ll show you how to do wind tunnel testing when you don’t have a wind tunnel.

Photo by Jack McCornack
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