MAX Update No. 22: Learn to Drive Stick Shift with MAX

Reader Contribution by Staff
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The Saturday before The EG, Mother Earth News sent a photojournalist down to make sure MAX was for real (it’s amazing the things I can do with Photoshop… ). Katherine Loeck is a couple of generations younger than me, so sports car nostalgia isn’t part of her program (nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, I’ll tell you…) but she dug MAX anyway.

She was having so much fun in the passenger’s seat that I said, “You should drive.” Then she said she’d love to, but she didn’t know how to drive a stick shift.


Yes, really. She’d tried driving her dad’s ‘Vette once but that hadn’t gone well.

I would imagine it hadn’t. A Corvette does not seem like an ideal driver’s ed car. It’s heavy, the clutch is heavy, and there’s only a small difference in throttle pedal position between too-little-and-stalled-the-engine and too-much-and-smoking-the-tires.

“Perfect!” said I. “MAX is a perfect way to learn to drive a stick. Every high school should have one.”

MAX is light, the engine puts out huge torque at low rpm, the clutch is easy to push, and with the governor limiting the engine to 3000 rpm and 32 horsepower, it’s not going to get away from you if you give it too much throttle. So Katherine and I swapped seats.

Photo by Jack McCornack

Katherine pushed in the clutch. I put the gearshift in first.

“Don’t bother with the throttle, just let the clutch out slowly.”

She did. Chug chug chugchugchug, MAX pulled forward smoothly, idling at walking speed.

“Good, push in the clutch and do it again,” I said. “Uh, push the brake to make it stop.”

She did. She did it again. And again and again, 20 times without stalling the engine. She was wowed by how easy MAX is to operate. I tried not to look surprised but I’ll tell you, it was sure different from when I was first learning the clutch/throttle/brakedance some 44 years ago. We moved on to first-to-second shifts, second-to-first downshifts, not bad for Lesson 1.

She’s not ready for the street yet, but she will be soon enough; I’m sure we’ll do a follow-up to this update when the weather warms up again.

Browse previous MAX Updates.
Read the introductory MAX article, Here Comes the 100-mpg Car.
Visit the Kinetic Vehicles website for more technical details on MAX.
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