MAX Update No. 57: The Avion Goes 100+ MPG from Canada to Mexico

| 9/3/2010 12:31:52 PM

MU57Craig Henderson is my hero. He was an automotive technology student at Western Washington University when he and his friend, Bill Green, designed and built the Avion. Other than paint and graphics, it doesn't look much different than it did in 1986, when it first broke 100 mpg on the highway.

Well heck, who cared back then? We had plenty of gasoline in the pipeline and gas was a cheap as firewood. The Guinness folks gave them a world record (103 mpg) and they considered building a kit, but in those consumptuous times, nobody wanted an eco-freako-dorkmobile no matter how cool it looked. So Craig put the Avion under a tarp for 20 years and founded Bullfrog Boats to hone his fabrication skills.

Fast forward to today. Energy is an issue again and the Avion is no longer ahead of its time, it's right on schedule. Craig built another Avion with a modern engine, from a diesel Smart Car, and made a set of molds so he can crank out more car bodies if the world calls for Avions — and how better to get the world calling than another long distance record attempt; from Canada to Mexico on one tank of fuel. He found a sponsor to pick up the travel tab, and so the Avion Economy in Motion Border to Border Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max Challenge was born (sponsored by Goodyear, in the name of its Assurance Fuel Max tires.

Craig set out from the Canadian border crossing at Blaine, Washington, on Sunday morning, August 29, and reached the California/Mexico border on Wednesday, September 1. He was accompanied by an SUV containing an engineer to handle the fuel, and a publicist to handle the press.

For MOTHER EARTH NEWS this is a major story, right? Well worth sending Ace Reporter, Yours Truly, to the front lines, right? We were geared up to follow the Avion, me and MAX, the full 1,400 miles from start to finish ... until a month ago when we were asked not to go.

That may seem an odd decision. None of the other press reps were interested enough to track them from initial fueling to final measurement of the dregs, and you'd think they'd want somebody around to say “I was there and yes they did it.” To avoid speculation, I asked the publicist for an explanation I could quote, and here it is:

Craig Vetter
1/4/2011 11:10:43 PM

I'd love to see the Avion attend one of my fuel economy challenges this summer. I am pretty sure that it will be easier to streamline a car and this one looks pretty good. We run at 70 mph, into a 30 mph headwind that usually builds up pretty strong heading north on highway 101 between King City and Salinas, California in the evenings of summer. In these conditions, nobody has approached 100 mpg. Interested?

9/6/2010 11:41:33 PM

Found my own answer for the drag coefficient: .27 as stated on their website. Nice.

9/6/2010 11:20:09 PM

Just a question (thought) here: To make the MAX car more aerodynamic, wouldn't a kit-car body be more suitable? I've read in recent articles (which are great by the way; keep them up) that the body shape doesn't lend itself to improving the gas mileage. Based on the look of the Avion, it seems like aerodynamics were a major consideration. Also, for curiousity sake, does anyone know what the Avion has for a drag coefficient (Cd). Thanks.

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