MAX Update No. 5: Keeping the Faith


As I've been putting MAX through its Lincoln's Axe phase, I've been thinking that there's more than one way to skin this fuel economy cat. 

Back in the '70s, we experienced what I've been snidely calling the Energy Crisis Lite. A small group of oil suppliers stopped selling us their stuff, and we went into such a panic that we even started buying fuel-efficient cars. Then those suppliers decided our money was as green as anybody else's, so they resumed selling us all the oil we wanted. 

Did we learn our lesson? 

Heck no — we've spent the last quarter century buying as much car with as much horsepower as we could afford, and we're in worse trouble now than we were back then. 

By "we" I mean our culture in general, though there have been exceptions — exceptional people who have kept the faith for automotive efficiency — and the No. 1 faith-keeper has been Robert Riley. 

Robert designed a build-it-yourself 100+ mpg car in 1980 called the Centurion. It was well-publicized in magazines and film (it appeared in Total Recall, one of the Governator's perils-in-space action movies) and he sold about 30,000 sets of plans for it. So why don't you see one on every street corner? Hey, what can you say, gas got cheap. I think it's fair to say the Centurion was ahead of its time. In my opinion, it's still ahead of its time. Maybe when fuel costs $20 a gallon, people will be willing to drive 17 horsepower half-ton cars, but from a performance standpoint, the Centurion was awfully .. .stately.

Jose Amram
3/6/2012 1:42:13 AM

Personally I would buy plans and start a build if a body kit were available. I really do not like to work with foam, as in the Vector plans I bought years ago (plus plywood was used almost exclusively in the chassis, not my favorite material either). The idea of 125mpg and over is great, plus a diesel can be run as a grease car, so there are lots of possibilities here, as well as the modular aspect, being able to convert it to a hybrid as battery technology gets better...I am waiting.

Jack McCornack
6/1/2010 10:47:10 AM

GreggE, one of the advantages of Robert Riley's body fabrication technique is the builder can shape the body to suit his own tastes. The XR3 has a front engine, and that black thing on the nose (your description is spot on, imo) is an engine cover. If I were making an XR3, I think I'd do that part a bit different than his...and that's what makes plans-built cars more fun than kit-built cars.

Gregg E._3
5/28/2010 8:39:07 PM

The XR3 is a re-work of the Tri-Magnum design and suffers quite a bit for it. The 'greenhouse' is the same as the Ti-Magnum, made mostly of three pieces of plexiglass curved in one direction. That worked great with the rest of the body that was built up from foam panels, the corners sanded off then everything fiberglassed over. Now here's the XR3, attempting to marry the top of a Tri-Magnum to a lower body that's all compound curves. It's not really bad looking... but what's that thing on the nose that resembles an elephant seal snout? It looks worse than a huge zit on 's nose.

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