MAX Update No. 48: Lining With a Laser

Reader Contribution by Staff
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I think the nose is finished enough to use as a pattern, to make a mold for the hood. I have to make a mold because, though I have the hood area’s surface looking good (good enough for the task at hand), underneath the surface is a mess of plywood and foam and fiberglass and body putty, and there’s not enough room under there to fit the engine. And I still have to stick a bubble on the hood to fit the turbocharger, but first I’ll make a basic hood — which means first I have to make a mold, which means I first have to let the body putty set up for a couple of days so I can cover it with mold release. Give me about a week for all that. Meanwhile, there’s always the Cartoon Channel to keep me entertained and …

Wait a minute, I can’t do that! For one thing, I don’t have a TV, and I couldn’t get cable out here even if I did have a TV. And for another thing, there’s plenty more work to do on MAX. The Curtises (introduced in Update No. 45) let me make a couple of rear fenders in their Lola rear body mold, but these fenders were never meant to be separate parts, it was all one big piece of fiberglass back there, including the fairing behind the driver’s head, and the Lola being a race car and British and all, it was presumed the driver would prefer to be seated on the right side of the car. Anyway, the middle section of the rear body wasn’t going to work at all, so I’m trying to adapt the fenders to a simple curved trunk/fender-joiner made of sheet metal.

First trick: cut the fenders so they’ll fit flat against MAX’s body. This was a knotty problem. The fenders dip and swoop and resist straight lines, and resist all the more a planar line that follows the curves of the fender, but looks like a straight line when seen directly from above, and behind, and the front, which is what you need to make an irregular object fit flat to a vertical surface, such as the side of a car. Yes, this looks like a job for a laser.

Which brought me back to my first date, in 1964, when I took the girl of my dreams to see Goldfinger. The villain of the piece was about to cut James Bond in half — the long way, no less — with a laser …

Bond: Do you expect me to talk?

Goldfinger: No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!

… anyway, I hate to ruin it for you, but Bond gets away, even though the laser was about the size of a Volkswagen Bus and at least as powerful as a dentist’s drill. Laser was a magic word in 1964, and now? You can buy a carpenter’s level with a built-in laser for $20, and it’ll run for days on two AAA batteries. And though that laser isn’t powerful enough to cut through the fender — or even leave a permanent burn mark that I can cut along later — it was easy enough to trace along the line with a felt pen, for sawing at my leisure.

Photos by Jack McCornack