MAX Update No. 60: An Unplanned Body Modification

Reader Contribution by Staff
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Those who read “Sadly, without MAX” at the end of MAX Update No. 59 may be wondering, “What, is MAX still hung up on that root wad?” Nope, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, which has dealt with this sort of thing before, rescued me quite efficiently once daylight hit. And though the nose was grunched a bit, it responded well to roadside fiberglass repair. I let the resin cure over a late lunch (yep, I mixed the resin pretty hot) and by the time I was blotting Tall Town Deli’s salad dressing off my lips, MAX ready for the highway again. Yes, MAX was ready…but was Jack?

Good question, and one that didn’t occur to me to ask myself until (quite literally) the dust settled.

So there I was, jamming down Highway 140, a fun swoopy canyon road with little traffic, perfect for a sports car to make up some time. And I had a good load of time to make up, I’d used up all my extra time last night and this morning, and I was going to have to jam to get to the Fair. But I’ll tell you, I had just the car to do it in – the new body has transformed MAX from a Classic Sports Car to a Vintage Road Racer, and while it still doesn’t accelerate with great enthusiasm by modern standards, it hangs on to momentum with a steely grip. With the early body, as soon as I eased off the throttle, aerodynamic drag sucked MAX back, but now, backing off the throttle doesn’t do much, and if there’s a bit of a downhill slope, backing off the throttle doesn’t do anything.

You probably see where this story is going.

Oh yes, one big difference between MAX and a vintage road racer is, MAX doesn’t (yet) have the tires for the job. It still wears the tires that came on the Corrode Warrior (the rusted out ’80s era Toyota Corolla that provided the wheels and other running gear) and when I was driving MAX like an economy car they were acceptable…but now I had 2-1/2 days to get from Eastern Oregon to Western Pennsylvania and it was time to make tracks (preferably on the road).

Oh yeah, and I hadn’t slept to speak of in the last 32 hours.

Oh yeah, and after the repairs, I had packed in haste, and my spare helmet (brought along for the comfort of anyone fool enough to drive with me) was sitting loose on top of the rest of my gear in the passenger’s seat.

So…unfamiliar car, insufficient sleep, low performance tires, sloppy packing, and in a hurry. The only way I could have been worse prepared for a 40 hour drive is if I’d had a beer in one hand and a cell phone in the other.

I got bout 30 miles down the road, feeling like Walter Mitty, and really, making good time, when everything came together in the same second. I was carving through a fast downhill sweeper, apparently pushing a little harder than in any previous corners, because the spare helmet rolled off my tool bag and thunked into my forearm. I held the wheel with my left hand while I pushed the helmet back with my right, and by the time I realized I should be paying attention to my driving instead of paying attention to a loose helmet, I’d pointed MAX at a guard rail. It only took me another second to overcorrect, lose control (assuming I had control in the first place – I’d been on a sleep deprived losing streak of bad judgment and one could argue I had abdicated control twelve hours earlier, when I followed my GPS up the primrose path) and half a spin later, I’d backed MAX into the mountain on the other side of the road.

So here you have it: MAX with a crumpled rear fender, crumpled trunk section, a turn signal bashed out, a door knocked loose, and a flat tire. It’s fully reparable, but not today, and not in time to drive to the MEN Fair.

AAA sent a truck to haul me back to Lakeview, Les Schwab inflated my tire (and replaced a leaking valve stem, and I’ll always wonder if that valve stem was the culprit and the tire had gone soft…nah, it was driver error, plain and simple; if I’d been alert I’d have noticed a leaking tire before I noticed a mountain getting bigger in my rear view mirror), I got the fender off and patched up MAX enough for a drive home, and surfed the internet for a flight to Pittsburgh. I’ll bring pictures and do a show-and-tell between yawns.

One footnote: MAX showed 85 mpg for the combined last sprint eastward and drive home westward, 289 miles on 3.375 gallons. That seems a bit high, I’d expect closer to 80 mpg, and I’m thinking that the gas station I filled at in Lakeview might have had a bit of a tilt. I’ll crank up the calculator after I’ve had a good night’s sleep.