MAX Update No. 5: Keeping the Faith

Reader Contribution by Staff
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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.

But he’s right on time with what he’s doing now. 

This is the XR3, a three-wheeled, high mileage diesel-electric plug-in hybrid. People ask me to compare the XR3 to MAX, and I say, “The biggest difference is …” 

And they interrupt with, “Is it that the XR3 looks like it came from the future, and MAX looks like it came from the past? That the XR3 has three wheels? Front wheel drive? Electric drive in back?”

I wait for them to run out of steam, and then I answer, “No, the biggest difference is the XR3 is a finished product and you can buy plans for it right now, whereas MAX is still in development.”  

I have a set of XR3 plans, and they’re excellent. As you’d expect, since Riley has the experience of delivering half a million plans for his various creations.

Photo courtesy Robert Riley