There’s a pearl of wisdom that goes, if you want something done right, y’all gotta' git-r-done yourself. The creator of today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Maxton Rollerskate did it himself, but will its current price prove to have been done right as well?
Peanut butter in your chocolate, peas in your carrots, eels in your butt, some things just plain go together. And you can add to that list - probably taking the place of the butt eel - Mazda MX5s and that company’s hum-dinger of a rotary engine. Not only did yesterday’s so equipped ’90 Miata generate a lot of high fives for its presentation, but it also walked away with a respectable 65% Nice Price win for its trouble.
Spending $4,100 on a rotary roadster wasn’t such a stretch yesterday, but let’s see today if dropping more than three times that amount will prove to be.
Bob Sutherland owned a chain of lumbar yards, organized the Colorado Grand, and for a short time ran a car company. He also suffered for most of his adult life from bipolar disorder, a condition that he was able to manage, and for which in his honor was founded the Robert D. Sutherland Memorial Foundation.
Bob died in 1999 at age 56, but his legacy lives on in the vintage rally he started, the business he grew, and the Foundation that his family created in his name so that other suffers of depression may live as normal of lives as he did.
And then there are the 50 sports cars Bob built.
An owner, and successful racer of numerous vintage cars, Sutherland lamented that there was no equatable product on the market. This was back in the mid eighties, before the Miata’s arrival, and while that car channeled the ghosts of British roadsters past, it would probably have proven too heavy and compromised to fulfill Sutherland’s vision.
Assembling a team - which included auto designer Michael Mate, SCCA race car engineer Ben van der Linden, and suspension builder, Garry Valler - Sutherland set out to build a modern interpretation of a lightweight sports car - something a little more than a Lotus 7, and a little less than that company’s Elan. The result looked like a melding of those two cars, with some Frogeye Sprite thrown in for good measure. The cut-down openings allowed egress without the weight of doors, while the laid on their side VW Bus tail lights look purpose built for the car. Overall, Mate’s body design was at once reverent to its progenitors and wholly original.
Underneath, there’s a purpose-built square tube frame to which double A-arm front suspension with Mustang II spindles and a Mazda RX7 live axle have been attached. The Mazda family line goes even deeper with the rest of the driveline as all the Maxtons were powered by that company’s Wankel engines.
When I say all the Maxtons, it should be clarified that that means all 50 cars. It should also be pointed out that these were not kit cars - they were component cars - completed in Maxton’s Englewood CO factory save for the engine - which was up to the buyer to install. Unfortunately, few shared Sutherland’s vision, and the company shuttered before any more cars could be mated with motors.
The engine in this 1992 Maxton Rollerskate is a 200-horse 13B that is said to hail from the mid-seventies and to be both fuel injected and ported up the wazoo. That engine sits well-back of the front axle line making this a front-mid engine design, while like a Se7en, the driver and passenger sit even further back, nearly over the back axle. Painted arrest-me red and sporting the rare for even Maxton long wheelbase, the car looks like it’d be a barrel of very dainty monkeys to drive.
The 6 x 13 alloys wrapped in modest meats may seem quaintly diminutive by today’s standards, but they do point to just how small the car is overall. Disc brakes all around do speed reduction duties, and with only 1,680-lbs to pull down, they should do just fine. The remainder of the parts - the Mustang II rack and pinion, RX7 limited slip diff and Mazda 5-speed gearbox - will have years of parts availability ahead of them, making only the old-school round sealed beams of questionable sourcing down the road.
The seller claims this Rollerskate has only rolled 3,600 miles down the road in total - a phenomenally small number considering the potential fun the car promises. Back when Maxton was cranking the cars out, Motorweek’s Pat Goss put one together on the show, and then gave the completed car away to a happy PBS viewer in a sweepstakes. Goss has been quoted as saying the Rollerskate was his favorite of all the cars he’s driven on that show. With a factory claimed zero to sixty time of 5.5 seconds, it’s easy to see why.
Bob Sutherland may have fought bipolar disorder, but when it came to the Maxton, his vision was unique and singularly focused. This ‘Skate represents a rare opportunity to own the fruit of that vision, and a bit of American automotive history. To do so, a buyer will need to come up with American money, in the amount of $17,700. For those of you who thinking you could buy three of yesterday’s Miatas for that much, well that’s a whole different kind of car.
However, for those of you drooling over that long hood and itching to twist its center-dash mounted ignition key - let’s reflect a moment on that price. Okay, moment’s up, time to vote. What do you say, is $17,700 a price that makes this Maxton a must? Or, does that make this a car you would skate on by?
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