Mazda’s Miata is often considered the gold standard of lightweight two-seat roadsters. There were some sports car traditionalists, however, who shrugged the car off as too large and heavy. In the 1980s, there was nothing available to match the sports car pedigree of a Lotus 7, Austin-Healey Sprite, or Ginetta G4. Enter the Maxton Rollerskate, the Colorado-built kit-car that used a square-tube-frame and Mazda RX-7 parts to build what could be one of the most underrated sports cars of all time.
While the car’s progenitor, Bob Sutherland, had begun developing theMaxton Rollerskate before the Miata was introduced in the late 1980s, the two were inevitably compared as they were both Mazda-powered two-seat roadsters available around the same time frame. The Mazda was perhaps better at being a real car, but the Maxton would run rings around it on track. For a small minority of people who had the opportunity to drive a Maxton, it was met with incredible praise.
Using typical kit car parts, like Mustang II front suspension components, the car’s drivetrain is lifted essentially intact from an SA generation Mazda RX-7, which usually means drum rear brakes and a live rear axle. The car’s exquisite 5-speed manual gearbox and rev-happy engine, however, more than make up for the axle’s shortcomings. While the exterior is clearly Brit-inspired, the car is all Japanese-American underneath.
Only 55 Rollerskates were built, as the company faltered with the economic downturn of the early 1990s. Though it was praised as being one of the best sports cars of its time, it couldn’t survive a finicky economy or escape its fate as an extremely rare, and often unheard-of kit car. These cars occasionally come up for sale, as BringATrailer has chronicled eight of them (including this one) for sale in recent years.
This particular example is stated to have a 265 horsepower Mazda 13B rotary engine. Considering the car weighs just about 1680 pounds fully assembled, this must be one hell of a sports car. Contemporary road tests saw the smaller-than-a-Miata car sprint to sixty in around 5 seconds, and clear a quarter-mile run in the 14s. As quick as they are in a straight line, however, the Rollerskate’s real forte was using its light weight to cornering advantage.
The owner’s original intent was to race the car, but once it was delivered he decided to leave it as a show-only car, and has driven it just under 300 miles since 1991. Some of the miles on the odometer were added by the builder in Colorado to get the chassis and engine sorted before delivery to Atlanta. It’s resided in the pictured carpeted garage ever since. If I were to buy this car, I’d add a thousand miles to the odometer in the first day, without a doubt.
MotorWeek did a five-part series, building a Maxton Rollerskate from the ground up. The series was used essentially as a promotional video for Maxton to prove that any old enthusiast with a good set of tools could build their own. You can watch the whole series above, linked as a playlist.
Boy, it sure doesn’t look great with the ‘top’ on the car, does it?
You could say that this basically brand-new Rollerskate has a basically brand-new key. If you’re looking for a really exciting car that almost nobody has ever heard of, this one is available for sale on eBay in Atlanta, Georgia. The current $20,500 bid is a little on the high side as Maxton values go, but with just over 500 miles on the odometer and the fact that this is allegedly the first consumer-ordered example make it worth that in my eyes. The original cost in 1991 was around $19,995, indicating values have held pretty steady in the last 27 years. Quality of execution, obviously, varies wildly based on who built the car, but this one seems to be nicely assembled. Will you be bidding, or will you skate on by?