1990 Maxton “Rollerskate” Prototype

Some people refer to the Maxton “Rollerskate” as a kit car, but this is really doing it a disservice. When you look at the fit and finish, it is easy to see how much better it is than any normal kit car, and the engineering and development that went into it resulted in a car of fairly breathtaking performance. I have to extend a big thank you to Barn Finder Mark_K, who referred this potent little sports car to us. This 1990 Maxton is not one of the 51 production versions but is the second of three pre-production prototypes built by the company. The owner has decided that the time has come to part with his toy. It is located in Longmont, Colorado, and is listed for sale here on Craigslist. The owner is asking $16,500 for the Maxton, but he says that he will consider the nearest intelligent offer.

Many a person has tried, and many a person has failed. Deciding to develop and produce a car as a low-volume specialist can lead to either great success, or to abject failure. That Maxton failed was not due in any way to the quality of the “Rollerskate,” but was due almost entirely to the fact that the company’s timing was extraordinarily bad. Development work was meticulously carried out, and the company even constructed the three prototype vehicles to test their theories and engineering. However, by the time the Maxton was ready for production, an economic down-turn had seen values on classic cars plummet, and few people were willing to hand over $25,000 for what was perceived to be a kit car. As a result, only 51 cars, plus the three prototypes, were ever built. This prototype vehicle demonstrates all of the strengths and characteristics that should have ensured success. Under that glorious Red fiberglass body lies a carefully constructed tubular space-frame chassis. The photos tend to show that this space-frame is in extremely good condition, with no signs of any rust issues. The body and paint also appear to be very nice, and the overall presentation tends to indicate that this is a car that has been well cared for.

The aim of Maxton was to create a vehicle that could be regarded as a “component car.” To this end, it was to be supplied to buyers as a rolling chassis, complete with some components that the buyer had to install themselves. The body was supplied unpainted, and there was also no engine supplied. Maxton was heavily focussed on quality workmanship, and you can see some of this evidenced in the interior presentation and finish. It might not be quite up to the standard of a production car, but it is miles ahead of what most buyers expect from a kit car. In this case, you get a predominantly black interior with a great looking set of body-hugging bucket seats. The dash is simple and clear, with plenty of gauges, and all of the essential switches. This car is showing a few minor rough edges, but when you consider that it is getting close to 30-years-old, it doesn’t look to be too bad. It’s worth remembering that the “Rollerskate” was conceived as a pure sports car, with little consideration given to luxury features. This was a car that was designed to be two things; light, and fast.

There are no clear engine photos, but what lies under the hood perfectly encapsulates the Maxton approach. They wanted a mechanical configuration that was incredibly light but would provide eye-opening performance. As a result, the engine, transmission, and rear end were basically lifted directly from a 1st generation Mazda RX-7. As engines go, the Mazda 13B rotary certainly delivers plenty of bang for our buck. The 5-speed transmission offers flexibility, but also allows for relaxed open-road cruising. Steering is rack and pinion, the front suspension is a great looking double-wishbone setup, while power-assisted front disc brakes ensure that the car stops…yesterday! With 270hp on tap and a total weight of 1,680lbs, the Maxton will accelerate from 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds and will top out at 127mph. This “Rollerskate” is a two-owner vehicle and has a mere 5,000 miles on the odometer. Judging by the information supplied by the owner, it appears that the car runs and drives well.

This 1990 Maxton is a 2-seat sports car in the purest sense. You look at the interior, and the closest that you get to luxury is the fact that it is fitted with a heater. It is beautifully engineered, and for a pre-production prototype, it is in very impressive condition. It might not have quite the cachet of a Lotus or many of the other production sports cars that have graced the market over the decades, but I’d be willing to bet that it would possess levels of performance that would put the majority of those cars to shame. If you are looking at this car and wondering about the longevity of the vehicle, it is worth considering that of the 51 production versions that were built, 42 of them remain in active use today. Furthermore, all three of the prototypes are also alive and kicking. That suggests that these were a car that was properly designed and developed, and with a drive-train where parts and spares are readily available, they should be capable of surviving for many years to come. And don’t we all want that from a classic?

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Comments

  1. bobk

    I remember when these came on the market. I wanted one so bad. Unfortunately, it would have been almost a year’s salary for me at the time.

    Like 1
  2. Steven Visek

    I have owned Maxton Rollerskate #19 since 2007 and can attest to these cars being both elemental and one hell of a lot of fun.

    Most were sold as completed cars, not kits. Some were long-wheelbase versions for tall drivers, as is mine. There was a mix of 12A and 13B engined cars.

    Some of us have also upgraded with mods such as fuel injection and a later RX-7 rear axle with limited slip and rear disc brakes.

    Seats were available in black, gray, or tan. A full size spare took up most of the trunk, along with the battery and onboard battery charger. A 4-section zippered tonneau comes in handy for cooler days and a top and side curtains could also be used, but you best be very limber to get in and out with them in place.

    The asking price here is a bargain. I’d be looking for nearly $5k more for mine.

    You can learn more about these cool cars on a dedicated website: https://www.maxtonrollerskate.com/
    There is also a Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/maxtonrollerskate/

    Like 15
  3. bobhess bobhess Member

    Have come so close to buying one of these twice. Seems I always have one too many cars when they come up for sale. These are great cars, and like the man said, a lot of fun.

    • Steven Visek

      Bob, there are typically at least a couple available at any one time, even if not advertised. In addition to this one, other SWB cars currently available are #7, #8, and #16. I believe one LWB car, #43, is also available currently. I suggest touching base with me or join and post on the FB group when you want to pull the trigger. Re: SWB or LWB, that depends on your size in terms of height/inseam.

      Like 3
      • Mark_K Member

        Steven, how can I reach you. I’m interested in a LWB car. I found out the prototype I found on CL is a SWB and has the seat moved forward from stock as well. I’m 6’4″ and that’s not likely to work for me.

        Like 1
  4. jimmy the orphan

    Did they build any like the green and silver car on the Maxton web page ? Clearly the red one is not the same. The red car here is very cool and I feel bad that the fellows who built these cars had the trouble they did. But the green and silver one wow. Any body know ?…………………………JIMMY

  5. Steven Visek

    Mark_K, you can e-mail me at svisek@comcast.net with your contact info. Alternatively, if you are on Facebook look me up and send me a friend request.

    Like 1
  6. Steven Visek

    Mark_K, I tried to post my e-mail 8+ hours ago and it still hasn’t shown up. Maybe search for me on FB and send me a friend request. My email is svisek at comcast.net
    Maybe that will post.

    Like 1
  7. Steven Visek

    Mark, tried to post twice to respond to you but apparently my posts are being blocked. Not sure what the problem is.

    Like 1
  8. chrlsful

    “…That Maxton failed was not due in any way to the quality…” to me wuz cuz of ‘looks’. Never can figure on style/fashion. This one just looks weird to me. Bet my hair cut and lv rm furniture look ‘weird’ to U…
    aaahahahaaaa
    now the green/silver sketch on the site? looks way better than this red 1.

  9. Glen Riddle

    Mark_K, if you are interested in a long wheelbase Maxton let me know as I have a friend who is looking to sell his.

    Like 1

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