This is a Maxton Rollerskate and if you’ve never seen one before that may be because just 51 were built back in the early 1990s. All were powered by rotary engines sourced from the first-generation Mazda RX-7, and they had a curb weight of just 1,680 lbs.
In many respects the Rollerskate is an American answer to the Lotus/Caterham 7, an ultra-lightweight sports car with scalpel-sharp handling, seating for two, and not a whole lot of extra room.
Fast Facts – The Maxton Rollerskate
- The Maxton Rollerskate was developed by an American team in the late 1980s and early 1990s, headed up and funded by Bob Sutherland, a wealthy businessman and vintage racing enthusiast.
- Sutherland brought in Dan Ripley to run the operation, Michael Mate for the body design, Ben van der Linden as the lead engineer, and Gary Valler to work with the suspension and other engineering issues.
- Maxton was set up in Englewood, Colorado and in order to get around certain Federal safety and emissions regulations it was developed as a component car company – they didn’t like the term kit car.
- The company launched in 1992-1993, unfortunately right into the midst of the Early 1990s Recession. This severely limited the number of prospective buyers, but 51 production cars would be completed before operations ceased.
The Wankel-Powered Maxton Rollerskate
The Maxton Rollerskate was developed around the idea of taking the compact and lightweight Wankel rotary engine out of the first-generation Mazda RX-7, and installing into a Caterham 7-style roadster. It was a stroke of genius that would create one of the best-handling American sports cars of its era.
Unusually, the Maxton would be built in Englewood, Colorado rather than in the more traditional states like Michigan or California. The company was founded by wealthy businessman and vintage racing enthusiast Bob Sutherland, who brought on an all-star team including Dan Ripley, Michael Mate, Ben van der Linden, and Gary Valler.
A new spaceframe chassis made from square tube steel was developed, a lightweight fiberglass body was designed to fit neatly over the top, and the entire drivetrain was sourced from the Mazda RX-7 – including the engine, transmission and live axle rear end.
The completed car had unusual styling, including Bug Eye Sprite-style headlights, a side exit exhaust, seating for two, and an exceedingly compact engine bay just big enough to house the tiny RX-7 rotary engine.
With a curb weight of only 1,680 lbs (762 kilograms), the Maxton Rollserskate was a lightning quick sports car with a 0-62 mph time of just 5.5 seconds. It could outperform almost anything around a track and if you had $19,500 USD you could build one yourself.
The only issue with the Rollerstake was its timing. When it was introduced in 1992/1993 the USA was slipping into a recession. This meant that people had far less money to spend on things like sports cars, and those would could afford it were largely keeping their pursestrings firmly tied.
Above Video: This is episode one in the series of films made by MotorWeek as they built a Maxton Rollerskate and filmed the process. All five episodes are available on YouTube for free.
In all, 51 production examples of the Maxton Rollerskate would be built. For many years they were seen as a bit of an automotive oddity but now, 30 years after the model was first introduced, the popularity of the unusual sports car from Colorado is increasing.
The Maxton Rollerskate Shown Here
The Maxton Rollerskate you see here is a 1993 model finished in two-tone black and gray paint, with black upholstery, a removable black soft top, and 5,000 miles shown on the odometer.
This car is powered by a 1.1 liter Mazda 12Z rotary engine, it sends power back through a 5-speed manual transmission, and a limited-slip differential to the rear wheels. It’s currently riding on 13″ Revolution alloy wheels with 205/60 ProMeter LL600 tires.
The suspension consists of upper and lower A-arms with Ford-sourced uprights and a Mustang II steering rack up front, with the Mazda-sourced live axle with lower trailing links, upper semi-trailing links, and a Panhard bar in the rear.
It’s now being offered out of Oak Park, Illinois on Bring a Trailer and you can visit the listing here if you’d like to read more about it or place a bid.
Images courtesy of Bring a Trailer
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with well over a million monthly readers from around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.