I'd love to design and build my own car.
I say this once a week, but it's true—only I know I'd have to end production after a single example. (I doubt anyone else would want something I've dreamed up…)
For that reason, I admire people who decide to design and manufacture their own vehicle in the hope of selling it to the public. Often, the cars I feature here on #bcotd are not to my taste, but the Maxton Rollerskate is right up my alley.
Conceived, bankrolled, and designed by Bob Sutherland, a successful Colorado businessman who had founded the Colorado Grand vintage tour, the Rollerskate is an attempt at creating his ideal sports car. Conceived in the '80s, when the Mazda MX-5 Miata had not yet made its debut, the Rollerskate was intended to be just a touch more raw than what the Japanese eventually put into production. Put another way, if Colin Chapman had built a car between the 7 and the Elan, the Rollerskate would be it. (A car nearly identical in intention to the Rollerskate is the Tommy Kaira ZZ.–Ed.)
Given its creator, the Rollerskate enjoyed better engineering and marketing support than new automakers usually receive. Sutherland knew that as a component car, sold without an engine, the Rollerskate was essentially dead to the car market, but that meeting government safety regulations in such a tiny car was going to be an impossible task.
Buyers couldn't fit just any engine, however: the Rollerskate was designed around the first generation Mazda RX-7's drivetrain, meaning rev-happy rotary power in a car the size of a shoe. While other rotary-engined track cars tend to be a bit crazy, the Rollerskate was put together with balance in mind. That means a zero-to-100 km/h (62 mph) time just above six seconds and a top speed of more than 200 km/h (125 mph).
Using parts from just about everywhere (yes, those are Volkswagen Bus tail lights rotated 90°), it's a surprise that it was so positively reviewed in period and that the cars are so sought after today. Actually, like all good things, if you're looking to get into the Rollerskate racket you'll quickly realize there's more demand than supply: just 50 were made.
There's plenty more to learn about the Rollerskate, like how one was given away on PBS or that some were to be used as a bonus for long-serving managers in Sutherland's chain of Colorado lumber yards.
But why am I still talking when someone's uploaded the car's original (and very '90s) promotional video to YouTube? Check it—and two others, including a Motorweek feature—below.
This story is thanks to a number of Maxton enthusiasts who built and maintain the excellent maxtonrollerskate.com.