YouTuber’s Fleet of Trucks with 6.5-HP Harbor Freight Engines Is a Wrenching Triumph
Harbor Freight does it again.
Welcome to America, where the vast majority of our pickup trucks—1966 Ford F-600 dump trucks notwithstanding—are massive overkill for the kind of driving most Americans perform. The same goes for their engines; as most folks don't always (or ever) explore the limits of their behemoths' towing capacities—but it's okay because this is a free country and having more than necessary is just right. However, if you needed proof that less is sometimes more (even in the world of trucks) just look to this video of a truck powered by a one-cylinder motor pulling a freaking semi-truck.
YouTuber Michael Madison, whose channel went dark about a year ago, explains that the engine powering the humble, redneck-tastic rig you see here is a 212cc "Predator" engine from Harbor Freight. Sold for $120 as a replacement engine for generators, compressors, and other light machinery, this Predator variant is an overhead-valve one-cylinder said to produce 6.5 horsepower and 8.1 pound-feet of torque. As the ever-escalating diesel torque wars prove, most pickup owners will scoff at numbers like those, though the physics majors in the room will know that it ain't how much force you're working with—it's how you use it, and for Madison, the magic is all in the gearing.
Madison uses a chain drive with a roughly 9.1:1 reduction ratio to send power into the transmission, which then drives a 2.73:1 rear end from a Jeep Wagoneer. In first gear, Madison says, this gives the drivetrain an approximate (and hilarious) 269:1 reduction ratio, meaning that modest 8.1 pound-feet of torque is amplified to nearly 2,200 pound-feet at the output shaft. That makes Madison's trucks comically capable for their given power level, and able to keep up with most "real" trucks off-road.
Such short gearing means Madison's single-cylinder trucks (yes, he has more than one) are limited to about 25 mph, so they're definitely not legal to drive on public roads. That's kind of a shame when you consider that they get about 70 mpg, making them the most fuel-efficient trucks short of a Rivian R1T. One of them even has a solar panel on the back, and we don't see any of that noise on the supposedly "floating" Tesla Cybertruck.
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