There are three levers where the center seat heaters and climate control should be. One controls the actuators that move the wheels outward, away from the center. Another extends the legs vertically, pushing the car up onto stilts that make it tall enough to clear a Honda Accord. The third is the throttle for creeping over standstill traffic.
This heavily modified Jeep Cherokee is PR disguised in a feat of engineering. Called the Hum Rider and named after Verizon's in-car diagnostic tool called Hum, this strange transformer has been cruising around the web the last couple weeks. Never mind its viral fame-the really interesting story is how it was built.
"We had eight weeks to proof out the concept and make sure everything worked," says Scott Beverly, one of the designers.
Beverly primarily works at A2ZFX, a company that builds mechanical props such as the tumbler Batmobile from The Dark Knight. The other head designer, Art Thompson, helped build the B-2 bomber while at Northrop Corporation. Consider them both overqualified for the job.
Under the hood, where the Jeep's engine should be, there's a small Honda V-twin gas-powered engine that drives a hydraulic pump. This powers the valve system for the hydraulic cylinders throughout the vehicle, allowing it to elevate. A big horizontal cylinder runs through the middle of the car, and inside that pipe is about 55 gallons of hydraulic fluid, which feeds through about 300 feet of organized tubing to the wheels and elevating pistons.
First, the 45-degree steel outriggers push the wheels sideways, out from the center of the car. Then, secondary pistons lift the whole thing up. To actually move forwards and backward, thin motors are lodged in the wheels. These cam lobe hydraulic motors-the type of thing you'd find on heavy lifting equipment-move the car, very slowly. The Hum Rider's top speed comes in about 15 mph. However, it all sounds much more impressive considering this car north of 8,000 pounds-more than double the wait of your average coupe.
To design this four-wheeled wonder and make sure all those parts work in concert, Beverly and Thompson used CAD software called Solidworks to invent the Hum Rider. They first created a virtual concept and checked the design and hydraulics for fit and function.
"Ten, 15 years ago, I drafted out parts for people to cut by hand, to drill by hand," Beverly says. "Now, with water jet cutting, laser cutting, plasma cutting, we send the files straight from the CAD program to a machine."
A file with all the dimensions of a specific metal piece goes from the computer to a five-axis laser-cutting rig. The machine reads the dimensions and spins a hunk of metal, precisely cutting out pieces that then fit together like Lego. This modern tech makes an 8-week deadline achievable rather than a logistical impossibility.
If the specs and design didn't make it obvious, the Hum Rider is an impractical, ridiculous attempt for internet fame and luckily a menace you'll never see on the road. But that doesn't make the engineering any less impressive.
You Might Also Like