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Loco Hauk Steam-Powered 6x6 Jeep JK Built by Kenny Hauk at 2017 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab

Posted in Features on July 5, 2017
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Photographers: Rick PéwéTom Kimmel

“Hell on wheels” doesn’t begin to describe the latest creation by Kenny Hauk, owner of Hauk Designs and River Raider Off-Road in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. This faux locomotive weighs in at six tons—a mere 12,000 pounds of smoke-and-steam-belching Jeep Wrangler. When we saw it chug in to Moab, Utah, during Easter Jeep Safari we knew we needed a closer look.

At first glance, some might think this 2008 Wrangler Unlimited may have been rear ended by a steam engine, but there is much more to this Jeep than meets the eye. Watching Kenny and the crew bring it to life is an experience that will stay with you for a very long time. You hear the burner ignite, then a faint shimmer of heat is detected above what appears to be a giant rolling barbeque on 41.5-inch Pit Bull Rockers. Slowly the black coil of smoke increases. A look to the hood shows small wisps of steam; then it lurches to life. Imagine the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie from your childhood, but on a grander scale as it chugs along like a freight train.

Under the hood of this behemoth is what some may consider a relatively tiny engine—a 100ci V-4 single-acting, trunk-piston, poppet-valve uniflow steam engine. The design is based on the center two throws of a small block 272ci Ford crankshaft. This engine was designed and built by Charles Keen for the Keen Steamliner 2 automobile sometime around 1960. It is capable of 130 to 140 horsepower. While that’s not many horses under the hood, it does generate roughly 2,500 foot-pounds of torque. The factory NSG370 6-speed manual transmission and NP241 transfer case were left in play, but the engine only allows for one high forward, one low forward, and one reverse gear. Loco Hauk is capable of speeds between 50 and 60 mph, and it is most efficient at a boiler pressure of 800 psi when a dryer type of steam is created. In the steam-powered world, more boiler pressure equals more horsepower.

The engine was designed and made by Charlie Keen out of Madison, Wisconsin, around about 1960. The cylinders are individual castings and the crankcase is cast aluminum. The crankshaft is the center two throws of a small block Ford engine, so it is a flat crank, (otherwise known as a 180-degree crank). When made into a V-4 with a flat crank it is self-starting, which is what everyone wants in a steam engine. With a V-4 and flat crank, there is one piston at TDC (top dead center), one at BDC (bottom dead center), with the other two right at mid-stroke; one going up and one going down. At that point only the one piston going down will be able to make power. Once it gets off of TDC then the next piston will start making power.

The standard 16-gallon fuel cell has been converted to run on kerosene, as that is burned to heat the boiler. There is a 55-gallon water tank mounted in the area behind where the rear seat was originally located, and the boiler holds an additional 20 gallons of water. Fuel economy, or shall we say water economy, isn’t its finest attribute; while at 500 psi and speeds of 30 to 35 mph, 55 gallons of water will only transport you 1 to 1.5 miles. We could fill an entire issue with all the cool features and tech on Loco Hauk, but unfortunately, we don’t have the room within these pages. We suggest you tune in to the History Channel and watch Road Hauks, Kenny’s new reality show. New episodes start in August and the Loco Hauk build will air this fall. We did ask Kenny the question on everyone’s mind: Why? He replied with a smile, “it’s the most insane thing we could come up with.”

The burner is a 20-gallon per hour kerosene pressure atomizing nozzle burner with a big DC motor turning a centrifugal fan to provide air. The boiler is a Babcock & Wilcox design. The B&W design has 2-inch diameter tubes welded up at an angle because it is a natural circulation boiler. It is also a water level boiler, meaning that it is easy to control. There are three probes that look like spark plugs that sense water level and that operate sensor lights in the dash and automatically turn on the water pumps when the water level gets low. Turning the fire on and off controls the steam pressure, and there is a pressure transducer that is hooked up to the fuel solenoids to turn the burner on and off as needed.

Why This Jeep

Fascinated by the odd and unique, we knew this Wrangler would deliver that and more. Not only is it impressive to look at, its creativity, science, and design is what caught our attention. While it may not handle the hardcore trails with ease, it has opened doors for learning more than we ever dreamed about the world of steam power that had its place in the Old West and conquered wild country and blazed new trails. We look at this Jeep as a bit of modern rolling history.

Hard Facts

Vehicle: 2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 6x6
Engine: 100 CID V-4 single-acting, trunk-piston, poppet-valve uniflow steam engine
Transmission: NSG370 6-speed manual
Transfer Case: NP241
Suspension: BDS 4-inch 4-link and Fox shocks
Axles: Teraflex D60, 3.73 gears, Auburn Gear Max Lock locker (front); Ford 9-inch pass-through axle 3.70 gears (mid drive axle) Teraflex D60, 3.73 gears, Auburn Gear Max Lock locker (rear)
Steering: Modified Toyota Steering box with Redneck Ram hydraulic assist
Wheels: Grid Off-Road GD-1
Tires: 41.5x13.50R17 Pit Bull Rocker

Stretched 51 inches to accommodate the additional pass-through axle and disburse the weight of this Jeep, the Loco Hauk has an impressive 165-inch wheelbase. 41.5x13.50R17 Pit Bull Rocker tires on Grid Off-Road GD-1 wheels support the massive weight. The body is 3/16-inch steel armor and a modified Star Fabricating hardtop. Satin Black PPG paint and gold leaf hand-painted lettering give this Jeep the authentic locomotive appearance from the Old West.
Although the weight of the engine is minimal, the pipe and fittings are rated to handle pressures up to 3,000 psi; this added considerable pounds to the build. The need for a beefy TeraFlex D60 front axle was paramount. The 3.73 gears, an Auburn Gear Max Lock locker, and stock Wrangler disc brakes complete the forward drivetrain. Front suspension components include 4-inch BDS coils paired with Fox shocks. The team modified a Toyota steering box, and added the Redneck Ram hydraulic assist to improve the handling capabilities.
Continuing the old locomotive theme Hauk Designs converted the Jeep to the 6x6 configuration. Hauk used a Ford 9-inch with 3.70 gears as the mid- or pass-through axle, while the rear axle is another hefty TeraFlex D60. Internals include 3.73 gears, an Auburn Gear Max Lock locker, BDS 4-link suspension, 4-inch BDS coil springs, and Fox shocks. Getting the power to these big axles called for 1350-series J.E. Reel driveshafts, and “whoa” mode is provided by stock Jeep disc brakes.
Six XS Power A3400-series batteries and six constant duty solenoids supply power to the electric oil pump, electric power steering unit, and three water pumps that feed water to the boiler at up to 1,000 psi. The boiler and burner unit are housed behind the battery bank and 55-gallon water tank.
The Hauk Design team installed a Rugged Ridge grille with a functional seven-pipe oil reservoir to maintain the “7-slot” Jeep grille look. A modified River Raider Rock Crawler series front bumper and a Warn Zeon 12-S winch with beefy tow hooks give it that tough Wild West vibe. Vision X headlights were added, and these are actual modern locomotive 48-volt lights.
The interior has that vintage steam train feel with some modern comforts and necessities. Kenny used old water well pump handles for the steam control and shifters. The main focal point in the dash is the 1800s locomotive steam gauge. There is a water level sight gauge to monitor boiler levels on the passenger side of the dash. Handmade Hauk valve-style steering wheel and window cranks round out the old iron horse theme. Modern conveniences include Auto Meter instrumentation, Kicker stereo, and Star Fabrication diamond stitch leather seats for those long days riding the rails.
One of the fun aspects of this build, and according to the Hauk Design team one of the easiest, was the integration of two antique steam whistles. A few things we can tell you from personal experience: first, stand clear when they clear the lines of water, or you will take a shower; and second, cover your ears because these babies can wake the dead!

A steam power system has many components, and so it is not the engine itself that is complex to build. There is the burner and the boiler (or steam generator, as we like to say). The steam flow is: intake from a poppet-valve, cam-controlled setup like a flat-head with the poppet valve right beside the head and a small channel taking steam from underneath the valve into the clearance volume. The exhaust is exactly like a two-cycle engine with ports drilled into the side of the cylinder at BDC (bottom dead center). About 30 percent of the steam stays in the cylinder after the pistons close off the exhaust ports. This is then compressed up to about boiler pressure, depending on the clearance volume, and this is fine for efficiency reasons. There are twice the power strokes per revolution in this steam engine than in a four-cycle engine, so it only needs half the displacement. Steam at about 800 psi and 800 degrees F has a higher MEP (mean effective pressure) than is found in a naturally aspirated four cycle engine. So, theoretically a steam engine can make more than twice the horsepower for its displacement than a regular engine.

The camshaft is three-dimensional, meaning that there are four grinds for each cam follower/push rod/poppet valve. There is an inclined step between these grinds so the camshaft can be slid with a long lever. There is a subtle and very clever aspect to Keen’s design as the valves are slightly offset, about the width of the big end of the connecting rod, so that any one cam grind will actuate the two opposing cylinders. Therefore, only two sets of cams are needed for the four cylinders. The camshaft is conventionally located in the valley of the V. The cam grinds are long-cutoff reverse, long-cutoff forward, medium cut-off forward and very short cut-off forwards. Cut-off is the standard steam terminology for the dwell time of how long the intake valve is open. For good fuel economy the intake valve is kept open for about 15% of the stroke so that the steam gets to expand and give up most of its power on the down stroke. On the other hand, if the valve is kept open most of the time, say 80 percent, then there is full pressure on the piston for almost all of the down stroke and more torque is made. This is what happens when starting from a dead stop. Once moving, and when the engine is turning more rapidly, less torque is needed so the cam is shifted. There are detents on the shifting rod to indicate each of the cam positions.

The reason for the poppet-valve intake and two-cycle type of exhaust (known as a Unaflow or uniflow engine in steam-speak) is for both simplicity in making the valve train and for some very subtle thermodynamic efficiencies having to do with conserving heat because the steam cools down rapidly as it expands, thus cooling off the surrounding cast iron.
—Courtesy of Tom Kimmel

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