This insane custom semi-truck makes 3,424 hp from two Detroit Diesel engines
If you thought the Transformers were only in the movies, then you’ve never been to Lake Havasu City on the California-Arizona border. The Colorado River cuts through the desert tourist spot, but up on the north end of town, an airport hangar holds what looks like Optimus Prime’s bigger and more bad-ass older brother: “THOR 24.”
Dreamt up by Southern California land developer Mike Harrah and built over a seven-year period by Mike with Tim Spinks and Paul Abram, the truck has so much going on it’s hard to focus on just one facet. It’s safe to say, however, each one is as impressive as the next right down the line. “Big Mike,” as he’s called, stands 6 feet, 5 inches and has a larger-than-life personality that is personified in this truck where even the smallest detail has been amplified to 11. Add all those hundreds of wild parts and immensely creative pieces together and you get, well, THOR.
The engines are what you see first and they command the majority of your attention. That’s because no one has ever seen twin 12V-71 (24 cylinders total) two-stroke Detroit Diesel engines mated nose-to-nose and topped with eight BDS 8-71 superchargers. The Detroit Diesels have a long and important history in industrial use as well in naval vessels, and the 12V-71 comes “stock” with twin Roots-type blowers located between the cylinder banks (so THOR has a total of 12 blowers). The build team figured out how to butt the engines together with a splined shaft, giving the new dual engine layout a final displacement of 1,704 cubic inches (or 27.9 liters).
After constructing a wooden buck to help work out the design of the massive intake manifold, it was eventually remade in thick aluminum plate and then configured to hold the eight superchargers that are all driven off a single custom driveshaft that is 103 inches long and weighing some 263 pounds that runs longitudinally inside the manifold’s air box and above the in-line engines. The top of the manifold is also the base for eight NOS nitrous bottles.
Exhaust exits through 24 zoomie-type headers, and Mike says that, at 2,500 rpm, the engines produce 3,424 hp. In the high-performance world of blowers and big engines, that might not sound like a lot but, with this setup in this 44-foot-long, 30,000-pound truck, it looks amazing, and the sound is out of this world. The engine combo attaches to a chromed Allison HT740 transmission underneath the 1979 359 Peterbilt cab that runs out to a locker-type rear axle, which has been completely ground smooth, filled, and chromed. To be honest, nearly everything on this truck is either chromed or covered in a wild paint job.
A stock Peterbilt semi-truck front suspension and steering wouldn’t work in this application (Mike wanted to be able to turn and steer it in a smaller radius), so they installed a VanHool A-arm type suspension system usually used in buses and coaches. The chassis itself is made up of twin 4 x 14-inch sections of rectangular tubing (3/8-inch thick) that are 40 feet long and uses Peterbilt Air Leaf suspension while it rolls on Alcoa aluminum wheels wrapped in 315/30R22.5 front tires and 11R24.5 rears.
The cab, which is more of a command center for the truck’s whole operation, is equally crowded with things to see, switches to throw, and gauges to watch. There are no less than 24 Autometer gauges in the polished aluminum panel (with Big Mike’s profile engraved in the center) forward of the four-spoke Steering Creations steering wheel—among them a 200-mph speedo, a 6,000-rpm tach, and a handful of pressure and blower gauges, with six more blower pressure gauges mounted mid-dash.
Dual MOON footprint aluminum pedals are also used, and Lake Havasu’s Main Stitch got the call to cover the interior with black diamond material for the headliner, dark gray industrial carpeting below, and black leather on the bucket seats as well as the bench seating in the back. Multi-point Simpson Platinum racing belts are outfitted for both driver and passenger. Big Mike loves his cigars, and a special pocket in the driver’s door frame allows him to carry a box of his favorite Padron 1926 Series No.9 Natural stogies. Between the buckets is a sword (one of many found in and around the truck, along with dozens of chromed skulls), with this one being a double-edged broadsword (think: Conan the Barbarian) that serves as the truck’s shifter.
The forward passenger door of the stretched and widened aluminum cab opens in a clockwise rotation motion off a pin mounted behind a broadaxe (you read that right) mounted on the cab’s exterior. Another broadsword mounted between the front and rear doors is just for decoration. Looking forward around the rows of blowers is a bit of a trick, but in the cab and above the driver are four 4×6 video screens that are used to see what’s on the road ahead of THOR.
Entertainment is available in the “crew” section of the cab with a 40-inch TV screen to watch videos, or a 1,500-watt stereo system mounted in a special exterior compartment that would have no problem providing the soundtrack to whatever you and 100 of your friends wanted to do in your garage. Mounted behind the cab is a Hawker Jet helicopter engine that is the power auxiliary generator for the truck (and it sounds awesome when lit).
Another custom addition is the massively oversized and stylized ’33 Ford aluminum grille, fabricated in California by Marcel’s Custom Metal. The whole semi was covered with PPG Envirobase waterborne Candy Red paint (applied by Glenn Bohannon at Brothers Auto Body in Lake Havasu City) that was followed up with multi-colored flames and an amazing graphics scheme that included murals (from SKC Customz) and old-school pinstriping (by Havasu’s Chris Snead).
Seeing this truck on the road must evoke the same feeling folks had when Howard Hughes flew his H-4 Hercules (aka Spruce Goose) in Southern California’s Long Beach Harbor in 1947—it is so strange to see something so massive moving under its own power, bouncing a bit to the rhythm of the idling blowers and the 40-foot chassis gently torquing up and down as it rolls on by. But, as Big Mike says, “The problem isn’t getting it up above 100 mph, it’s stopping it once you do!” We imagine it would be like trying to stop a freight train, only without the railroad tracks. But it does have four 12-foot Simpson drag parachutes packed across the rear bumper just in case!
And, as if this build isn’t astonishing enough, back in the hanger where Mike parks this beast is another similarly sized stretched semi going together! This one, already nicknamed Medusa, is a mid-engine (with another twin 12V-71 layout) drag racing version of THOR. To all those folks who said the original concept couldn’t actually work or drive, we believe they’ve never spent any time with Mike Harrah. He definitely dreams really big, and we can’t wait to see this and his new ride parked together someday.