TRAILMOBILE, Inc., the nation’s second largest trailer builders, recently found plans of what may have been the granddaddy of all trailer-tractors—the “motor wheel” shown in the accompanying pictures. Manufactured more than 60 years ago by an outfit bravely styled the International Motor Wheel Co., it was invented by one J.W. Walters. The unit consisted of a rubber-tired wooden wheel propelled by a two-cylinder, air-cooled gasoline motor mounted with a heavy flywheel on one side of the fork; on the other side were twin gas tanks. The steering wheel turned the whole unit; to reverse, you turned it right around. Or you would have, if you’d had the chance to drive it. Few ever did. The idea of a petrol-eating horse for a wagon was great, but the motor of the period wasn’t.

  1. Hirudinea says: January 10, 20121:33 pm

    Now that’s a MANS unicycle!

  2. Toronto says: January 10, 20129:51 pm

    Motorwheels pop up throughout the collections of the “how to” articles in Modern/Popular Mechanics, such as the “The Boy Mechanic” and “Shop Notes” series. All sorts of vehicles ended up have these strapped to them.

  3. Sean says: January 11, 20125:47 am


    This was floating around a couple years ago. I was ready to pony up for a preorder, but the company appears to have folded. Pity. It’s a really elegant concept.

  4. Toronto says: January 11, 20128:05 am

    The problem with the Revowheel was it’s a 2-stroke and pollutes more than a city bus.

    There are a lot of electric hub motors for bikes out there these days. I know of a guy who uses “recycled” lap-top batteries for power storage and gets quite good range and hillclimbing with them.

  5. Sean says: January 11, 20126:59 pm

    They claimed that their motor was much cleaner than most two strokes. How true that was, we’ll never know. I didn’t care since it had better power and range than an electric and I just wanted some help on the steep hills riding to work. You’re probably right though that most people who buy a product like that want some real enviro-cred and, while there’s not much room for improvement left in the small two stroke engine, batteries and electric motors are improving by leaps and bounds.

  6. Jack says: January 12, 20125:27 pm

    Take a good old french”Solex”, now they have e-powered bikes.

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