A 212cc swapped Honda Insight might be the perfect in-town runabout

Youtubers Robot Cantina, my new favorite online mechanics based out of Michigan, are putting out a video series highlighting there unconventional engine swap, a $99 Harbor Freight predator engine in a first-gen Honda Insight. The 212cc engine, once regulated to a life in lawn mowers and the occasional go-kart, finds a new life in a legit, street-legal (at least in Michigan) in-town runabout.

Check out video one of (already) four embedded below.

Robot Cantina states their goal is to get there Honda Insight up to 50 MPH, driver included, a tall order for 6.5 HP and a little over 8 lb-ft. But, as they illustrate, they’ve ripped out the original engine, hybrid system, and all the ancillary accessories.

Eye-balling it, they’ve ripped out about 400 pounds, bringing this already lightweight hybrid down to around 1400 pounds without a driver.

Harbor Freight predator engine stats can be found here.

Their initial performance runs were, while less than stellar, a tad impressive given what’s under the hood. 0-30 MPH comes in around 25 seconds and, given the torque multiplying engineering in its CVT 5-speed combo, the glorified go-kart has a bit of pull off the line, enough to pull a Grand Cherokee on level ground.

Top speed on their first college try is an impressive 39 MPH, enough to scoot around town in the right lane only.

Out on the road, the .25 coefficient of drag probably helps a ton. That Cd. is about as good as the current Toyota Prius. Keep in mind the Insight came out 20 years ago.

11 more MPH might sound unreachable but they mention there’s a strong aftermarket for these Predator engines so more power is in the works.

Other youtubers have done this swap before, but a cursory look the engine bay and interior reveals this wasn’t slapped together over an afternoon (at least it doesn’t look that way.) There was some serious thought put into this project to make their goal feasible.

RC says,

This is actually a serious project and a lot of engineering went into the car. All we did was put a small engine into a lightweight aerodynamic car. The unique transmission helps the little engine accelerate the total mass, but it has limits. Trust me, no laws of physics were broken.

Robot Cantina already put out three more videos where they dyno the engine and mod the 212cc for more power, but I’m not going to spoil these deets for those vids here.

You’ll have to like, comment, subscribe, and watch those videos for yourself!

This is an honest-to-goodness cool project I’ll be keeping my eye on as the weeks go by.


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