Creating the Smart Ass Fuel Mule - The Ultimate Gas Caddy

Creating the World's Best Gas Caddy - Part 1

Author Jerry Hoffmann, Inventor of the Smart Ass Fuel Mule, and co-founder of Smart Ass Products, LLC shares how this idea came to life:

“There’s got to be a better way.” 

That was my thought as I lugged ten separate 5 gallon gas jugs down to my dock.  Again.  Then as I used my jiggle hose to siphon the fuel in, and tried my best to minimize any drips and get this task done quickly so that I could get out onto the water with my family and friends.  I couldn’t help but think: “There’s got to be a better way.”  And I was going to figure out what it was.

My name is Jerry Hoffmann, and I'm the inventor of the Smart Ass Fuel Mule.  A Gas Caddy that is like no other.  It’s the ultimate fuel transportation solution.  Motorized.  Off Road Capable.  Tight navigating to allow you to work it onto and around your dock, and able to climb and descend steep ramps and grades effortlessly.  It’s the Mack Daddy of Gas Caddies. 


The Genesis of The Smart Ass Fuel Mule

“There’s got to be a better way.”  I don’t recall when I first had that thought regarding the best way to get fuel to my dock and fuel up my boat.  But I do recall when I first chose to try to do something about it.  It was spring of 2020.  I had been talking about my desire to solve this problem with a buddy, and he was eager to see what I might come up with. 

My dock(s) and cove on Lake Lanier

My shoreline here on Lake Lanier was the location of conception.  (Had to add that word just to make my kids cringe a bit)

I figured I’d test an initial concept using off the shelf parts, and once I had a proven concept, I could manufacture exactly what I needed.  I didn't want something half-fast (say that three times fast).  I was going to do it right, and make something amazing.

I had operated a manufacturing company making race car parts since 2004/2005, and had the shop space and experience to do something cool here.  And I figured I wasn't the only person out here living the lake life that would appreciate a better solution.

Like you, I wanted to be out on the water, not dragging gas cans up and down the hill.  I wanted to be with my family spending some quality time.  And that time, well, it's more valuable than we can imagine.  I was going to save some money, and sure that was part of my motivation with gas prices so high at the local marinas compared to at the street pump.  But more importantly than that...  I was going to save time, and I was going to put that time to good use.

I wanted to be here...
My girls with their friends on the boat
And here...
My daughter helping me captain the boat ('When daddy let me drive' surely on the radio)


And here.... 

Not lugging cans, or boating to a marina and back on a gas run.  I wanted to be right here with my people.


Making it happen

I had a couple ideas in my head for how to go about solving this lil problem of mine.  A glorified 2 wheel handtruck with transfer tank, and a bigger, more involved 4 wheeled version.  I'd start with the simple concept, and see how it went....

Test Concept 1:

A bigger gas dolly attempt.  I’d seen the 14, 15, and 28, and 30 gallon gas caddies on the market.  And I had observed that you kind of had two ends of the spectrum there. 

  • You had light duty, plastic units, with chintzy little wheels and smaller capacity.  Some of these were intended for outdoor/light duty use off road, but barely, and only because they had a small capacity of 14 gallons or so, and therefore were light enough to drag if you had to - even if the wheels weren't up to the task. 
  • And you had heavier duty, larger units.  Generally metal, with hard rubber wheels that were tough, but too small and not designed at all for all terrain/off road use.  They were intended for use on concrete in auto shops or parking lots.  Not on grass, and certainly not on hills with bumps, roots, ruts, rocks, etc. 

I wanted to see just what the limits were.  I’m a decent sized guy at 6’ 1” 210lbs.  How much fuel could I transport up and down a hill with bigger off road capable tires?  How much could I safely get in and out of a truck on ramps?  I needed to know.

So I built test concept 1.  I took a heavy duty handtruck, rated for 800lbs, along with a 42 gallon fuel transfer tank and a 110v AC fuel pump that I could plug into dock power, and I cobbled it all together (ok, I jerryrigged it, I mean, my name is Jerry, right?) with another buddy of mine over a beer and a cigar at my shop. 

No, there was no fuel around during the stogie session!

Jerry-Rigging the first test rig together in my shop

Excited to test it out.  I loaded it up in my truck, filled my homemade gas caddy with 25 gallons of gasoline and brought it back to the house.  It wasn't light nor particularly easy, but using a pair of ramps I was able to lower it down from the truck bed safely enough.  Similarly, I was able to roll it down my fairly mild slope in my backyard to my shoreline, and out onto my dock. 

What a workout!!


April 30th, 2020.  Covid was all the rage.  But I was building something cool.  I plugged the pump in, and whalla!  I topped up my tank and made this video to send a buddy.  How cool is that?


Rod and Erin's boat in our second dock

My friend's 2020 Axis A22 at our second dock


I still had some fuel left, so I dragged my test rig over next door to our other dock where some friends of ours were keeping their boat, and I topped it up too.  This thing was cool!  But this was only a test run, I knew this was not to be my final solution.  It was going to get a lot better.  This test solution was limited in capacity, and I could only wonder if I'd be able to safely get it out of the truck or to the dock and back with a heavier load.  I'd have to try, right?

Right.  So I tested it again, 35 gallons this time.  It was HEAVY now, this certainly wasn't the safest solution and I knew it, but I was determined to find the limits.  I JUST made it down the ramps safely, to the dock and back, and yes, I was wiped out. 

But I had to do one more test, at a full load.  And I knew that if I couldn't do 42 gallons, there's no way 50 gallons would ever work.  And though my 2019 Malibu Wakesetter 23 LSV I had at the time had a 65 gallon fuel capacity, the gauge showed empty with a decent amount of reserve fuel.  I knew I needed about 50 gallons to ensure I could always fill it up from 'empty' on the gauge.  50 gallons was the goal.

The blown tire and bent wheel from unloading with 42 gallons of fuel

My 800lb handtruck really didn't like 42 gallons coming down off the truck on ramps.

This was the final test with this first contraption.... with 42 gallons.  And, well...  I didn't die.  I guess that's something!  ;)   But my test rig didn't make the cut.  I did my best to control the load coming down the ramps out of the truck, and surely I slowed it down a bit, but not enough.  When it hit the pavement, it flattened a tire and bent the rim.  And that was it.  I had found the limits.  And truth be told, nobody would want to manhandle this thing.  It was just too heavy.  I'm a decent sized guy in pretty good shape, and it was too heavy.  I wanted something safe, that darn near anybody could operate.  I needed four wheels.  And a motor.  And brakes.  Something that did the hard work FOR you.

So I started sketching a concept in 3D using a simple tool available on the web...

An early sketch of a possible frame for a 4 wheeled version of my fuel caddy


Early concept drawing of what would become the Smart Ass Fuel Mule

This was the start of something awesome.....   I occurred to me to write 'little did I know, this was the start of something awesome'.  But nah....  I knew it already.  This was definitely the start of something awesome.

What's Next?  Check it out in Part 2 of this series where Jerry Hoffmann explains how he took the 4 wheeled motorized gas caddy concept to life. 

You can also check out this post for the details on the Smart Ass Fuel Mule, absolutely the best gas caddy you'll find, anywhere.

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