The long list of accessories on this M-151A1 suggests a vehicle that was recovered fully intact and not pieced together as a project.
Although civilians don’t realize it, there have been multiple iterations of the venerable “jeep” military vehicle. The first was, of course, the one developed by Ford and produced by Kaiser-Willys during and after World War II. But following the war, the Army had need of a more advanced model and Ford Motor Company was again awarded the contract to develop and build an all-new “general purpose” vehicle or “GP” (hence the nickname “jeep”). The result was the M-151 or MUTT, which stood for Military Utility Tactical Truck. Ford experimented with both aluminum and steel unibody construction, eventually settling on steel for durability’s sake. The suspension was fully independent, the 4-speed manual transmission had an ultra-low first gear so no transfer case was needed beyond a simple disconnect for the front axle, allowing 2- or 4-wheel-drive operation on any terrain. Early M-151s had rear suspension issues where heavy loads could damage the suspension and the swing-arm design made it spooky in corners for inexperienced drivers, so in 1964, the M-151A1 was released with a new suspension design that eliminated these issues. The M-151 in various forms remained in production until the development of the HUMMVEE in the 1980s.
Since they were regarded as ordinance, it was illegal to sell M-151s to the public, and most were decommissioned by being cut in half. Enterprising enthusiasts quickly found a work-around and started welding the shells back together and a rather robust industry grew around finding and selling these decommissioned vehicles (perhaps you recall the ads in the back of “Popular Mechanics” that would sell you a jeep in a box for $450). As a result, the US Army started crushing the vehicles or cutting them into four pieces laterally and longitudinally in order to discourage the practice. A vast majority of M151s available today are reassembled salvage vehicles, which explains their rock-bottom values.
Today’s experienced hobbyists prize uncut examples that somehow made it through the decommissioning process without radical surgery. This particular 1966 M-151A1 has never been cut or sectioned and appears to have been a military police vehicle on an overseas base during the Vietnam War. It was returned to the US and promptly rolled into a New England military museum where it was freshened and restored to field condition and placed on display for the next 35 years. It was purchased from the museum several years ago and placed in a private collection where it was used for parades and special occasions where, obviously, it was always a big hit. It would certainly seem that Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day festivities would be an ideal showcase for such a vehicle. The flat green paint is appropriate and in excellent condition and it feels indestructible and scratch-resistant, so if you want low maintenance in your hobby vehicle, this is a great choice. The white markings found on this M-151A1 are decals, so they can be easily removed to reflect a different division or regiment; the current markings reflect the 82nd Airborne Division. The upgraded A1 is easy to spot with its larger parking lights inset into the front fenders, but there’s no denying the go-anywhere, do-anything look. It’s just awesome from any angle.
The long list of accessories on this M-151A1 suggests a vehicle that was recovered fully intact and not pieced together as a project. There are correct tools on the sides, an axe on the driver’s side and a shovel for the passenger, a fitted jerrycan strapped to the back, and a full roll cage with ultra-rare netting that was installed on early M-151s to partially offset their tip-happy suspensions and keep passengers inside. This one also carries a real .50-caliber machine gun on a turret (obviously decommissioned) and a fully operational Army-spec siren on the front fender. There is a frame for a convertible top but obviously one is not included and probably never was due to the antennas and turret. The long antennas are linked to the multiple radio sets in the MUTT’s rear passenger compartment and are secured by special clips to keep the profile reasonable (the tallest antenna can be removed for shipping). I just love the function-over-form look of the thing and nothing I’ve ever driven attracts as much attention as this cool little jeep.
The interior is basic, as you’d expect. The vinyl bucket seats are simple and rugged and have probably been re-covered a few times given the slightly mismatched upholstery. There’s actually a reasonable amount of leg room with the driver’s seat in its most rearward position (there are two positions: near and far) and it doesn’t take long to feel comfortable behind the wheel. The three spoke steering wheel is connected to surprisingly lively and direct steering and the shifter is light and easy to use, not crunchy and awkward. Controls are simple, with a big kill switch that functions as ignition, a simple hand brake, and a secondary lever on the transmission tunnel that manages the 4-wheel-drive system. The gauges are all operational, including the ammeter that measures the condition of the 24-volt electrical system, and ALL the lights can be switched off (including brake lights) so you’ll have to familiarize yourself with their operation before driving. There are a half-dozen warning labels and signs throughout, advising young soldiers not to do anything stupid while behind the wheel, but we find it to be very user-friendly and the updates to the M-151A1 make it feel agile, not spooky. The heater works properly, the siren blows as loudly as you can stand, and with seat belts, even the kids are OK going for a ride. The various radios and electronic devices are still intact, including all their cables, microphones, and other accessories, and this M-151A1 comes with an original-spec jumper cable that connects this jeep to a sister unit for easy jump starts using a port on the right front fender (remember that it’s got a 24-volt electrical system). We have not tested any of the electronic gear, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it works, and it even comes with original canvas covers for the radios. We were having fun with this little truck before we even got it on the road!
Being on the road is actually a great deal of fun. With a featherweight 2300-pound curb weight, the 141 cubic inch inline-4 doesn’t have a lot of mass to move so performance is energetic. These were designed to be waterproof for the most part, and while this one does not have the deep water fording kit, the entire engine is sealed, from the heavy-duty air cleaner to the armored spark plug wires to the sealed distributor and carburetor. It shows 34,859 miles and we have no problem believing that’s a correct figure given the overall condition—after all, nobody was taking these on cross-country vacations. The sturdy little four fires quickly and easily with some choke and a stab at the starter button located under the clutch and after that, it’s ready to party. It feels totally indestructible and pulls eagerly through all four gears, although you can ignore first gear on pavement because it’s just not needed. The only non-Army-spec pieces are the Fram oil filter (available at any auto parts store) and a fuel filter, which is a good idea on any hobby vehicle that sees limited use. Otherwise, get in and go!
The aforementioned 4-speed shifts easily and clutch action is light, so it’s easy to drive for just about anyone. The brakes are unassisted drums but they’re plenty powerful with so little weight to manage and the steering is communicative and direct, although the mil-spec tires make it prone to a bit of wandering on pavement. The exhaust has a nice 4-cylinder grumble and the little guy zips to about 50 MPH where it seems happiest. In fact, there’s a warning label indicating that 50 MPH is the maximum speed, although that was likely to protect those accident-prone rookie privates more than because of mechanical limitations. The undercarriage shows no evidence of having been cut and re-welded and it’s quite clean overall, just like the engine bay. The mil-spec tires are 7.00-16 Mansfields that look right, but they’re showing a bit of age so if you’re going to use this jeep for anything but parades and shows, a fresh set of rubber might be in order.
I’ve rarely enjoyed driving a vehicle as much as this cool MUTT. It’s energetic, fun, and durable, and there’s nothing like the looks you get from other drivers, particularly as they notice that giant .50-cal perched on top. For parades, re-enactments, and other veteran’s events, it’s an A-list celebrity and given the growing interest in military equipment and history, it’s an awesome addition to any collection. I can’t say enough good things about this neat little jeep because it does everything you want a hobby vehicle to do and it does them exceedingly well. Since when has history been this fun? Call today!