There are two kinds of guys on the trail. those who bring a pair of vise grips and some zip ties and hope for the best, and those who bring everything necessary to rebuild an entire vehicle. Jeff Pichler definitely falls into the latter category with his 1957 M37.
Jeff’s M37 has the relatively rare V41 utility box option, so he worked with Max-Bilt of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to turn his truck into the ultimate Trail Recovery Vehicle (which explains the M-TRV stickers on the hood). This mobile workshop has all of the hardware necessary not only to fix other vehicles, but do plenty of off-roading in its own right.
While the original plan was to retain much of the factory drivetrain, in the end it was easier to upgrade to modern components than try and modify the 55-year-old stock components. A 383ci small-block Chevy from Chevy Performance Parts makes 340 horsepower and 435 lb-ft of torque out of the box with Vortec iron heads, a hydraulic roller cam, and a pump gas-friendly 9:1 compression ratio. Compare that to the 78 horsepower from the factory L-Head six-cylinder! The stroker engine is backed by am 2WD SM465 transmission that uses a spud shaft to mate the factory cast iron, gear-driven NP200 transfer case.
From there power is routed to a Corporate 14-Bolt rear axle with 5.38 Yukon gears, an ARB Air Locker, and disk brakes. Is there a better bang for your buck in beefy rear axles? Up front a kingpin Dana 60 front axle from a Dodge pickup is filled with 5.38 gears, an ARB Air Locker, Warn hubs, and a Max-Bilt diff cover. The Dana 60 turns from input from a PSC steering box from an International Scout application with a Bronco pitman arm. The draglink is made from 1.25-inch, 0.25-wall DOM tubing and uses 3/4-inch QA1 rod ends to connect the pitman arm to a Crane steering arm on the passenger side knuckle. The tie rod is in the factory location and retains GM one-ton tie rod ends.
M37s came from the factory with 34-inch-tall tires, so once there was enough power to turn them and enough axle to handle them, fitting big meats was not a problem. Jeff chose 40-inch Interco SS M16s mounted on Trailready 20x9 HD beadlock rims. The 40s fit with the stock leaf springs over the axles with help from new spring hangers in the front and a shackle flip in the rear. Fox remote reservoir shocks were added to smooth out the ride from the 55-year-old leaf springs.
Jeff was starting with a relatively rust free and incredibly stout truck, which limited the need for restoration and opened the door for fabrication. Max-Bilt designed a front bumper out of 1/4-inch plate and fit it with a Warn VR12000 winch. The mix of old and new includes the vintage grill flanked by Truck-Lite H4 headlights as well as the fold-out windshield beneath the Rigid LED lightbar. Inside the basic metal dash was retained; complete with the dash plaques on the glove box. Maxbilt added toggle switches for various functions and a gauge panel with Auto Meter gauges monitoring speed, water temperature, oil pressure, fuel level, and voltage. A modern stereo system sits concealed under the seats complete with four 10-inch subwoofers in a custom Max-Bilt enclosure. The stereo head unit is housed in a Max-Bilt Command Console nestled between the Corbeau suspension seats. The console offers security along with fused switched and modern 12-volt outlets.
The real magic happens behind the cab, where the V41 bed is filled with just about every tool possible but the kitchen sink. A fullsize spare tire shares bed space with an air compressor and a Miller Bobcat welder/generator, while the side boxes hold a power inverter, torches, hand tools, a vice, spare parts, and more. As well built as the truck is, Jeff is usually helping out others on the trail rather than working on his M-TRV. Get hungry or thirsty during the repair process? No problem, the M37 has a propane grill and a fridge on board too!
Clearly Jeff is the kind of guy that you want to have with you on the trail, and we were grateful when he joined us for our Fullsize Invasion in Moab, where we shot these photos. Keep an eye out for him on a trail near you, the M-TRV is tough to miss and if you find yourself in trouble there is no one better to have with you on the trail than this guy.