The AMC Mighty Mite is a rare relic from the Vietnam War. In the 1950s, the Marines needed a lighter-than-Jeep vehicle for Vertical Envelopment Operations in Southeast Asia. AMC got the military contract for an approximately 1,700-pound, 1⁄4-ton 4x4. An air-cooled engine and an aluminum body allowed the Mighty Mite to fit within helicopter payload limitations.
Approximately 4,000 Mighty Mites were manufactured between 1959 and 1962. The initial 1,045 were the 65-inch-wheelbase M422 model. Production then shifted to a more comfortable 71-inch-wheelbase M422A1.
AMC won the military contract over MARCO (which did much of the Mighty Mite development using ex-Bantam BRC engineers) largely because of the AMC V-4 air-cooled engine. It produces 55 hp and uses a single-barrel Holley carburetor. A snorkel kit and waterproof 24V electrical system give the Mighty Mite a 60-inch fording depth.
The gearbox is a three-speed manual with integral transfer case. This single-speed transfer case has a 5.24:1 First gear, serving as a fourth forward gear when the shift-on-the-fly 4WD is engaged.
Suspension is weight-saving four-wheel independent with quarter-elliptical springs. Marines apparently raved about its ride quality compared to leaf-sprung Jeeps.
This ’61 M422A1 is owned by Carl Casanova of Newbury Park, California. Carl’s grandfather bought it surplus in the 1960s. So far, Carl has only replaced the generator’s regulator (most of the mechanical parts are unique to the Mighty Mite.) He also upgraded the fabric-on-frame stock seats for forklift ones. Ammo-box tool storage was added in the rear corners.
Carl also owns a high-profile ’68 Pro Touring Camaro, which has received national media coverage. However, he says that the Mighty Mite commands infinitely more attention. One of his fondest memories was driving his dad, a WWII vet, in the Mighty Mite at Veterans Day parades.
Official records show that 3,922 Mighty Mites were built. Carl Casanova is a third-generation owner.
1961 AMC M422A1 Mighty Mite
Engine: 108ci air-cooled AMC AV-108-4 V-4
Transmission: NP4300 4-speed, integral single-speed transfer case
Front Axle: Dana 27, Powr-Lok, 5.38 gears, inboard brake drums
Rear Axle: Dana 27, Powr-Lok, 5.38 gears, inboard brake drums
Springs & Such: Fully independent, quarter-elliptical leaf springs
Tires & Wheels: 6.00-16 Coker/Firestone Ground Grip Military; 16x5 OE steel