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1964 Jeep M-677: The Marines Needed A Few Good Jeeps- And Got One

Posted in Features on January 17, 2017
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Dedicated to the late Dan Horenberger, a pillar in the FC community.

Yeah, we know. “Dogfaces” are Army and Marines are not, but what do you call a Marine Corps Jeep that looks like a bulldog?

The Jeep Forward Control debuted as a civilian model light truck for the ’57 model year in two ratings, the 1/2-ton FC-150 and the 1-ton FC-170. They were innovative, unique in the American market and Jeep had high hopes for them. After a brief sales spurt, they didn’t set any sales records. There were many reasons for that, mainly the FC being a little ahead of the market trends and perhaps a little off target. By the early ’60s, the FC’s future was not bright and Jeep had placed their bets on a new line of SUVs and trucks to be called Wagoneer and Gladiator.

The early ’60s were also a time of change for all branches of the United States military. The Cold War upgrades of the ’50s were ready for another evolution, and a new batch of tactical light truck designs were appearing and manufacturers were vying for production contracts. Kaiser Jeep was working on an entrant in that contract battle but those efforts hadn’t moved very far by 1962 when they learned the USMC was also looking for non-tactical garrison vehicles. They still needed to have four-wheel drive and meet certain military criteria, but they could be based on civilian trucks. Since the Navy Department was already using Jeep FCs and the current cool-concepts in military vehicles were forward control designs, it seemed a safe bet to offer a militarized FC-170 and extend the sales of the Forward Control a little

Dan DeVries bought this truck in 2004 in, more or less, original condition. It had been used as a Civil Defense vehicle in Tennessee and was still painted white. It isn’t clear where it served in Marine livery but was likely Camp Lejune as another M-677 in the same Civil Defense outfit came from there. It took Dan just four days more than one year to bring it back to original. Mechanically, it needed very little. It bears the original military registration, but the USMC did not commonly put unit markings on non-tactical vehicles so its unit assignment may never be known. It was delivered in August 1964 and could have been released to the Civil Defense as early as 1969. It now has a skosh more than 10,000 original miles.

One of the biggest development obstacles was the USMC’s demand for a diesel powerplant. They were moving in that direction because, as the nation’s fast reaction amphibious force, their vehicles were loaded aboard Navy ships fueled and ready to roll. World War II had given the Navy and Marines an object lesson on the vulnerability of a ship or landing craft loaded with vehicles full of gasoline. The USMC had diesel on their minds for a long time but being eternally on the hind mammary-gland of the procurement line, they didn’t have the budget for a quick changeover.

Internal Kaiser Willys documents shows a tactical version of the FC was also considered as early as 1962 and some rough drawings made rounds of the engineering department. Beside a diesel powerplant, the idea of using Willys’ new independent suspension front and rear was discussed, as well as 11.00-18 radial tires and a low-profile open-topped, doorless cab with a fold-down windshield. These discussions were relatively short before primary emphasis returned to using the J-Series trucks as the backbone for the tactical project.

Fortunately, in the case of the military FCs, the diesel answer was clear. Cerlist Diesel, Inc. had started business in 1956 and was producing very innovative loop-scavenged two-stroke diesels. The engine design was a collaboration between American Peter Cerf and AVL, an Austrian company founded by Dr. Hans List (Cer-List- get it?), a pioneer in diesel technology. The Cerlist was a modular design and Cerlist planned for two and three-cylinder inlines, as well as V-4, V-6, and V-8 diesels, each modular cylinder developing approximately 25 hp from a 4x4.5 bore and stroke (about 57ci per cylinder).

The North Carolina-based engine company was looking to sell engines in every possible venue, and when the Jeep FC project came along, it developed an automotive version of their 3C engine. The three-cylinder diesel displaced 170ci and made 85 hp at 3,000 rpm. It could grunt out 170 lb-ft of torque at 1,900 rpm. Best of all, though it was still a relatively large and heavy engine (for a three-banger especially), it could still replace the gas 226ci six as a package.

Room for eight in a 6-foot bed. The M-677 came standard with fold-up troop seats and left the factory with a Gem-Top aluminum cap. Dan has his, but it’s badly hail dented and he prefers to offer open-air thrill rides. The heavy bumpers, pintle hitch, bumperettes, and bumper-end tie-downs were all part of the USMC requirements. Rated weight capacity was around 2,250 pounds, including humans. The original 7.50-16 Goodyear Hi-Miler Xtra-Grip tires were typically replaced in service with 7.50-16 non-directionals.

As the project developed, it morphed into four models: the M-676 (basically a standard FC-170 cargo pickup), the M-677 four-door cargo pickup, M-678 carryall, and M-679 ambulance. All shared the same 7,000-pound GVW chassis, three-speed Warner Gear T-90 gearbox, Spicer 18 transfer case, Spicer 44 front axle, and Spicer 53 rear axle. Added to the mix were 24V electrics and standardized military wiring, lighting and switches. The Marines also had some specific tie-down and lifting requirements for their vehicles. The rest of the trucks were pretty standard FC, modified as needed.

The first M-series FC test units were built in 1962, but the majority was manufactured in 1964. The exact production numbers are not clear, but the best estimates run in the 400 range. The majority of them were the M-677, which was most popular as a flightline vehicle at Naval and Marine Air Stations. It could carry aircrews and their gear to the flightline or service crews and their gear.

The military FCs were in service a relatively short time, with the first being released in the late ’60s. There are few clues remaining as to why their work life was so short. As vehicles, they had few vices in the context of the time period. It could be because FC production ended at the end of 1964, about the same time the military contracts were fulfilled. Some available remaining documents hint that Kaiser Jeeps fixation on the XM-715 program left the FCs to wither on the vine.

If you are interested in the military FC and civilian Forward Control community, swing by their FC Connection website thefcconnection.com. One or two get-togethers occur annually.

The Details:

Vehicle: ’64 Jeep M-677
Owner: Dan DeVries
Engine: 170ci, three-cyl diesel, Cerlist Model 3C
Power (hp @ rpm): 85 @ 3,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 170 @ 1,900
Bore & stroke (in): 4.0 x 4.5
Comp. ratio: 22:1
Transmission: Three-spd, Warner Gear T-90
Transfer case: Two-spd, Spicer 18
Front axle: Spicer 44, w/Powr-Lok
Rear axle: Spicer 53, w/Powr-Lok
Axle ratio: 4.88:1
Tires: 7.50-16, (OE Goodyear Hi-Miler Xtra-Grip)
Wheelbase (in): 103.4
GVW (lb): 7,000
Curb weight (lb): 4,750
Fuel capacity (gal): 22
Min. grd. clearance (in): 8.875
Approach angle (deg.): 40
Departure angle (deg.): 30

There is room for five inside (maybe six), and getting into the back is easy with the large doors. The engine box is huge (much bigger than for the gas engines) and makes a great table. The seats are comfortable by military standards. The batteries are contained in a box behind the driver, and the air filter also mounts inside the passenger compartment on the right—conveniently but noisily.
The Cerlist 3C is a loop-scavenged, two-stroke diesel. That means is doesn’t have intake or exhaust valves and it breathes via ports machined into the cylinder liners that are uncovered at different points in the piston stroke. A mechanically driven blower, much like those used on the legendary General Motors two-strokes of the past, pushes air into the cylinder and also pushes out the last of the exhaust from the previous firing event. The piston moves up, covering the intake and exhaust ports and beginning the compression stage. When the engine reaches the injection point, the Roosa-Master rotary injection pump releases a load of fuel to the injector, which pops at 1,750 psi and with the superheated air compressed 22 times, the diesel fuel fires. Often, the injection pump on the Cerlist engines were hardened internally so they could run fuel with no lubricity additives. The Cerlist was often called a “multi-fuel” because it could run fuel of all types, #1 or #2 diesel, 80 octane gasoline, heating oil, jet fuel, kerosene, and many other fuels. By the late ’60s, the Cerlist company was struggling and Waukesha engine bought them and continued production of engines and spare parts through the ’70s. Estimates are that about 10,000 engines of all types were built, the majority of them 3C models.
One of the design requirements was high mobility. To accomplish this, they fit the largest tires that would fit—7.50-16s—and mounted Powr-Lok limited slips front and rear. The D44 closed knuckle axle was virtually the same type as used in the civvy FC-170.
The Dana 53 was the “Dana 60” of the era. It had a fairly big 9.25-inch ring gear, but it only came as a semi-float, with tapered axles mounting a keyed wheel flange, just like the old Jeep D44. It used 1.31-inch, 20-spline ’shafts and was rated for a 4,500 pounds GAW.

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