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Drab Is Good: Buying A Surplus Army Truck

Posted in Project Vehicles on January 1, 2012
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There’s no disputing the fact that military vehicles are cool. They are the very definition of stripped-down ruggedness and they’re designed to function in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. If you’re drooling to drive some of them, the fastest way would obviously be to join the armed forces. Yes, this will probably get you in the military’s newest stuff. But is there another way? Turns out, there is. You see, over the years the U.S. government has auctioned decommissioned vehicles (as well as a whole bunch of other stuff) to the general public. This is often referred to as “surplus,” though the reality is that it’s more like “stuff we don’t need anymore.” Be aware though that any vehicle or thing deemed unsafe for public use (or unsafe for public roads) is rendered inoperable. Many types of vehicles that make us wheelers olive drab with envy have been sold, and they range from SUVs to pickups to even larger vehicles.

Naturally, the first vehicle that comes to mind is the Humvee. Do you fantasize about a retired Up-Armor Humvee parked in your driveway next to the boat and minivan? Well, good luck with that. We have been told that no serviceable Humvees are supposed to be sold outside the military. With that said, there have been some Humvees sold at public auction, but it’s very rare. You can find some Humvees for sale on the Internet, though they’re very expensive.

If you desire a rugged, affordable, retired military vehicle, we’ve compiled a few of the most popular along with their specifications (as best as we can determine). There are actually a number of places to purchase these decommissioned military vehicles and they’re only a few clicks away on the Internet. You can peruse a list of some of them in the accompanying sidebar. One of the leading sources is Boyce Equipment in Ogden, Utah. Boyce has been in business for over 40 years and the company knows the ins and outs of military vehicles. Boyce’s knowledge is astonishing and the company offers turnkey trucks as well as a vast number of parts. Boyce can put you in a titled, ready-to-drive military vehicle and the company can support you with parts after the sale. Boyce even offers custom vehicles like the M35A2 Bobber that you have to see to believe.

So whether you’re looking for a daily driver, cool trail machine, or you just want to drive the most unique rig in your neighborhood, you may want to consider a military truck. The only thing drab about these rigs is the paint.

The M1009, based on the Chevy Blazer, was one of the Commercial Cargo Utility Vehicle (CUCV) program vehicles that provided the military with a light utility vehicle that was less expensive than the purpose-built vehicles the military had been using. GM provided these vehicles from 1984 to 1986. The M1009 was often used for tactical mobility or as a command and control vehicle. It’s basically a ¾-ton Blazer and it used the heaviest-duty GM springs available for the chassis. Under the M1009 is a pair of six-lug, GM 10-bolt axles. Power came from a naturally-aspirated 6.2L diesel engine and it was fed through a durable TH400 three-speed automatic transmission to a chain-drive NP208 transfer case. The M1009 had dual alternators because the vehicle had a 12/24-volt electrical system. If you buy one of these don’t expect carpet or air conditioning because they don’t have either one. Some of their included equipment did include gun racks, front and rear shackles bolted to reinforced framerails, and a pintle hitch. If you’re thinking of purchasing an M1009 inspect the 10-bolt axles to make sure the axletubes haven’t spun in the centersection (it can happen) and plan that the centrifugal force-triggered Gov-Loc differential probably won’t work. Also check the NP208 transfer case chain condition and make sure the thin aluminum case isn’t damaged. If the truck came from the Rust Belt, check the body tub floor and rockers to make sure they aren’t rusted through because this is a common problem. Also, don’t be surprised if the glow plugs have swelled, as this is also a common problem and can make removal challenging, though not impossible. M1009 pricing varies depending on the condition and the seller. Average Boyce Equipment pricing for a stock, titled, drivable M1009 is approximately $5,500.

The Details
Model: M1009
Engine: 6.2L V-8 diesel
Displacement (in): 379
Horsepower/torque: 135/240
Transmission: TH400 3-spd auto
Transfer case: NP208 2-spd
Low range ratio: 2.60:1
Crawl ratio: 19.9:1
Axles f/r: Corporate 10-bolt/Corporate 10-bolt, Eaton Gov-Loc
Axle ratio: 3.08:1
Brakes f/r: Disc/drum
Electrical system: 12/24-volt dual voltage w/100-amp alternator
Tires: 10.00R15.0LT
Length/width/height (in): 191.8/79.6/74.9
Weight (lb): 5,200
Fuel capacity (gal): 27
Top speed (mph): 55

The M715 1¼-ton truck, based on the Jeep Gladiator, was produced by Kaiser Jeep from 1967 through 1969. It replaced the Dodge M37 and its successor was the Dodge M880. The vehicle saw service mostly in Vietnam and Korea. It had several variants including the M724 cab/chassis, M725 ambulance, and M726 telephone maintenance truck. The M715 used a militarized Tornado 230ci I-6 engine and it was backed by a heavy-duty Borg-Warner T-98 top-load four-speed manual transmission that had a 6.39:1 First gear ratio. A divorced NP200 transfer case offered a 1.97:1 low range ratio. Combined with the 5.38:1 axle ratio, the M715 had a crawl ratio of 67.7:1. The trucks body varied slightly from the civilian Gladiator and the bed was specific to the military. Today, M715s are getting harder to find due to their long-gone production date, but they’re still out there. If you’re considering buying an M715, give the Tornado engine a thorough inspection because due to high rpm’s created by the 5.38:1 axle gearing they have been known to tire quickly if driven on the highway a lot. Also be aware that both the front and rear axles are open so you’ll want to get a locker or limited-slip differential. Finally, the thick spring packs made for a rough ride and little flex. M715 pricing varies depending on where you find ’em and what condition they’re in. Average Boyce Equipment pricing for a stock, titled, drivable M715 is in the $5,000 range.

The Details
Model: M715
Engine: Tornado I-6
Displacement (in): 230.5
Horsepower/torque: 140/210
Transmission: Borg-Warner T-98 4-spd manual
Transfer case: Divorced NP200 2-spd
Low range ratio: 1.97:1
Crawl Ratio: 67.7:1
Axles f/r: Dana 60/Dana 70 full-float
Axle ratio: 5.38:1
Brakes f/r: Drum/drum
Electrical system: 24-volt (two 12V batteries in series)
Tires: 9.00x16.0
Length/width/height (in): 220.75 (with winch)/85.0/87.7 (with cargo cover)
Weight (lb): 5,180
Fuel capacity (gal): 28
Top speed (mph): 55

Like the Blazer-based M1009, the Chevy pickup-based M1008 cargo truck was also a member of the CUCV program. It was manufactured from 1983 through 1986 and shared some commonalities with the M1009, like the 6.2L diesel engine, TH400 transmission, and NP208 transfer case. The main driveline difference was in regards to the axles. Up front, it used an open-diff Dana 60 that sported manual lockout hubs. Out back, it was fitted with a Detroit Locker-equipped a Corporate 14-bolt. The M1008 was also offered in a variation called the M1008A1, which was fitted with an additional 100-amp, 24-volt generator and communications kit. It’s said that the M1008 had a weight distribution of 55 percent front and 45 percent rear. The bed could be fitted with a folding cargo cover with bows that could be used to cover the cargo box or it could be outfitted with troop seats that would seat up to eight personnel. If you’re looking at purchasing an M1008, check the NP208 transfer case for chain wear or aluminum housing damage, and inspect the body for corrosion in the floorpan and rocker area. Also plan to possibly have problems replacing the 6.2L engines glow plugs due to swelling of the heating element. Pricing varies depending on condition and source. Average Boyce Equipment pricing for a stock, titled, drivable M1008 is approximately $6,800.

The Details
Model: M1008
Engine: 6.2L V-8 diesel
Displacement (in): 379
Horsepower/torque: 135/240
Transmission: TH400 3-spd auto
Transfer case: NP208 2-spd
Low range ratio: 2.60:1
Crawl ratio: 29.4:1
Axles f/r: Dana 60/GM 14-bolt, Detroit Locker
Axle ratio: 4.56:1
Brakes f/r: Disc/drum
Electrical system: 24-volt (two 12V batteries in series)
Tires: 235/85R16
Length/width/height (in): 220.7/81.2/75.4
Weight (lb): 5,900
Fuel capacity (gal): 20
Top speed (mph): 55

For those of you who need to own a classic American military truck, take a look at the M35A2. It’s part of the family of trucks that have been nicknamed the “Deuce-and-a-Half,” and they’ve been a major player in American military history since the original M35 was trotted out to replace the M135-series in the mid-’60s. There have been a significant number of variations of the M35, but the M35A2 is arguably the most common. The M35A2 can be powered by the multifuel LDT 465-1C I-6 diesel engine, which in addition to diesel fuel, can run on a wide variety of fuels including jet fuel, kerosene, heating oil, and even gasoline (when mixed 15:1 with a quart of clean motor oil). Power is routed through a Spicer 3053A five-speed manual transmission (with 6.00:1 First gear) and split by a divorced, cast-iron, gear-driven, 400-pound Timken T136-27 air-operated transfer case (more desirable than the Timken T136-21 sprag-style transfer case) to the trio of Rockwell 2½-ton axles. Braking is via an air-assisted-hydraulic braking system. If you’re looking to purchase an M35A2, start by finding one that runs, because towing a rig of this weight isn’t easy. Inspect the fuel filter O-rings because they can wear out and let air into the fuel system, which can create a loss of power. Also check to make sure that the air compressor is working correctly because among other things it assists the brakes. Another area of wear can be the axle pinion bearings. These vehicles were also known for having rust in the cab corners and the battery box. Pricing varies depending on condition. Average Boyce Equipment pricing for a stock, titled, drivable M35A2 is approximately $7,000. FW

The Details
Model: M35A2
Engine: LDT 465-1C I-6 multi-fuel turbodiesel
Displacement (in): 478
Horsepower/torque: 140/305
Transmission: Spicer 3053A 5-spd manual
Transfer case: Timken T136-27 2-spd, air-actuated
Low range ratio: 2:1
Crawl ratio: 80.6:1
Axles f/r: 2½-ton Rockwell/2½-ton Rockwell
Axle ratio: 6.72:1
Brakes f/r: Drum/drum
Electrical system: 24-volt (two 12V batteries in series)
Tires: 9.00x20
Length/width/height (in): 277/96/112
Weight (lb): 13,530
Fuel capacity (gal): 50
Top speed (mph): 55

Where To Get ’Em
If you’re chompin’ at the bit for a military vehicle, parts, or general information, here’s a list of websites that should be of some help. These are some of the many sites we found after simply using a public search engine.

Bid on your own?
If you feel adventurous, you can bid on vehicles yourself at The company bills itself as “Uncle Sam’s Retail Outlet,” and it handles government surplus like military vehicles. Bear in mind that if you are the winning bid you will be responsible for removing the vehicle from the base where it’s located, whether it runs or not, in the timeframe provided. You’ll also be responsible for getting the vehicle legal in your home state. If you think this is for you, log onto the website and carefully read the FAQ section, which explains the procedure in detail.


Boyce Equipment
Ogden, UT 84401

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