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Buying Jeep 2 1/2 Ton Military Trucks - Buying Big

Hill Shot
John Cappa | Writer
Posted January 1, 2009
Photographers: Clifton Slay

How To Buy A 2 1/2-Ton Military Truck

For as little as $0.04 a pound you can own one of the coolest Jeeps ever built by the Kaiser-era Jeep Corporation. That's pretty cheap when you consider that the steel the Jeep is made from is worth more than that as scrap metal. Dollar for dollar there is no other truck that even compares to the 21/2-ton M35A2 military cargo/troop carrier also known as a Deuce and a Half or Deuce. They are extremely common, replacement parts are readily available and in most states you don't need a special license to drive the 13,000-pound Jeep. Over the years the M35A2 was built by both Kaiser-Jeep and AM General, although they remain virtually the same and most parts interchange. The M35A2s were built in the '60s and '70s and most were refurbished in the '80s. Later on many were rebuilt a third time into M35A3s which feature air-assist steering, a Caterpillar engine, an automatic transmission, and a Central Tire Inflation System (CTIS) with super-single double-beadlock wheels among other things. The M35A3s are also a little more difficult and expensive to acquire. For now, we'll focus on the less costly and more common M35A2.

Check the floors and steel top for rust. The driver suspension seat typically needs attention of some kind but when it's working properly it makes a big difference in driver comfort.

Start Your Search
There are several ways to purchase your 2 1/2-ton military truck. The least expensive route is by auction. Government Liquidation offers numerous trucks all over the nation at any given time. However, these trucks can vary in condition from a running driver to a complete basket-case parts truck. If you choose to purchase from the auction, be sure to inspect the truck before placing your bid. As with any used vehicle purchase you should check for worn tires, missing parts, major leaks and inspect the fluids for any potential problems. And if you win the auction be prepared to add engine and gear oil, top off coolant and DOT 5 brake fluid, and replace batteries if need be. Also, if the truck has been sitting for a long time, make sure the air-over hydraulic brakes still work and that there are no major air leaks in the system. It's not uncommon to require a tow to get your new truck home from auction.

The slightly more expensive route is to purchase a truck through a commercial business such as Boyce Equipment or Memphis Equipment. And even though you are paying a premium, you end up with a truck that has been gone through by someone with military truck experience. These are drivers. And then there is always a purchase through a private party. These privately-owned trucks can be found on websites such as and

Before plunking down the cash for your new ride, make sure the current owner has a title, or at least all the paperwork you'll need to register it in your state. In some cases your M35A2 can be registered as a historical vehicle. This type of registration is much cheaper in California for example, but there are on-road limitations for the use of the truck.

Your truck should come with a spare tire and mount. Also inspect the fuel tank for dents and leaks. It's not all that common, but the pioneer tool kit (not pictured) with a pick and shovel is a bonus. The kit mounts next to the spare tire

The interior of the M35A2 is strictly bare bones. And unless you live in a really cold climate, as in sub zero temperatures, you won't need the optional heater found on some trucks. The engine heats the steel firewall and floor very nicely, both of which have zero insulation. So of course in hot climates, you'll be feeling it. As with any vehicle, make sure the gauges work. And if you can, find a truck with low miles, preferably less than 10,000 miles. But even a well-maintained truck with high miles can be a good deal. Keep an eye out for rust on the cab floor. Leaky door and window seals often lead to rust holes near the kick panels if the truck is from a wet state. The windshield frames, cowl area, and steel hardtop seams also have rust potential so look closely for holes and bubbling under the paint. And while you are looking for corrosion, don't forget to inspect the battery box and its mounts on the passenger side of the truck. This area is often a mess from leaky batteries. Upgrade to dry cell batteries whenever possible.

Consider the seat cushions wearable items. Many trucks have seats with holes in them or flattened padding. The newer more-desirable driver-side suspension seat has a coil spring and a shock built into it. The hardware often comes loose or is missing but parts are easy to come by. A properly functioning suspension seat makes the drive in a Deuce much more tolerable. If you can, also check the air-operated windshield wipers. They are prone to failure.

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