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Reviving a Wartime Classic

Posted in Project Vehicles on May 1, 2000 Comment (0)
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Reviving a Wartime Classic
Photographers: Ken BrubakerBen Stewart
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Kaisers have always been easy to love. The M715 model was a militarized truck produced for general-purpose use in transporting cargo, personnel, weapons, and other military supplies and equipment. It was also used as a command and communication vehicle as well as a prime tow rig. The M715 has been used over all types of roads and cross-country terrain and has proven deep-water fording capabilities. According to the manufacturer, the M715 will ford water crossings to a depth of 30 inches, and with the addition of the deep-water fording kit, it will handle depths up to 60 inches.

When Mike Massey, a machinist by trade from Tabernacle, New Jersey, saw one such Kaiser sitting in a local salvage yard, he had more than water crossings on his mind. It didn’t take him long to revive this wartime classic and put it back in action. Since then, Mike has taken his M715 to the swamps of rural New Jersey and found there aren’t many places this 1¼-ton beast can’t go.

Mike first dreamed of building a bulletproof rig about 10 years ago, and at that time had envisioned a ’65 Chevy panel truck. However, while cruising the local junkyard (Friendship Used Auto Parts) in search of a project Chevy, he stumbled upon the old Kaiser. He described it to us as a “diamond in the very, very rough,” about which he recalls saying, “I’ve got to have this truck because it’s so damned unique.” Jimmy Zimmerman and Bruce Tatum (the owners of Friendship) accepted Mike’s ’78 Camaro in trade for the Kaiser, making him the proud owner of the M715.

The truck was in fairly bad shape, so Mike decided to do a full restoration—but not entirely back to stock. For instance, he started the project by swapping out the Jeep’s original six-cylinder engine with a Chevy 454ci big-block out of his Chevelle. To begin with, the stock V-8 was bored (0.040 over), balanced, and blueprinted at Medford Speed Shop in Vincetown, New Jersey. Combustion was increased with the addition of Keith Black Silvolite pistons, oval port heads, and Lunati valves and camshaft. A Holley dual-feed 750-cfm carb sits on top of an Edelbrock intake plumbed with customized BlackJack headers, 2½-inch pipes, and big-block Flowmaster mufflers. A modified wiring harness out of a ’70 Chevy pickup truck was used to connect the GM HEI distributor, ACCEL Super Coil, and Taylor Spiro Pro 8mm wires into AC Delco R4ST spark plugs. These beefy modifications send power to a Muncie SM465 transmission and a New Process 205 transfer case. Custom Dana 70s by Mike (front and rear) with Detroit Lockers, 35-spline Dana/Spicer shafts, and 5.87:1 gears provide major grunt and send torque to 44-inch Ground Hawgs on 16.5x14 steel wheels from Boyce Equipment.

Mike is a perfectionist when it comes to machine work and fabricating, so it’s no wonder he designed a custom four-wheel disc-brake setup (using GM calipers and rotors) to stop his 44-inch-tired hauler. A Saginaw power steering setup with crossover and a customized Skyjacker steering stabilizer replaced the manual system, enabling Mike to control those meaty 44s while Skyjackers on each corner damp the vibrations. The suspension consists of stock Kaiser leaf springs sprung over the axle and a shackle flip in the rear, Energy Suspension bushings, and a 3-inch body lift (cab only) provides extra clearance. Mike fabricated and installed steel bumpers to protect the Kaiser from trail hazards. The original 8,000-pound PTO winch on the front was tossed in favor of the big daddy, a 40,000-pound, 5-ton military-issue that was welded to the bed. Mike says, “Recovery is never an issue this way.” Since the M715 is equipped with a Chelsea PTO and 250 feet of 5/8-inch cable, that would be a difficult point to argue.

Although the stock OD green paint of the M715 is hard to beat, the Flame Red Limco acrylic enamel does this rig justice. If you see this weapons hauler coming up from behind, getting out of its way could be the best thing you do, all day.

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