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1968 Kaiser M-715 - 28 Days To Failure

Or How I Built The Evil Truck

Christian HazelPhotographer, Writer

If you read Cappa's "Impulse Deuce" story elsewhere in this issue (page 48), you probably got most of your Cappa/Hazel long-distance, nonessential vehicular purchase fix, so I won't go too heavily into why or how I drove 2,200 miles to buy a derelict '68 M-715.

As usual, I didn't need another Jeep, I didn't have room for another Jeep, and I didn't know what I was gonna do with another Jeep. I only knew the $800 asking price was under a grand, the rig had paperwork, and it was a Jeep. That alone was enough to activate the portion of my brain that overrides all reason. Before you could say "stupid idea" I had borrowed an '05 Power Wagon from the DaimlerChrysler press fleet, hooked up my trailer, snatched Cappa from his plastic above-ground swimmin' hole, and was speeding 1,100 miles to Boise, Idaho.

Other than forgetting to bring a map and getting slightly lost somewhere in northern Nevada, the trip was pretty uneventful. We throttled back to Southern California to Cappa's dirt farm where we unloaded the five-quarter and parted ways. Whether through pity or just to give the neighborhood rats a nice place to sleep, Cappa graciously stored my new hulk for a full year at his house, during which time I only laid eyes on it two or three times. I repaid his kind generosity with barbs about his hair gel and awkwardness with the opposite sex.

Then, almost a year to the day later as we parked Cappa's new deuce purchase next my M-715, I came up with the brilliant plan of dragging my crapbox home and getting it ready to drive from Southern California to Ouray, Colorado, in a month. What followed was the ultimate thrash fest with Murphy's Law rearing its ugly head at every corner. In the end, the truck didn't work and I was so physically and mentally washed out I came dangerously close to quitting my job to become a monk somewhere in the Himalayas. So read on to learn more about a vehicle I've since dubbed The Evil Truck.

The Evil Truck Highlights
So I paid $800 for a solid but incomplete '68 M-715 with inoperable brakes, no engine or T-case, and in need of a ton of work. Here are some highlights.

Previous owner shenanigans:
* Swapped-in Chevy 400 small-block and NP200 T-case yanked and discarded
* Rear shackle position flipped
* Scary lengthened front shackles installed
* Hood hinges missing
* Construction-steel front bumper and tow bar
* Mismatched tires
* 24-volt wiring pulled apart

Mail-order parts not available at local NAPA Auto Parts:
* Brake shoes PN 9333585-2530 (Memphis Equipment)
* Inner tubes PN 11430d and flaps PN84265 (International Tire & Tube)
* Front shackles (Saturn Surplus)
* Parts to get engine running (Summit Racing)
* 13/38-16 Super Swamper tires (Interco)
* Radiator (Radiators.com)
* Flywheel (Centerforce)

Timeline of a Meltdown
Week 1: Scramble to gather T-case, crossmembers, mail-order parts, clean out crap.

Week 2: Pick up junk engine donated by Hot Rod Magazine, reseal engine, assemble clutch, finish other story projects and articles for deadlines.

Week 3: Summer weather hits records with sustained temps of 115-degrees Fahrenheit and high humidity for entire week. Hit junkyard for miscellaneous parts. Install engine. Thrash on brakes.

Week 4: Have tires mounted as soon as inner tubes arrive. Make dozens of trips to parts store 15 miles away for correct radiator hoses, starter that works, and hundreds of other odds and ends. Fix incoherent wiring job. Waste three days trying to have stock radiator fixed. Get hassled for hours and hours at California DMV.

Night before departure: Rebuild carb twice. Replumb fuel system again. Swap leaking master cylinder. Take first test drive night before departure to discover engine would never make it.