March 27, 2023
About 10 years ago, the U.S. military replaced their M35A2 2.5 ton 6x6 “Deuce-and-a-half” cargo truck with a more modern design. Literally, thousands of these impressive trucks were subsequently auctioned off around the country. Many at little more than scrap metal prices. Prices you wouldn’t believe. While many were crushed for their value as scrap steel, a large number were scooped up by collectors, hobbyists and those looking for a simple yet rugged 6x6 truck that could run on just about anything you could pour into the fuel tank.
For those of you unfamiliar with the M35 series, it was originally designed by the REO Motor Car Company in 1949. The series consists of a wide number of variations and specialty models with the M35A2 cargo truck being the most common. This model, with winch, is 112 inches tall, 96 inches wide and 277 inches long with an empty weight of approximately 13,030 pounds.
The standard bed is 8 feet by 12 feet. The Deuce is powered by an LDT 465 in-line 6 cylinder turbocharged multi-fuel engine. The 478 cubic inch engine puts out 134 bhp and 330 ft-lbs of torque. The multi-fuel engine is designed to reliably operate on a wide variety of fuels, to include diesel fuel, jet fuel, kerosene and heating oil. Even gasoline can also be used in an emergency if motor oil is mixed in (one quart to 15 gallons) for proper injector pump lubrication. In typical military fashion, the truck features a 24-volt electrical system.
The Deuce normally runs on ten 9.00x20 tires and can haul 2.5 tons cross-country or 5 tons on the highway. Most trucks are fitted with an air-operated selectable transfer case. Hitting a switch on the dash engages the front axle and locks the transfer case. Brake system is air-over-hydraulic six-wheel drum with a driveline parking brake, although gladhands exist on the rear of the vehicle for connection to trailers with full air service and emergency brakes. Due to this brake system and GVWR under 26,001 pounds, the deuce can be driven without a commercial driver’s license outside of California. Top speed is approximately 55 to 60 mph. A 50- gallon fuel tank is standard, giving the Deuce a 400 to 500 mile range. Accessories include a soft top, hard top, cold weather kit, engine coolant or multi-fuel fired cab heaters, cargo covers, 10,000 pound PTO winch and even .50 caliber machine gun mounts.
Can you really buy a military multi-fuel 6x6 on the cheap? You certainly could. I scouted out some auctions in my area, bid on and won a 1968 Kaiser M35A2 in excellent running condition in Missouri. It had been rebuilt, needed nothing and had only 12,000 miles on it. While it originally cost the Government more than $43,000 in 1968, I got it for only $1,800. It starts easily, runs excellent and off-road performance for a truck of this size is impressive. I put in for a title, registered and insured it without issue. Now I have a reliable low mileage multi-fuel 6x6 for considerably less than the price of an FNH SCAR 16S.
In the ten years that have passed since I bought my M35A2, prices have, of course, gone up. Even so, many remain available from collectors and hobbyists who originally purchased them. Today, prices typically run from $4,000 to $15,000 depending upon the condition of the truck, the part of the country it is located and what modifications have been done to it. Along with the vehicles the government also sold off their remaining parts inventory. So parts and pieces are still readily available.
While at first glance the M35A2 is sure to raise the heart rate of any hardcore prepper, they are not for everyone. The design is very much from the late 1940s and early 1950s. The interior can be described as Spartan at best. It is virtually devoid of any creature comforts, and the cab is fairly cramped in spite of the size of the truck. It is also very loud when rumbling down the road, yell at the person sitting next to you loud. Hearing protection recommended loud. Plus, while this series of truck is fairly easy to work on, it’s not something you will get serviced by your local repair shop. Then there is storing it. You’ll need a fair bit of space in your driveway to park it.
Even so, they can be a useful draft animal in certain situations. If you have the ability to maintain one, and lack of A/C and any other creature comforts doesn’t put you off, you might consider one. They can haul a decent load and do surprisingly well off-road. Yes, they are slow and a bit underpowered by today’s standard. Even so, their multi-fuel engine is simple and reliable, and the 5-speed manual transmission is easy to shift. Here in Kansas, the terrain is perfect for one, and mine has performed very well. I have to admit they are also a bit fun to tinker on.
If you decide you might want one of these old draft horses, I suggest buying one in fairly nice shape. I also suggest purchasing one with the military 10,000-pound winch. Examine one carefully before laying your hard-earned money down. Many have been well used and abused. However, some excellent examples remain at surprisingly low prices. If the thought of owning an M35A2 6x6 makes you go hmmmm, I suggest checking out the Steel Soldiers Military Vehicles website. This is an excellent website with a wealth of information on all aspects of these trucks, parts and accessories.
This article was originally published in Be Ready magazine. You can find the original magazine on the OSG Newsstand. If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.