Four Wheeler - - Contents -

Trail prep­per: the kitchen sink and then some

WE’VE ALL SEEN THEM. MAYBE YOU ARE ONE! You know, the guy that wheels with ev­ery spare part and tool known to man. When a rig breaks, he’s the first one to of­fer help weld­ing, fab­ri­cat­ing, re­plac­ing parts, or cre­atively corn­cob­bing. Those guys de­serve a hats-off, and at least a cou­ple of fire­side cold ones. How­ever, as im­pres­sive as they are, if Ma­rine veteran Tom Price ever shows up with this rig, they will be out­matched.

We all know the mil­i­tary has to oper­ate ve­hi­cles in re­mote ar­eas, away from nor­mal parts and re­pair fa­cil­i­ties. Most four-wheel­ers have done that too, of course. The mil­i­tary pre­pares by hav­ing the means to keep its ve­hi­cles up and run­ning no mat­ter what, and this 1969 setup shows how it was done in the Viet­nam War era. One thing four-wheel­ers don’t have is the added “fun” of be­ing shot at, strafed, or bombed.

The truck is one of the leg­endary M-809 Se­ries 5-ton 6x6s, an M-818 trac­tor to be ex­act. The M-809 se­ries was an evo­lu­tion of the M-39 5-ton truck that ap­peared in 1951. The M-809 truck came for 1969, and Tom Price’s is one of the early ones. They were of­fered in 11 main vari­a­tions: the M-813 cargo, M-813A2 cargo drop­side, M-814 long-wheel­base cargo, M-815 log­ging, M-816 medium wrecker, M-817 dump, M-818 trac­tor, M-819 wrecker trac­tor (a ro­tat­ing crane), M-820/M-820A1/M-820A2 ex­pan­si­ble vans, and the M-821 bridg­ing truck.

The M-809 se­ries was built by the com­mer­cial prod­uct di­vi­sion of Kaiser Jeep at first, which be­came the Gen­eral Prod­ucts Di­vi­sion of Jeep Cor­po­ra­tion af­ter AMC bought Kaiser Jeep in 1970. It was re­named AM Gen­eral in 1971, and that en­tity sep­a­rated from Jeep in 1983 to be­come its own com­pany. Up­dated M-939 ver­sions of this truck built in the ’80s

are still in service and on the front lines. Incidentally, the 5-tons were of­ten se­lected to be gun trucks in Viet­nam, where they were used for con­voy pro­tec­tion. They hung ar­mor plate all over and mounted enough of­fen­sive ar­ma­ment to va­por­ize any­one stupid enough to at­tack a con­voy.

The 5-ton 6x6 has long been a cor­ner­stone of U.S. mil­i­tary trans­port fleets. It’s one of those “just-right” sizes that’s big enough for many heavy jobs but small enough to still get pretty far afield. The 5-ton rating is for

off-road use. On-road pay­load ca­pac­ity is 10 tons. The fifth-wheel trucks are a bit more ham­pered in cross-coun­try use when haul­ing a trailer due to the lim­ited an­gu­lar­ity of the fifth-wheel, so you aren’t likely to see Tom Price and his truck on Hell’s Revenge at Moab…but you might be sur­prised at just how far this rig could get up the trail with a skilled and de­ter­mined driver.

One of the big changes in the M-809 trucks from the older M-39s was the en­gine. The early trucks had a mix of mon­ster-sized gas en­gines, diesels, and mul­ti­fu­els. The M-809s all used an 855ci, 240hp Cum­mins NH250 nat­u­rally as­pi­rated diesel. The 855 is one of Cum­mins’ leg­endary pow­er­plants and was used in all sorts of ap­pli­ca­tions from trucks to trac­tors and con­struc­tion equip­ment. Later trucks have larger Cum­mins tur­bocharged en­gines but the same power rating.

The Ma­chine Shop Trailer also dates to 1969 orig­i­nally, but has been up­dated since. Tech­ni­cally, it was called “Shop Equip­ment, Gen­eral Pur­pose Re­pair, Semi­trailer Mounted.” In­stead of hav­ing an “M” num­ber, it had a let­ter des­ig­na­tion of SGPRSMD. This one was built by the South­west Truck Body com­pany, and they were still be­ing man­u­fac­tured by that com­pany years later. It could be is­sued to a va­ri­ety of units, from trans­porta­tion out­fits and ar­tillery units to en­gi­neers. An en­gi­neer out­fit with heavy equip­ment prob­a­bly used this one last, as it had some spe­cialty tools geared to­ward doz­ers and such.

The trailer has a 12kw, 240V gen­er­a­tor with a 100 per­cent duty cy­cle that also pow­ers a Ho­bart dy­namo­tor 200-amp welder. The gen­er­a­tor en­gine is a Her­cules D298 six-cylin­der diesel. The hy­drauli­cally op­er­ated clamshell doors can be at­tached to a tent that com­pletely en­closes the shop for cold or in­clement weather, and a 60,000-Btu diesel heater is part of the kit. Shop air is sup­plied by a two-stage elec­tric com­pres­sor with a 40-gal­lon tank. The ma­chine tools car­ried were some­what vari­able, but nor­mally in­cluded a lathe with a milling at­tach­ment, shop grinders, valve refacer, drill press, 17.5-ton press, 100-ton press, mono­rail hoist, oxy-acety­lene welder, work­benches, grinders, vices, and lots and lots of hand­tools.

Price, a Viet­nam-era Ma­rine, who was a me­chanic in the Corps and worked on rigs like this, has a vast and awe­some col­lec­tion of mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles—all of a type used by the Ma­rine Corps. Though this par­tic­u­lar truck and trailer were is­sued to the U.S. Army, the Marines used the same equip­ment, and Price presents them in Ma­rine liv­ery. Down the road, you are likely to see more of Tom Price’s col­lec­tion here in Back­ward Glances.

As far as semi trail­ers go, the shop trailer isn’t huge. Since mo­bil­ity in rough ter­rain is a fac­tor with all mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles and equip­ment, mak­ing them as com­pact as pos­si­ble is im­por­tant. The fifth-wheel on the M-818 is rated to pivot 21 de­grees up, 15 de­grees down, and 7 de­grees to the sides. Off-road, the fifth-wheel load is rated at 15,000 pounds, but on-road it’s 25,000.


|>The Kaiser Jeep M-818 is fully func­tional and ready to go any­where at a mo­ment’s no­tice. It was pur­chased sur­plus in 2004 to haul Price’s WWII LVT “Al­li­ga­tor” Am­track on a low­boy, but it wasn’t quite enough truck and he up­graded to an Oshkosh. At only 16 tons though, the shop trailer is a breeze for the 5-ton! Tom added the ring mount for a .50 cal­iber M-2 ma­chine gun, some­thing that would only have been seen on a truck op­er­at­ing near the front lines. The early M-39 and M-809 se­ries trucks are very sim­i­lar in ex­ter­nal ap­pear­ance, but one quick give­away is the big fender-mounted air fil­ter on the M-809 se­ries trucks. Though not all vari­a­tions of the M-809 truck had winches, the M-818 did. Stan­dard ford­ing depth is 6.5 feet.

<-The shop trailer is 30 feet long and weighs 31,000 pounds. It was re­built in the early ’80s and was par­tially reequipped. You can see the tight, com­pact lay­out. The lathe is op­er­ated from the for­ward plat­form on this side, as is the 17-ton press. The air com­pres­sor is seen at the for­ward end of the plat­form. The gen­er­a­tor/ welder sits on the goose­neck. Price’s truck does not have the valve refacer in­stalled; it would have mounted near the acety­lene tank.

|>The Ho­bart welder/gen­er­a­tor con­trols are here. They called it a “dy­namo­tor” be­cause the gen­er­a­tor could run the welder or it could oper­ate from an ex­ter­nal 240V source us­ing a 50-amp, three-phase mo­tor. The fuel tank holds 55 gal­lons of diesel. That is one in­dus­trial-strength drill hang­ing to the left of the welder. The white-painted iron pieces are track pin jigs for the big press.

|>On this side you can see the big Pow­er­matic drill press that most of us would love to have in our home shops.

|>The 100-ton air-over-hy­draulic press swings out from the back and the mono­rail and chain hoist are nearby. Not all shop trail­ers have the big press. You can also see the mill at­tach­ment for the lathe on the wooden crate. Var­i­ous spe­cial tool­kits live in the boxes stowed wher­ever there is space.

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