Thought on M35A2 AM General "Deuce and a Half", 2 1/2 ton Cargo Truck

   / Thought on M35A2 AM General "Deuce and a Half", 2 1/2 ton Cargo Truck #1  


Veteran Member
May 16, 2009
Kubota M4500DT, B200 backhoe
I'm curious on feedback on actually using the "deuce and a half" for heavy work, hauling trailers and dirt and the like. They seem fairly cheap to buy and I would guess there are Mil surplus parts available (tires, axels etc).

Just curious regarding how much time is spent working vs fixing and if it is at all worthwhile in this role.

   / Thought on M35A2 AM General "Deuce and a Half", 2 1/2 ton Cargo Truck #2  
All I can tell you is what I know from my father-in-law, he just retired from being a diesel mechanic for the air force for a very long time. (he was in the military and then after he got out he worked for them as a civilian.)

I asked the same question to him once and this is what he said.

1. Be careful of buying the cheap ones. What happens a lot of times is after the military is done with one, if its in good shape places like the forest service get first crack. The really cheap ones are the ones that are through the second or third tier owners.

2. A lot of time the problems with the trucks are not that they are wore out, but that they have been sitting for a long time. Seals get old from lack of use, flywheels rust up from no use and so on.

3. Parts can sometimes be a real headache to get. You can't just go down to your local parts store and pick up any parts you need. While some things you can get, some of the things you have to get from special wrecking yards or from the manufacture. Those parts can be EXPENSIVE.

They are tough trucks and pretty much unstoppable. Keep in mind though they are not geared to head down the highway at high speeds and the military tires don't have the best highway wear. In the right job role though they are great trucks.
   / Thought on M35A2 AM General "Deuce and a Half", 2 1/2 ton Cargo Truck #3  
I wouldn't buy the 2.5 for the simple reason it doesn't have power steering and the multifuel engine is not a standard in the civilian world. That steering will wear you out in a work situation. Go for the heavier 5 tons with Cummins engines. More payload, easier steering, and cheaper maintenance.
   / Thought on M35A2 AM General "Deuce and a Half", 2 1/2 ton Cargo Truck #4  
I really like the deuce and a half, but I wouldn't want one of my own. As long as the Army was buying the parts, it was a good truck, but I don't know where you're going to find a hydrovac (air assisted hydraulic brakes) if that part fails, and they do. The whole 24 volt electrical system is going to be a problem, too. Starters, generators, headlights, none of those are off the shelf parts at NAPA.
As was said, steering is a bear! And backing a trailer with one of these is right up there with I'd rather have a root canal.
The M35A3 has power steering and an automatic transmission, but it's not nearly as reliable as the A2 was.
   / Thought on M35A2 AM General "Deuce and a Half", 2 1/2 ton Cargo Truck #5  
I was going to buy one and actually drove it around for a few hours. It was the roughest riding vehicle I ever drove over the road. Another problem was it would only do about 50 MPH. The gear ratios in the transmission were very wide. I think it was a 5 or 6 speed. The air over hydraulic brakes are a PITA.

I bought my IH4800 4x4 dump instead and it's a lot more comfy, but it's not the beast that the deuce is, either.

It would take quite a bit of time & effort to get one set up for civilian useage, but once it was, it would make a tough, albeit slow and rough riding truck.
   / Thought on M35A2 AM General "Deuce and a Half", 2 1/2 ton Cargo Truck
  • Thread Starter
Is it possible the leaf springs were seized up from sitting ? The examples I have seen on auction typically had only 30k miles after 50 years of service ?? My 1968 series 2 land rover suffered from that mallady until I did a few hundred miles of washboard logging road, after that it was like a new vehicle ! (I did have to grease the leaves after that to stop the rust forming again). If the suspension stays too hard, one could start removing leaves until one liked it and add air bags for load. There have been substantial strides made in suspension design in the last 15 years, let alone 50..

I don't think I am too worried about the speed. I don't think one can compete with conventional freighters who will bid on moving whatever it is you have via sites like I am concerned about dealing with bad roads and have no idea "effectively" how a conventional semi tractor can deal with severe washouts and how the suspension articulation works on them. Also don't know if anyone actually makes lockers for semis for low traction situations. I'm sure some of the semis will have low enough gearing, but then one has to be sure ground clearance issues are addressed too.

What puts me off the dump trucks is that they are typically so high and the dump bodies are really heavy. My loader would never reach high enough to load a normal height dump truck. So for hauling sand and gravel, I will use a dump trailer exclusively, but these are heavy beasts loaded, and I'm not sure an F250/350 is going to be up to the job. Maybe if they actually have a 3/4 ton over the rear axle they would have some traction, but it could get interesting on the downward slopes... My limited experience is that one wants the biggest rolling diameter possible, and that usually goes along with big brakes...

I'm trying to think through the things that would be dealbreakers. If for example one could not get reasonably priced axle replacement parts, or if the supply of Mil surplus tires dried up, those would be very expensive consumeables. The transmission, if prone to breakage and expensive to fix could be an issue.

Power steering could be retrofitted, there are very much standardized systems out there today. Basically, it seems to be a fairly simple truck, not at all refined of course. It fits under the CDL requirement and could do so when towing a trailer, provided that the truck itself is not loaded too much. Besides which, on the roads I may need it on, I doubt anyone will be checking drivers licenses too frequently, let alone consider that the nearest truck scale is probably 70 miles away on I25.

It was the roughest riding vehicle I ever drove over the road. Another problem was it would only do about 50 MPH.
   / Thought on M35A2 AM General "Deuce and a Half", 2 1/2 ton Cargo Truck #7  
I think your best bet is to drive one as much as a seller of a deuce will let you drive it and see if you really like it.
   / Thought on M35A2 AM General "Deuce and a Half", 2 1/2 ton Cargo Truck
  • Thread Starter
Last summer I had an every weekend "commute" from Mid Michigan to Seward Nebraska, which was our only location with large enough equipment to make prototypes for a new large customer. Of course it was a "production" facility with no prototype shop or the kind of staff that goes with it. So every Friday night we packed the materials into our trusty Sprinter van and drove there all day Saturday. Sunday was the only day of the week we were allowed to use the production equipment during daylight hours. So we would work all day Sunday from 6am to 7pm then pack it all back up and start back to Michigan.

After that scene setting, here is the interesting part. After 2-3 weeks of the "commute" the sprinter developed a differential whine and was turned in to the dealer to fix. Took more than 2 weeks to fix, so the following weekend we needed a new ride. I hired an Isuzu NPR truck to do the job, signed all the paperwork, got the explanantion how the lift gate worked, and was on my way. Welll.. got onto I94 and at 60mph the front wheels got into an up and down and sideways resonance so bad that I couldn't stay in my seat ! The front tires were not only out of balance, they had been so for so long that they had multiple flat spots and the front shocks were toast. The rental company (Penske) sent me to a contract mechanic site where I waited from 5pm to 10:30pm for a tire service to come in and replace both front tires. I was pi--ed and bored, but was very impressed with the guy who did the job (once he arrived). It was one of those "brute force" jobs with tire irons and he made it look like changing a bike tire. I'm sure Arnold would have been proud of him, and the rest of us call him sir...

Anyway, next morning I got on the road and while the tires were now in balance, the shocks were still non existant. On asphalt, not really a problem, but throw expansion joints and concrete in there and it was punishment of the highest order. It was about 700 miles one way and before I was half done I called Penske and told them that if they didn't have a replacement truck with balanced tires and functioning shocks waiting the next day, I would leave their truck on the side of the road and take a hire car home. I was driving out with a coop and both of us would literally be airborn over expansion joints on I80 through Illinois, Iowa, and finally Nebraska.

The replacement truck actually had a suspension, but the engine was lame and I was already beat up from the previous days drive. It took nearly a month for the pain in my kidneys to clear up and it probably took a few years off the end of my life.

Now I will say that I spent over a year in Namibia on landmine clearing operations and spent a substantial part of that off road and never felt as uncomfortable as I did on that drive to Seward Nebraska. I think that people who own vehicles will simply not tolerate that things deteriorate to the level that the rental company allowed.

Builder, your experience is certainly a fair warning.
   / Thought on M35A2 AM General "Deuce and a Half", 2 1/2 ton Cargo Truck #9  
My 4800 is a rough ride not only because it's a 4x4, but it also has no factory shocks (not even any mounts for shocks for that matter).

I put air rides in it and that helped a lot. The stock seats were so harsh that you literally had to wear a football helmet to keep from laying your head open from bouncing off the metal ceiling.

I'd love to mount some front shocks on my 4800.

You might want to do some research ahead of time and see if anyone sells an air ride seat for the deuce. They do cut the rough ride down considerably.
   / Thought on M35A2 AM General "Deuce and a Half", 2 1/2 ton Cargo Truck #10  
I would say that it depends on your intended application. If you are going to be doing a lot of long distance hauling, I would say no - go with a more modern truck. If it is going to be shorter trips, more at your leisure kind of thing, I'd say go for it.

I started looking for a dump truck in the winter and couldn't find anything in my price range. I ended up with a 1970 Kaiser Deuce and half that I am going to install a hoist on this fall (if I get around to it). I can tell you, from my experience, there is some truth and some misconceptions that have already been posted in this thread. If you are serious about getting one, check out Steel Soldiers, and it will have all kinds of information about the deuce, 5 tons, and other military vehicles.

I drive mine around the farm and relatively short trips. I drove it home (about a 2 hour trip) and I personally wouldn't want to drive it a lot further at one time. However, I expect for about a 30 to 40 mile trip (one way) to be about the furthest that I am going to drive on a normal basis.

Don't get discouraged about it, but don't go into it blindly either. Very good trucks can be had for very low dollars, but you may have to contend with weeding out a few bad ones (just like buying any other used vehicle.

Good luck and take care.