Military Novelty: 1961 AMC Mighty Mite

When it comes to over-engineering, military vehicles are a good place to look for vehicles that may be crude in appearance but have had everything thrown at them from a component standpoint. Take this AMC Mighty Mite, which is one of the lightest military vehicles constructed to date: it features an air-cooled V4, fully independent suspension, on-the-fly 4WD and more. Find it here on craigslist with a $4,500 asking price, and thanks to Barn Finds reader Jay for the tip. 

We see the classic Willys Jeep pop up with some regularity as a vintage military vehicle hobbyist can easily buy and restore, but the Mighty Mite comes along far less frequently. The Mighty Mite came in a variety of wheelbases and was capable of reaching speeds of 65 mph. It has the ability to ford deep rivers and was buoyed by a novel floating system that allowed the drive wheels to function as paddle wheels. Getting one of these set up with the optional snorkel equipment would be my first order of business!

The original prototypes featured air-cooled motors developed by Porsche, which would push the cool factor way over the top. Still, an air-cooled engine developed by AMC is fairly unique as well, though I know little about its reliability or lack thereof. The seller says he is unloading this Mighty Mite due to having too many projects on his plate, and it currently won’t fire up because it needs the starter repaired (or potentially replaced). The good news is its aluminum body won’t rust while you figure out what’s needed to get the Mighty Mite to fire up.

The interior is bare-bones and utilitarian, but all appears to be there. I love the shifter coming out of the middle upright console – this thing looks like a hoot to drive. While I can appreciate vintage CJs and the military-spec versions, I would be all over a Mighty Mite if I was looking for such a vehicle to restore. The novelty both of the nameplate itself and the engineering behind it seal the deal for me. Have any of you ever driven a Mighty Mite?

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  1. Poncho

    Looks cool and I like the aluminum body idea. Just wish there were more and better pics, perhaps in the daylight.

  2. Poncho

    Just imagine how many Amphicars would be around yet if they built them out of aluminum.

  3. Jeff

    This is all kinds of cool, and appears to be in great shape. I’m no military buff, but the asking price doesn’t seem unreasonable at all to me.

    • AMXBrian

      Given that there are only 1,250 built plus 2,672 A1 variants and that it’s in relatively good shape I would say that’s a good price.

  4. Ralph

    These were smaller than the M151 Jeeps from the same era, I think the idea was that these could be air dropped or helicoptered into remote areas. They’re kinda rare.

    • That AMC Guy

      Yes, they were designed to be carried to the danger zone by helicopters. Then helicopters with bigger payloads became available and the Mighty Mite was obsolete after just a relative handful were built.

  5. JamestownMike

    Very cool……..but I’m sure getting parts for this would be an absolute NIGHTMARE! Try going to your local auto parts store to get a set of brake pads for it (or ANY part for that matter)!?! Probably why the price is so low??

  6. Beatnik Bedouin

    A buddy of mine has a restored one over here (NZ) that he and his wife regularly drive.

    These are quite cool machines…

  7. Sam Shive

    We had a few of these on the NAVY BASE. Never could get it stuck and we tried all the time. as they quit running they would use what was good to keep the others running. When the last one quit, DRMO wasn’t allowed to sell them cause they were not for use on a public road, so they cut them in half and sold them for scrap. Someone got lucky. Fun to have and just take it out and have fun with it.

  8. Karl

    The mighty mite, these were built with the primary purpose to be better at air mobility. The vehicle weighed like 1200 pounds wet, they had a proclivity for tipping over. The speed of 65 mph was extremely optimistic, 45 mph more realistic. The tricky part of owning the mite has to do with the engine and driveline. Aluminum electralosis/corrosion, there are only a few types of antifreeze and only distilled water is to be used. Parts used to be much more plentiful now days not so much, they are still out there but you have to look a little harder and expect to pay more.
    I collect military vehicles but never owned a Jeep ao anything like it, a few M37 pickups but otherwise only bigger trucks! One thing about who buys this is looking at the engine it’s not running, the electrical box is disconnected, why? The price isn’t bad depending on how much you have to put into it?
    Good Luck

    • Mikeshotrodshop

      Air cooled.

  9. Ralph

    I think one of these was the “Jeep” in the Disney Jungle Cruise ride for years……

  10. Jon Soons

    Absolutely must come with a cranking handle so no need for a starter motor.

  11. Bruce

    Is this still for sale?

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