Mystery Hauler: 1950 Military Truck

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The seller of this big old military truck claims it is a GMC “deuce and a half.” However, when I saw this truck, which is located in Durham, Connecticut and for sale on craigslist, I thought this might be something else altogether.

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For one thing, the famous “deuce and a half” was built during World War II and this truck is said to date from 1950, the Korean War era. In addition, the seller says it is equipped with an automatic transmission, which definitely means this truck is not a CCKW deuce and a half.

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So I did a little research on post WWII military haulers. At first I thought this truck to be a GMC M211, which was built as the successor to the CCKW, and which was known as the “Cadillac” of deuces – which is a considerably more modern two and a half ton truck, equipped with a 3o2 cubic inch GMC engine and yes, a purpose built hydramatic transmission with a dual range transfer case, enabling four forward gears.

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But then I noticed that this truck does not appear to have dual rear wheels, so now I believe it to actually be an M135, a six-wheel variant of the M211. According to the seller, this truck runs aside from a transmission problem and only needs cosmetics. That seems a bit optimistic, at least from what the pictures show. While the seat looks solid, the rest of the interior needs work. The body appears solid, but this truck has been sitting for awhile and probably will need some serious mechanical work to get moving again.

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As you can see in this picture from the US Army Transportation Museum, the M135 cargo bed featured wheel wells, while the M211’s bed did not.

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My research indicates that these trucks commonly experienced transmission issues. GMC built these to be easily serviced in the field, and they are, after all, hydramatic trannies, but it seems likely as purpose-built pieces, repairing this one may not be so easy.

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And while the asking price for this beast is only $1,500, it will take a dedicated restorer to bring this vehicle back to any sort of driveable condition.

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Can some of our more knowledgeable readers weigh in? Is this truck rare enough to warrant the effort required to put it back on the road? M-135s were manufactured from 1950 through 1955, but I was unable to find production numbers for these “round-nose jimmies,” as they were known.

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I suspect parts are available, but this will be an expensive and time-consuming undertaking, so perhaps it belongs in a military museum? It is a very cool old truck, and a bit of American military history that seems worthy of being saved. If you are interested in military vehicles like this one, I found a great article about these trucks on militarytrader.com.

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Comments

  1. Ben T. Spanner

    When I was in the Army stateside in 1968, National Guard units would show up for their summer camps with similar trucks. When troops were in the back sitting along each side, their helmets would clank together with each shift.

  2. Andrew

    Isn’t this a Federal 6×6?

  3. Dave at OldSchool Restorations

    The Duece ‘n a half continued LONG after WWII… We had them in our Combat Engineer Company in 1960-63 …along with the M1 Carbine , Garand, and 3.5
    I had a Military license for the M38a1, 3/4T, Duece/half, and 5T Wrecker…. the Duece was the best to drive for any distance.

    Thinking that these post War trucks are not ” Duece’s” would be like thinking an M38 is not a “Jeep” , so don’t get caught up in the Model designation

  4. Matt Tritt

    Right you are, Dave. All 2 1/2 ton 6X6 trucks were called duece and a half when I was in from 65 through 67. Most of ours were made by Studebaker in the 50’s, and they were far easier to handle than the somewhat miserable Dodge 3/4 – 1 ton pickup. The drawback to them was poor traction in mud compared to the contemporary German military MAN and Magirus/Deutz 3 ton trucks with “super singles” and locking differentials, which seemed unstoppable. This Jimmie has been left out a bit too long to be an easy restoration.

  5. Mike E

    We would have called any 2 1/2-ton 6×6 a “deuce-and-a-half.” I don’t think it was specific to any particular model. The longest running series, and therefore the most ubiquitous, has to be the M35 2 1/2 ton 6×6. It was manufactured by a number of different contractors over the years.

    Now let’s not get started on the “MUTT” vs. “Jeep” wars.

    • MSG Bob

      Not starting on Jeep V MUTT, but in my time in the Army Guard (1976-2001), we always called them “quarter-tons” – even after they put roll bars and lap-and-shoulder belts in them.

      I loved those things – wish they had sold them surplus instead of cutting them up – I suppose they were considered “unsafe at any speed”.

      I agree about The M35. they were all over the place, usually with White diesels and 4-speed manual trannys.

  6. Curt

    In early 1953, when I enlisted, I drove one of these ”Deuce and a Half” GMCs with automatic transmissions…6×6…6 wheels on the ground, all 6 driving.
    This was just at the end of the Korean thing, and stateside we got these brand new.
    Not a WW2 vehicle.
    Most fun driving I had until I got into Bird Dogs, Beavers, and Helicopters.

  7. Roger

    These type trucks a pretty popular out my way, especially with the military collectors which there seems to be plenty of. I do not believe these are all that valuable even in completely restored condition so if you were to try to go that route you would be underwater very quickly. With that said, I think the $1500 is a great price. It is relatively inexpensive and easy to retrofit later model running gear. Just as an example a mid to late 80’s 5.9 mechanical diesel running gear. Parts for the rears are readily available , albeit a little pricey . This is maybe in the top ten if projects I’d like to find time to do, but I’ve always wanted to restomod one of these – to take wheeling of course! ☺

  8. gearhead engineer

    I recognize this place. I live just a few miles away. This is the most reasonably priced pile I’ve seen them advertise. Most of the stuff sitting at this location is rough. This thing is mint in comparison. I don’t know how or if this guy makes money, since nothing seems to move.

    Even as rough as it is, you get a lot for $1500.

    If anyone is interested, I’m available to check it out for you.

    – John

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  9. ric Parrish

    This is an M135, Deuce and a Half. I have a 1952 M135. The 211 has duel rears, but 9.00 – 20 tires. The M135 has 11.00 – 20 tires, but single rears. We have an M211 in our Arizona Military Vehicle Collectors Club, it looks kind of doudy (if you know what I mean) compared to the 135, which sits much higher. One of our club members was in a motor pool, where he worked on these. He feels the cast iron hydramatic is almost bullet proof. One of our restoration magazines suggested the tranny got a bad rap, because the guys in the field were afraid of it and would drain the oil out of them so they could take a Studabaker-Reo. Some of the trans (including mine) used 10 weight motor oil and others heavy trany fluid. The GMC engines are quite strong. This one is surface rusted, but very complete. I prefer completeness over cosmetics, most guys sand blast a truck in this condition anyway. Parts are available. Sound looking truck for $1500.

  10. ric Parrish

    This 135 has a winch, big plus, it’s worth about the price of the truck. We had a ‘crate’ trans for sale at our swap meet a year or so ago, I don’t know where it went, wish I had bought it. Somebody in our club may have it. I have two 1953 Studabaker/Reos also, I guess I like them about the same. I prefer the gassers, but most guys stick multi-fuels in them since they bolt right up.

  11. AMX Brian
  12. John Hess

    I was in the Army Reserve 1955 to 1963, I was in Hq. Co. 390th AAA Bn. We had a couple of these GMC’s, a couple Studebakers and Reo’s, same truck, different horns. When in a convoy always put the GMC’s as the last truck, they couldn’t keep up W/all the shifting they did, if the driver relaxed his foot on the pedal it would shift, a real pain. With the singles it was a personel carrier where the duel rears pulled the guns and carried the ammo, but of course troops. The auto transmissions were sort of crude, reminded me of the Olds automatic. All these trucks were refered too as duece & 1/2’s, but the GMC was refered by a lot of other by not too nice things.
    Awful expensive to restore, think parts truck, my son’s got a 70’s 2 1/2, and he found out expence, then someone that will work on them.

  13. John.H

    The best thing about this BF is all of you who shared your experiences. Thanks to sll of you and to BF.

  14. Roger 01

    Everything I read is true except for the transfer case. It is a single speed, the tranny is duel range – 4 low and 4 high. I am wrestling with the transfer now trying to get more road speed out of it. By welding the input shaft to the R R axel output shaft and shifting the transfer case into neutral, my calculations tell me there is a gain of about 8 miles per hour. Add 48″ tires and that speed should increase again. There is a sacrifice, the transfer case cannot run in neutral while using the PTO in this configuration.
    What I am looking for now is if there is a bolt-up Spicer crown and pinion set to fit these banjo rear ends with a lower ratio for more speed. They are 6.17’s and I am looking to find (second hand of course) differentials to give me a 50% boost. Anyone with knowledge please weight in.
    There is a scrap yard here that had several sets of Rockwells last fall. $600.00 Cdn. for a complete set (front and both rears).

  15. Robert Trier

    That is not a M211 that is a M135 same truck only single rear wheels the box has wheel wells to .

  16. GERARDO JAIME

    Any looking for a 1952 GM military Automatic transmission? only has 8,000 miles. I dont want to throw it away, its in my way. if some one needs it they can have it.. 847-830-2619 Jerry.. I am located in the louisville area

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