The Ultimate 4×4: 1968 M274 A5 Mule

Being one of the most-versatile military vehicles, this 1968 M274 A5 “Mule” could do almost anything but fly, at least on its own. This incredible piece of history can be found here on eBay in Breckenridge, Texas where it has to be surrounded by rugged, dedicated, 4×4 hunting vehicles. The current bid price is $5,700 but the reserve isn’t met yet.

If I had some property somewhere in the woods – just 30 or 40 acres, I don’t want to be greedy – I would love to have a vehicle like this M274 A5 Mule. They came towards the end of World War II, or a similar vehicle made then was the impetus behind the M274 Mule. They are, of course, four-wheel-drive and you already know that there are no cup holders or lane-departure warning systems or any of that Kardashian-like I’m-behind-the-wheel-but-not-really-paying-attention-to-the-actual-driving-part nonsense.

The A274, or Mule, or sometimes Mechanical Mule, evolved from a late-WWII era Willys-Overland vehicle that was created as a way to carry wounded military personnel from areas where even the famous Jeep couldn’t do the job. The A1 had a four-cylinder air-cooled gas-powered engine but the subsequent A2, A3, A4, and A5, such as the one shown here, has a two-cylinder air-cooled engine. Just 50 or 60 acres, that’s all I need, is that too much to ask?!

The A5 was also made of aluminum and they have four-wheel-drive and “only” two-wheel steering. The previous models had four-wheel steering. The steering wheel and controls could be switched from side-to-side as you probably guessed by looking at the photo above. It’s estimated that it would cost well over $50,000 to build one today, not counting any $800 toilet seats or $1,500 ashtrays or any other of those infamous “contractor upcharges”. Yep, if I had 70 or 80 acres I’d own this baby.

The Mule may have been conceived by Willys but they were made by other manufacturers, too, including Brunswick Corporation, Bowen-McLaughlin-York, and Baifield Industries, which made the one for sale here. It was made in 1968 and was probably either used in the Vietnam war or made for that purpose. Sadly, the seller doesn’t clue us in as to the condition of the one for sale here. Does it run? We don’t know, there literally isn’t a mention of it at all anywhere in the listing. Hopefully, it’s functional but even if not, depending on what their reserve price is, this one is worth grabbing.

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Comments

  1. Ken Jennings

    Needs a covering of some sort. At least a roof to keep the rain out, if not a whole enclosing curtain system for all weather use. Nam had A LOT of rain (a little piece of Hell), a roof to keep people and supplies dry would be a must.

    Like 2
  2. JerryDeeWrench Member

    O boy I can see it now. A 2.5 Subee now with a exhaust pipe cage what a blast.

    Like 2
  3. Dave

    As featured in the movie “Maximum Overdrive”.

    Like 2
  4. Howard A Member

    Think of the horrors these things saw, and lives saved by these. Pics show a much more grim side of these, with anti-aircraft guns, machine guns, and howitzers mounted on them. Another neat find, I’m sure many were blown to smithereens,,,sadly, along with the operator. Thanks to all our Vets!!!

    Like 7
  5. Kelly g

    For the price of one of those restored muscle cars you could buy this and the 40 acres too.

    Like 2
  6. Ben T.Spanner

    I was in the delta of Nam building dirt roads and wooden bridges. When it rained, you got wet. The sun soon came out and you dried off. A vehicle roof is a luxury; not a necessity.

    Like 10
  7. JerryDeeWrench Member

    Thanks for your service.

    Like 4
  8. rodknee

    Well, if it sells for less than 10,000 it’ll be a steal. Have you checked out the cost of a new side by side these days? Astronomical!

    Like 7
    • SDJames

      And I’d rather take this to the grocery store than one of those overpriced, over-hyped golf carts…

      Like 5
  9. Lance G Nord

    Sotheby’s is offering a pristine example of the M274 A5 at auction in October with an estimated sale price of $4,000 – $6,000. I suspect it might go higher. https://rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/el20/the-elkhart-collection/lots/r0197-1968-m274-a5-ton-4-4-mule/820609

    Like 2
  10. Chas H

    My guess is the steering wheel and other controls can not be switched side to side. I dunno why anyone would think they could be.

    • Bill McCoskey

      Chas H,
      You are correct. These were made for left hand steering OR operator “on the ground” operation. The steering wheel can be folded horizontally between the 2 foot wells. Placed in reverse, the operator can crawl behind the vehicle, using their left hand to steer and their right hand to operate the clutch and brake. This allowed the operator to use the machine as cover from enemy fire.

      Folding down the back seats, and placing the bottom cushions in the footwells before folding the backs of the seats forward, gave the “ground operator” a huge mobile powered platform that could handle 3 to 4 cots to evacuate the wounded, as well as bring large amounts of supplies thru areas the larger trucks could not navigate.

      While it was a great design in concept, there was really little use for these in the modern army of the 1970s, so they were phased out. [I went thru the U.S. Army mechanics school in 1972/73 that included the M274 Mule.]

      Like 1
      • Chas H

        I saw these in use a few times. An Air Cav 105 artillery battery joined my battery at LZ Hard Times and one of these rolled out of a ‘Hook. Looked to be quite handy for moving ammo and sand bags. Thankfully we had no casualties to move.

  11. G Lo

    We had one of these in my unit, a leftover that we used as a motorized pallet jack, with only the driver’s seat. It was constantly breaking down (air cooled), and if a part was needed we either had to wait (move the stuff by hand) or improvise. I am tempted to buy this thing just so I can set it on fire and watch it burn with a maniacal grin on my face.

    Like 2
  12. Ron

    I got to work on one of these when I was in the Corps. A very interesting little suicide machine. Oh, and if the battery was dead (of course it is dead) you get to pull start that little 4 cylinder engine. Just be sure to make sure it is not in gear or you could run yourself over when the engine kicks off. I would love to have one of these. Hmm, maybe I need to start finding parts..

    Like 2
  13. Dennis

    Very familiar with these. Used them on an air to ground bombing range in south Texas. They are fun but know there is absolutely NO suspension on these things and the ride is very rough. A lot of fun on dirt roads but off road, they’ll shake the kidneys out of ya!

    Like 1
  14. Karl

    The going price for these units running and in decent condition is going to run around 7 to 8k. There are a few parts sources out there that virtually every part the buyer should need from plugs to engines and trans. They are a very versatile machine although not fast by any stretch of the imagination but non the less pretty effective units. I am amazed the seller doesn’t have a better description?

    Like 1
  15. Steve

    Join the MVPA In the club mag there is a listing for these, all are around $ 4 or 5 thou. Parts supplier is in the mag also…Plenty of ammo and body bags were hauled on these puppies..great gear for tight places…Wish all the gov did was make me put a mask on instead of sending me to the Viet Nam.

    Like 2
  16. Charlie H

    I was at an auction in NH yesterday and a very nice example of one of these sold for $25K plus 12 1/2%

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