M151 / M151A1 / M151A2

 

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History of the M151, M151A1 and M151A2

The M151 MUTT was the successor to the Korean War M38 and M38A1 jeeps and was produced from 1959 through 1982. With some M151A2-units still in US Military service in 1999, the M151-series has achieved a longer run of service than that of the WW2 MB/GPW, M38 and M38A1 series combined.

Introduction
 
In 1951 Ford Motor Company gained the contract to design a 1/4 ton 4x4 Military Utility Tactical Truck (hence MUTT) to replace the Korean War jeeps, the M38 and M38A1. The M151 'MUTT' was developed with guidance from the US Army's Ordnance Truck Automotive Command. Design work began in 1951 and testing and prototyping lasted through most of the fifties.
Although it looks much like its predecessors, has the same basic layout and roughly the same dimensions, the M151 actually was a completely new design. Just like jeeps before it, it provides space for four men (including the driver) and some equipment. However - unlike previous jeeps with their steel tub bolted onto a separate steel frame - this vehicle had a unitized monocoque that was created by integrating the box frame rails into the sheet-steel body-structure. Eliminating the separate frame gave the M151 slightly more ground clearance, while at the same time lowering the center of gravity. Also it was a little longer, wider and roomier than previous jeeps while retaining the same light weight.
The second big technological departure came in the area of the suspension design. Unlike having rigid live axles front and rear as was customary. The M151 was equipped with independent suspension with coil springs all around. This made it capable of high-speed, cross-country travel with high maneuverability and agility while at the same time providing a more comfortable ride.
Third, this jeep didn't need to be designed in such a hurry as the wartime original, so this gave technicians the time to engineer it such that all maintenance and basic repairs could be done with a minimal tool kit under field operating conditions. It is said that you can fix anything on it with a straight and Phillips screwdriver, a 1/2 inch open/box end wrench and some wire.

Due to Willys Motors owning the trademark on it, the M151 could not have the Jeep's seven vertical slot grille, so instead it has horizontal ones. Although the M151 was developed and initially produced by Ford, production contracts for the M151A2 were later also awarded to Kaiser Jeep and AM General Corp.

First put into service in Vietnam, the MUTT played an active part in American military operations well into the 1980's, when it was phased out in favor of the Humvee. Nevertheless the M151 had some distinct advantages over its much larger and heavier successor, like being small enough to fit inside a C-130 cargo plane or CH-53 heavy transport helicopter, and narrow enough to traverse areas too tight for the HMMWV. Reasons why the US Marine Corps kept deploying M151 FAV (Fast Attack Vehicle) variants through 1999 ( e.g. Kosovo with USMC, 3/8 BLT, 26 MEU). According to some it is still used in very small numbers by the U.S. Marine Corps.

Various models of the M-151 have seen successful military service in 15 different NATO countries and M151s were sold to many countries, including Canada, Denmark, Lebanon, Israel, and the United Kingdom.

It was not sold on the civilian market because of different safety regulations for civilian vehicles, but mostly because of its dangerous on-road handling characteristics, that is, a tendency to roll over under fast cornering. The US Department of Defense deemed all M151 series vehicles "unsafe for public highway use". Therefore write-offs have consistently been rendered unusable by destroying the body of the vehicle before releasing the parts to the public.

Variants

  • M151 (1960) - Initial version. Because of its rear suspension design it had a dangerous tendency to flip over when cornered too aggressively by unaware drivers. The swing-axle rear suspension lay-out (comparable with that of the VW Beetle) could result in big rear wheel camber changes, causing drastic oversteer and a subsequent roll-over.
    • M718 - Front-line ambulance variant.
  • M151A1 (1964) - Second version: minor changes in the rear suspension, mostly aimed at allowing the vehicle to carry heavier loads. Addition of turn signals to front fenders. The essentials of the rear suspension remained unchanged and the same applies to the handling problems in corners.
    • M151A1C - The M151A1C equipped with a 106 mm recoilless rifle on a pedestal-mount. Capable of carrying six rounds of ammunition and weapon tools. Including the driver, it provides space for two men and has a cruising range of 442 km or 275 miles.
    • M151A1D - Tactical nuclear variant.
    • M718A1 - Front-line ambulance variant.
  • M151A2 (1970) - The A2 fielded a significantly revised rear suspension that greatly improved safety in fast cornering. The MUTT now had Semi-trailing arm suspension comparable to what most late eighties premium German cars had. Many smaller upgrades including improved turn signals.
    • M151A2 FAV - Fast Assault Vehicle variant.
    • M151A2 TOW - tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided [TOW] anti-tank missile variant.
  • M825 - 106 mm Recoilless Rifle variant.
  • M1051 - Firefighting variant which saw exclusive use by the Marine Corps.
  • MRC108 - Forward Air Control variant.

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