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M-274 Mechanical Mule

The M274, known as the Mechanical Mule, was developed in the 1950s as a light weight cargo carrier to replace both the 1/4-ton jeep and 3/4-ton trucks in infantry and airborne infantry battalions. The M274 was known as the "Truck, Platform, Utility 1/2 Ton, 4x4" or the "Carrier, Light Weapons, Infantry, 1/2 ton, 4x4".

M-274 Mechanical Mule operated by a Marine at the bulf fuel area, Cua Viet, Vietnam, October 1966
M-274 Mechanical Mule operated by a Marine at the bulf fuel area, Cua Viet, Vietnam, October 1966.

Today in WW II: 23 Jul 1940 American Bantam and Willys-Overland submit the only two bids for the Quartermaster Corps light reconnaissance and command cars, the origin of the military jeep.  More 
23 Jul 1941 Original World War II contract for jeeps awarded to Willys with Ford added Nov 1941 to increase production.
23 Jul 1945 Submarine USS Barb [SS-220] destroys a Japanese locomotive and supply train at Patience Bay off the coast of Karafuto, Japan, the only known such attack by a submarine.
Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

M274 Truck, Platform, Utility 1/2 Ton, 4X4

The M274 family could be fitted for many infantry tasks including transport of personnel or cargo (slowly--keeping up with foot soldiers), for stringing wire with a cable reel, for carrying patients on stretchers, and as a weapons platform for a recoilless rifle or TOW anti-tank missile. Each wheel had shackles for lifting by helicopter or parachute airdrop. The seat and the foot basket can be detached and stored underneath the platform which can then be rigged as a steerable trailer. The steering column could be set in multiple positions so the driver could operate the vehicle from almost any position, including crouching down.

The M274 vehicles were phased out by 1980, with the intended replacement being the HMMWV. However, the need for a small, versatile vehilce was not fully met by the HMMWV and in the 2000s the U.S. Military adopted the M-Gator as a modern version of the M-274 Mechanical Mule.

Thanks to Keith Byrd for help with the proper nomenclature.

M274 1/2 ton, 4x4 Mechanical Mule Variants

All M274 variants are 4x4 with the same size platform, a transmission with 3 forward speeds and one revers, and a two speed transfer case. The full-time four wheel drive is further enhanced by locked differentials -- the Mule will move even when only one wheel has traction.

VariantEngineSteeringNotes
M-274 4 cyl air-cooled Willys gas4 wheelMagnesium alloy platform
M-274A14 cyl air-cooled Willys gas4 wheelMagnesium alloy platform
M-274A22 cyl, 4 cycle Continental-Hercules air-cooled gas4 wheelMagnesium alloy platform
M-274A32 cyl, 4 cycle Continental-Hercules air-cooled gas4 wheelMagnesium alloy platform
M-274A42 cyl, 4 cycle Continental-Hercules air-cooled gas4 wheelMagnesium alloy platform
M-274A52 cyl, 4 cycle Continental Hercules air-cooled gas2 wheelAluminum platform, electronic ignition

M274 models were prototyped and manufactured by Willys (1950s), then later variants produced by Bowen-McLaughlin-York, Baifield Industries (1965) and Brunswick Corp. (1970).

M274 Mechanical Mule Specifications and Performance

Length118.25 inches
Width46.6 inches
Platform height27.5 inches
Weight870 lbs
Payload1000 lbs
Ground clearance12 inches
Fording depth18 inches
Max Speed25 mph
Range90-150 miles

Find additional photos and hi-res versions of the M274 Mechanical Mule at the Olive-Drab Military Mashup:

XM274 1/2-ton 4x4 Infantry Light Weapons Carrier manufactured by Willys Overland, pictured at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, circa 1954.  106mm recoilless rifle is mounted on the XM274.
A bulldozer from C Co., 7th Engineer Bn., 3d Mar Div, widens the access road to the Hawk Missile site on Hill 327, Da Nang, South Vietnam, 10 March 1965.  An M-274 mechanical mule goes up the steep road on its way to the top.
Marines secure canvas covers on M40 106 mm recoiless rifles mounted on M274 utility platform trucks (Mechanical Mule), June 1967.
Flight deck crewmen and Marines offload an M-274 Mechanical Mule from a Marine CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter aboard the amphibious assault ship USS BELLEAU WOOD (LHA-3), off the west coast of Australia, 7 June 1981. The Marines are a part of Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, who are returning from an operation held in Australia.
An M274 4x4 Mechanical Mule vehicle is examined after being driven out of a C-141B Starlifter aircraft during Exercise KINDLE LIBERTY 83, Dec 1982.  A CUCV pickup truck is to the left.
M-274 Mechanical Mule mounted TOW being loaded before firing. 1966.

M274 Mechanical Mule Photo Gallery

Marines secure canvas covers on M-40 106mm recoilless rifles mounted on M-274 utility platform trucks, June 1967
Marines secure canvas covers on M-40 106mm recoilless rifles mounted on M-274 utility platform trucks, June 1967.

M-274 Mechanical Mule fitted with TOW missile system. USMC photo, 1967
M-274 Mechanical Mule fitted with TOW missile system. USMC photo, 1967.

M-274 Mechanical Mule fitted with TOW missile system. USMC photo, 1967
M-274 Mechanical Mule fitted with TOW missile system. USMC photo, 1967.

Soldier driving an M-274 Mechanical Mule while a second soldier, armed with an M-16A1 rifle, walks alongside, Honduras, 22 May 1984
Soldier driving an M-274 Mechanical Mule while a second soldier, armed with an M-16A1 rifle, walks alongside, Honduras, 22 May 1984.

M274 Mechanical Mule.  Photo courtesy of Andreas Mehlhorn
M274 Mechanical Mule. Photo courtesy of Andreas Mehlhorn.

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