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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.

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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:

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.
M-274 Light Cargo, Personnel and Weapons Carrier with 106mm Recoilless Rifle mounted.  Marines of the 106mm platoon, H&S Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2d Marine Division, prepare to fire on an enemy tank during excerise Express Charger, Camp Lejeune, NC, 1974.
M274 Mechanical Mule during US Army/Honduras field training Exercise AHUAS TARA II (BIG PINE), 22 May 1984.
M274A2 Truck, Platform, Utility, 1/2-ton (Mechanical Mule). This vehicle was Lot 1106 of The Jacques M. Littlefield Collection, Military Vehicle Technology Foundation, Portola Valley, CA, auctioned 11-12 July 2014 by Auctions America. Courtesy:   Auctions America by RM.
Paratroopers on 9-mile march ending Operation Hawthorne, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, Vietnam, circa 21 June 1966.  Vehicles include M151 jeeps, M37 3/4-ton truck, M274 Mechanical Mule.
Desert Test of Carrier, Light Weapons Infantry, 1/2 ton, M-274 (Mechanical Mule), Aberdeen Proving Ground, Ordnance Test Activity, Yuma, AZ,  circa September 1959.  Typical operation over sand plains.

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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