Once you purchase your vehicle, you may have a new problem: how to get it home? If your purchase is nearby, this may not be much of an issue. Maybe you can just drive it. Maybe a commercial tow or flatbed haul. But what if it is thousands of miles away on a military base DRMO? Or from a private party in Montana when your home is Texas?
A train load of M3 Lee tanks on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad between Seligman, AZ and Needles, CA, March 1943.
Transporting Your Military Vehicle
In this section, I will provide some hints based on my own experience and others. As always with every topic about military vehicles, use the Internet Discussion Groups and Forums for experienced advice on this topic
Loading and Unloading
If you are buying a jeep or motorcycle, this isn't much of an issue. But for
that deuce or 5-ton there is some serious planning required. Billy P. Whyde
of Starhauler offers this advice:
A question arises when it comes to loading or off loading
once you decide to adopt the green thing. Make sure of the dimensions
of the green thing before you even think of bringing it home! Deuces
can be transported as a rule upon a normal flat bed trailer but the
5 ton trucks might require a drop deck trailer.
Is there a way of loading the unit at it's old home
to be? Can it be done easily and SAFELY? If it won't run, does the place
have suitable equipment for loading? Do they have a dock for the trailer
if the unit is running? DO YOU KNOW HOW TO START IT LET ALONE DRIVE
Do you have a a means of off loading the new yard decoration?
No 2x6s here a lot of times the weight will be in double digit tons!
Do you have a dock compatible with the transport trailers height? If
you don't take a tour to find one. Heavy equipment dealers, farm equipment
dealers even power companies have loading docks. This might be the answer
for the off loading. ASK FIRST! I lucked out at a Cat dealer no problem
off loaded the truck and homeward bound, stopping for the registration
process. Do the homework first! Makes life easier.
Billy P. Whyde, M-817, M-103 Owner in Ohio (email@example.com)
Drive it Home
If the vehicle is running, one option is to just get in and drive it. After,
all we are talking about some of the most rugged vehicles ever built, right?
The problem is you don't really know the condition of the vehicle. No matter
how careful your inspection, test drive (if any) and how sincere the seller
is, anything can go wrong. And will. With a vehicle that might be 50 years old,
or might have been sitting for years, problems will crop up. Plus MVs are designed
for slow speed off-road crawling or medium speed hard surface convoy duty, NOT for hi-rev Interstate cruising for sustained periods. Here is a real-life story:
M-109 Shop Van - Albany, GA.
My buddie Steve won an M109 - 2-1/2 ton shop van at
auction in Albany, GA. He knew a guy who would store it and even help
get it road ready for us. He fitted a roof and bows, fixed a leaky oilpan
gasket, and checked the lights and brakes.
Another friend of ours, Jay, volunteered to drive so
we all rendezvoused in KC Friday night, drove all night in Jay's nice,
new Suburban and picked the truck up in GA Saturday afternoon. Turns
out this truck had been refitted rather recently with a fresh turbo-diesel.
872 miles on it! Man does she run good. Punch the starter button and
she purrrrrrs. Cruises great up to about 53 mph, then a rather strong
vibration sets in, back-end hops back and forth. Hmmm... We decide to
check the air pressure in the tires. Fronts were 40. Rears vary from
zero to 20. After topping all of them up to the recommended 50 she's
a little better, but the hop still comes back a certain speeds. Whats
causing this vibration? And what else didn't this guy check? We spend
the night in Atlanta after a very long day.
Day two, Doris gets her oats. We head out of Atlanta
on I-75 for Chatanooga. Jay is following in the Suburban. He comes up
beside us and flags us We just dumped a S**t load of oil all over the
freeway. His windshield is a mess. He says. "You should have seen the
car directly behind you." Inspection reveals the rear oil pan drain
plug has fallen out and the front is loose. Jay and I run off to find
anything that will plug the hole and a case of oil. We return with an
assortment varying from a brass plug (that fit) to an expandable rubber
plug for a boat. 12 quarts brings it right up (only lost half) and we're
back on the road.
Soon we are in the hills and the truck is pulling them
no problem. I think twice Steve had to downshift to forth. Things are
looking good until we notice the back hopping and one tire looks to
be hopping more than the others. We pull Steve over. He has a rear flat.
We take it easy to the next exit that looks like it will have a truck
shop. The guy is an absolute idiot, but the only one it town. He takes
the tire off and apart. Hmmmm... what's this? A spare rim protector?
Yup. Neatly folded and stuck in the tire was a brand new rim protector.
If you've never seen one, its a strip of rubber maybe 10 inches wide
and thick. Real thick! , maybe 1/4 inch. must weigh at least 5 pounds.
Bozo patches the tube, doesn't test it and puts it all back together.
Still leaks. F*** it, put the spare on. Lets get the
hell out of here. No more hop. No more vibration. Either new tires come
with new rim protectors and this was an over-sight, or its some kind
of Marine practicle joke.
So far, so good. What could go wrong next? Nothing.
Well, we did find a burned out turn signal bulb and it needs wiper blades,
but we rolled on into Kansas City 10:30 Monday night. The turbodiesel
must get better gas milage that the multi-fuel. We got about 6.7 to
7 mpg and diesel is cheap right now (82.9 in GA, 93.9 in Missouri).
Steve's having a blast. We call him turbo-boy now and have threatened
to put an "Ask me about my blower" sticker on the back. I guess he took
it to his local Mil-Veh club meeting last night. You'd think he'd be
sick of it.
Moral of the story: not only do you have no idea what
condition and kind of work DRMS has done, don't count on anyone's work
being done. Check it yourself. Be prepared to grease u-joints, check
or change diff and tranny fluids, etc. We used a lot of common sense
and brought a fair mechanic (me) and an electrician (Jay). Trouble shooting
is part of the fun. That's why we went. We could have shipped it for
slightly more money probably, but then hey, do you know anyone else
who has driven a just obtained DRMS vehicle 1000 miles home? jorge
The M-109 in Jorge's story was in excellent condition (compared to the typical DRMS purchase) and he had a good team along with a chase vehicle. And the weather was good. He could come safely home and say "trouble shooting is part of the fun". And it is, but don't get stuck somewhere half-way home without resources. Make sure you are realistic and prepared, prepared, prepared.
Lots of people drive their MVs long road miles. Every year there are convoys to the annual MVPA meeting. And some people take summer vacation or other trips in their MVs without much trouble. But, the trip home after purchase is in a vehicle you don't know much about, you and the vehicle are not prepared. Do you have your tools? Spare parts? List of resources like parts dealers etc. if you get into a jam? Is help along? All the things you will do after you own the truck for awhile and get a feel for it have not yet been done. Take it seriously and act accordingly.
If the vehicle is not running, is questionable, or if you feel you shouldn't be driving it, then your options all involve paying money. Possibly a lot of it. You can find commercial hauling services to move the vehicle, but many will consider it a special favor and charge accordingly. Like with a lot of things involving MVs, some people are put-off (fearing the unknown) and either refuse outright or up the price. The CH-53E Super Stallion option (left) probably isn't available to you, but there are other ways.
If money is no object, or if you have suitably equipped friends, then transportation on a flat-bed trailer is the best way to go. Make the MV snug on-board and let the hauler take the stress of the trip. Your MV arrives home in exactly the same condition as when and where you bought it; no hazards, no miles, no breakdowns. And you can sleep on the way home. Nice luxury if you can afford it!
Here are some options which may work better for you:
uShip.com. This feedback-rated auto transport provider system works like eBay and allows you to pick a hauler based on price and reliability. You can save up to 80% of regular vehicle shipping fees. Click on this banner to check them out:
Truck Backhaul. Try to find a trucking company who will give you a break on a backhaul. What you are looking for is an empty truck of suitable size which has a load going out but will be returning to your area via the MV location without a load. The trucker has a choice of getting no revenue for the trip at all or some payment from you. If you are lucky, the trucker will do it for fuel cost. Anything south of full charge is an improvement. You usually have to nag the dispatcher for weeks or months until a suitable situation comes up, but this does work. If you have a DRMS deadline to get your auction winnings off their lot, you may have to arrange local storage until a trucker can be engaged.
Rental truck. You know those big rental trucks with the garage sized box on back? If your MV is small enough and light enough, pull it into the back, slam the door and drive!!! Don't tell the rental place that is what you intend to do. And do get someone with rigging experience to help you make sure the load is secure. The MV has to be immobilized and you have to make sure your center of gravity is low enough to prevent a very nasty spill. But this could be your best alternative if your MV can fit since it is relatively cheap and you can set the timetable yourself. Drive carefully!
Tow yourself. If you can't fit it in back of a rental truck, maybe you can do a four-wheel tow. This also takes some experienced help to prepare. You probably want to disconnect the driveshafts. You need a suitable sized towing bar, brake lights hookup, and the ability to stop. If you can manage all of that, then pull it home.
Any of these options is more likely to work out if you have experienced friends to go along and help out. Think of it as part of the fun and allow plenty of time plus a budget for food & drink plus guaranteed-to-happen but unexpected events.