This vehicle served for several decades in the armies of more than 100 countries

Ford M151 MUTT, the almost forgotten successor to the Jeep Willys and predecessor to the Humvee

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Today, the role of the Willys Jeep has been occupied in many armies by the famous Humvee, also known by its civilian brand: Hummer. However, what vehicles occupied that segment between the two? In 1949, the place of the original Willys Jeep was taken by the Willys M-38, distinguishable by its wider headlights. It was the Jeep of the Korean War (1950-1953). In 1952 the Willys M38A1 appeared, whose production It lasted until 1971 but was replaced by the US Army in the 1960s with the last heir to the original Jeep concept: the Ford M151 MUTT (Military Utility Tactical Truck).

The Ford M151A1 MUTT, version that appeared in 1964 (Photo: militarytrader.com).

The MUTT began development in 1951, after the Ford Motor Company obtained a contract from the US Army to replace the M-38 Jeeps. Although externally the MUTT was very similar to the Jeep, it was a completely new design, with a new frame, new bodywork, longer wheelbase, more ground clearance and a more spacious interior. As a curiosity, the front grill of the MUTT had horizontal slits, unlike the Jeep Willys, which had always had vertical slits.

A US Army M151A2 with an M-60 machine gun, in a photo taken in 1978 (Photo: NARA).

Despite its new features, the MUTT retained certain aspects of the Jeep, such as its reduced size (it measured 3.3 meters long and 1.6 meters wide) and a very light weight: only 1,100 kg. The basic model, called M151 and introduced in 1960, had independent rear suspension, which generated certain problems, including many accidents when the vehicle overturned when driven harshly.

M151A2 MUTT vehicles of the 437th Military Police Company at Ford Bragg, North Carolina, in 1983. The vehicles in this image sport the MERDC Winter Verdant camouflage, common on US Army MUTTs in the second half of the 1970s and in the 1980s (Photo: NARA).

In 1964 Ford introduced a new version, the M151A1, with a rear suspension that allowed greater weight loading, in addition to introducing flashing lights in the front part of the front fenders, which were flat. This was the most typical version of the MUTT of the Vietnam War, where it was used by the United States and South Vietnamese armies.

The M151A2 with three-color NATO camouflage. This version of the MUTT is easily recognizable by the housing of its turn signals on the front part of its front fenders (Photo: militarytrader.com).

In 1968 the M151A2 appeared, with new improvements to its rear suspension and changes to its front fenders, which abandoned their initial flat shape to house flashing lights on the front. To expand the loading capacities of this vehicle, a new trailer was also designed, the M416, based on the K38A and M100 trailers used by the Jeep Willys, but with characteristic trapezoidal fenders.

A US Marine Corps Ford M151A2 MUTT with an M416 trailer at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, in June 1979. In the photo you can see the large fording tube coming out of the engine in the front, and the second smaller wading tube for exhaust gas, on the rear left. The vehicle in this photo sports the MERDC Red Desert camouflage, introduced in the US in the 1970s (Photo: NARA).

The MUTT inherited certain characteristics of the Jeep Willys, such as its hood to protect its occupants from the rain, its absence of doors, the spare wheel on its right rear and the "jerry can" with fuel additional on the left side. In addition, to some of the vehicles, specifically those used by the US Marine Corps, two wading tubes were added, one of them to introduce air to the engine, located in the front left part of the vehicle, and the second to extract gases from the engine, located in the rear left part.

The wading tube that introduced air into the engine in the US Marine Corps M151A2 (Photo: NARA).

In the 1970s, the M151A2 MUTTs of the US Army and Marine Corps adopted MERDC camouflage and abandoned their characteristic olive green uniform paint. The MERDC was a camouflage with rounded shapes. There were different combinations of this camouflage, adapted to different environments. However, the most common thing was to see the M151A2 of the Marines with the MERDC Summer Verdant (a variant of this camouflage with greenish tones, ideal for tropical forests), while those of the Army from the USA used to show off the MERDC Winter Verdant, a type of woodland camouflage still used by the South Korean Army.

Saudi M151A2 MUTT with 106 mm recoilless guns in 1992 (Photo: US Department of Defense).

The MUTT proved to be a very versatile vehicle, capable of taking on very diverse tasks. Among its different variants there are fast attack, airborne versions, for air control, firefighting and medical evacuation. In addition, the MUTT was a good support for different types of weapons, ranging from 7.62 mm M-60 light machine guns to TOW anti-tank missiles, including M-2 Browning heavy machine guns and cannons. no recoil of 106 mm.

An M151A2 with an Israel Defense Forces TOW anti-tank missile launcher (Photo: brubakers.us).

The end of the MUTT in the US Armed Forces began to take shape in 1979, when the US Army called a competition for a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), in order to replace the M151. In 1983, AM General won the contract with which the Humvee was born. In 1988, production of the MUTT came to an end after 29 years. However, the small predecessor of the Humvee still had time to participate in the Gulf War (1990-1991).

M151A1 MUTT sold as military surplus at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, in 1987 (Photo: NARA).

In 1999, with some vehicles still in service in the US and operated by more than 100 countries, the MUTT became the longest-lived military all-terrain vehicle, after accumulating four decades of active life. Even today, in the US Armed Forces there is still a vehicle that has inherited various components from the M151: the M1161 Growler, introduced in 2009. The Marine Corps acquired 600 of these vehicles from Growler Manufacturing and Engineering , in order to be able to operate them from their MV-22 Osprey converter planes, since the Humvees are too large to be loaded on those aircraft.

Two M1161 Growler light vehicles of the US Marine Corps. This vehicle has inherited components from the M151 (Photo: USMC).

Despite its withdrawal from service in the US, there are still M151s circulating around the world in the hands of civilians. In this video from Vintage Military Vehicles you can see several MUTTs that are owned by citizens of the Czech Republic, including one that has been converted by replacing its rear with an M416 trailer. The video allows you to see how these small vehicles moved in a forested terrain:

In this other video from the same channel we can see the wading capabilities of the MUTT:

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