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M274 Mechanical Mule.

[picture of two M274-A2 mechanical Mule 4x4 jpeg]
Two Mule M274-A2's

The first production four wheel drive Mechanical Mule, the M274-A1, had a magnesium (!) bed and axle housings with a four cylinder engine, four wheel drive and four wheel steering.

[picture of 3 Mechanical Mule 4x4, 2 x M274-A2 1 x M274-A5 jpg] The later M274-A2 had a magnesium bed and axle housings, four wheel drive, four wheel steering and a two cylinder engine. The M274-A3 model was a limited run, similar to the M274-A2 but with cheaper parts. The M274-A4, is equivalent to a M274-A1 with a two cylinder engine. The current model, the M274-A5, with some still in government inventory, has an aluminium bed and axle housings, with four wheel drive and two wheel steering. Later variants had optional extras such as electric starters, fording kits, wide wheels and fender kits.

[picture of M274 Mechanical Mule 4x4 on the beach jpg]
The Mule is one sophisticated four wheel drive, having portal axles just like the Haflinger, Hummer, Pinzgauer and Unimog.

Note the operation of the four wheel steering in the picture taken at the beach (left).

[picture of M274 Mechanical Mule 4x4 at the super market jpg]

Al Filipeli has owned three Mules since 1974, all M274-A2's, "the best ones". His Mule is street legal and is used to drive around the neighbourhood, to go down to the local store (it must turn a few heads), and to go on four wheel drive trips. He swears by its abilities against Hummers, Jeeps and dirt bikes, being able to stop on 60% slopes and take off again without difficulty.

Al is an independent location finder in California and the photograph at the top of the page was taken near Edward's Air Force base where he often takes pictures of Space Shuttle landings. The base is to the left, Death Valley to the right rear, and area 51 to the extreme right.

The Mule weighs only 860 pounds so a strong person can set it on its side, and that's how the army stores them. It can carry half a ton. A spare wheel is not standard - the manual says to put a flat on the front right corner, move all the weight off that corner and run on the three good tyres.

- Uncle Al Filipeli-->

[picture of Mechanical Mule M274 4x4 jpeg]

This M274 (right) was photographed at the Packenham Military Vehicles Museum and shows the portal axles and lack of suspension, other than the low pressure balloon tyres. The steering column and steering wheel fold flat, both for transport purposes, and so that the Mule can be controlled by a soldier walking or crouching behind it if necessary.

Prototypes were produced between 1953 and 1956. Production started at Willys, later moving to Bayfield (1965), and Brunswick Corporation (1970).

- L. A11ison

Go to the Military Vehicles page


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