If you can’t afford a Humvee, check out General Motors “Kuck Vee”. From stout diesel engines to heavy-duty axles, these militarized versions of GM pickup trucks are ready for battle – or a weekend of off-roading with your buddies.
Introducing the Kuck-Vee
In the early 80s, the U.S. Military commissioned GM to build a fleet of 1 ¼ ton Commercial Utility Cargo Vehicles aka CUCVs (pronounced “Kuck-Vee”). Mostly, the government did this to save money. Modifying a civilian vehicle is cheaper than building a military rig from scratch.
GM’s CUCV came in four basic body styles: pickup (the CUCV M1008), utility (CUCV M1009), ambulance (M1010) and chassis cab (M1031). The trucks served faithfully in each branch of the military until being phased out in 1987. GM convinced the Government to go another round with the CUCV II, but the second generation of trucks never really caught on. By the time they were introduced, the powerful Humvee was already the motorized weapon of choice.
What makes the M1008 army truck so cool
There’s a lot more to an M1008 truck than just a camo paint job. Under the long, square hood, you’ll find a durable (albeit underpowered) 6.2L Detroit Diesel V8. Top speed is listed as only 65 MPH, but when you’re in a rig as cool as the M1008, what’s the rush?
Torque is sent to the wheels through a bullet-proof TH400 automatic transmission and NP208 transfercase. Both ends of the army truck are fitted with heavy-duty axles – a Dana 60 front axle and a 14-bolt rear axle with Detroit locker.
The CUCV M1008 trucks also have a number of upgrades that set them apart from wimpy, civilian trucks:
- Brush guard: Up front, M1008 trucks brandish a sturdy brush guard for plowing through enemy lines (if you’re into that sort of thing).
- Towing shackles: Stuck in the mud in the middle of a war zone is not where you want to be. M1008 trucks are fitted with beefy towing shackles for recovery duty.
- Dual alternator charging system: Two 100-amp alternators provide the M1008 with electrical power. This allowed for upgrades such as a jump start receptacle, and hookups for military radios.
Where you can find one
Since M1008 trucks don’t have the presence of a tank or Humvee, they often slip past military collectors. That means off-road enthusiasts have the opportunity to score a great deal on a surplus CUCV. Government liquidation websites and auctions are one way to find an M1008. They also pop up occasionally on civilian websites, such as Craigslist or eBay. If you look long enough, you’ll find one. There are a surprising number of these rigs still around, waiting for a second life. According to a 2010 article from Military Trader, depending on the condition, an M1008 can set you back anywhere from around $1000 to $10,000.
How you can modify one
Since the M1008 trucks share running gear with civilian ¾ ton and 1 ton pickups, modification is cheap and easy.
- Jack it up: Lifts kits off all sizes are readily available for GM solid axle rigs, such as the M1008 army truck. These kits are less expensive and easier to install than those found on modern trucks with independent front suspension.
- Add more power: Banks makes a turbo kit for the 6.2L. Adding a hairdryer to the underpowered engine provides it with a modest amount of scoot. If you’re really bold, you could yank the 6.2L out completely and replace it with the engine of your choice (a Cummins, perhaps?)
- Bigger tires: Stock M1008 trucks came with LT235/85R-16E So, a set of bigger tires is a must.
Get ready to hit the trail
Once you’ve found and secured the M1008 army truck of your dreams, it’s time to hit the trail. Not only do these pickups climb like mountain goats, they also draw attention wherever they go. Expect to get bombarded with thumbs-up from fellow off-roaders. Few vehicles are a rolling piece of military history, like the M1008.