The U.S. Military M274 Truck, Platform, Utility 1/2 Ton, 4X4 or "Carrier, Light Weapons, Infantry, 1/2 ton, 4x4" aka "Mule," "Military Mule," or "Mechanical Mule" is a 4-wheel drive, gas powered truck/tractor type vehicle that can carry up to 1/2 ton off-road. It was introduced in 1956 and used until the 1980s. It is today a popular, durable, and useful military vehicle collectors' item.
The M274 Mule was introduced in 1956 to supplement both the 1/4 ton trucks ("Jeeps
") and 3/4 ton trucks (Weapons Carrier Series and M37
series) in airborne and infantry battalions. 11,240 Mules were produced between their introduction and 1970 when production ceased. They were used throughout the Vietnam Conflict and other U.S. military operations until the 1980s as platforms for various weapons and for carrying men, supplies, and weaponry/ammunition. They offered absolutely no protection to the driver yet that was relatively unimportant as they were mainly used as cargo carriers and medium-range infantry support vehicles rather than close-combat anti-infantry vehicles. They were phased out from military usage in the 1980s with the introduction of the HMMWV
series vehicles. The HMMWV was however unable to fulfill the role of the Mule so the M-Gator, a military variant of the popular John Deere Gator
vehicle, was introduced.
The M274 Mules were often outfitted with a wide array of weaponry, especially in the Vietnamese Conflict. They could be modified to carry pretty much any type of conventional weapon that could be mounted on a truck.
They were most commonly outfitted with:
- M60 7.62 NATO light machine guns
- M2HB .50 Caliber machine guns
- 106mm Recoilless Rifles
- TOW anti-tank missile systems
Powerplant, Drivetrain, and Speeds.
The M274 Mules were all powered by internal-combustion gasoline engines.
The variants of the M274 with respective powerplants are listed below:
- M274- 4 Cylinder Willys 4 Cycle
- M274A1- 4 Cylinder Willys 4 Cycle
- M274A2-5 2 Cylinder Continental-Hercules 2 Cycle air cooled, variants M274A2 through M274A5
All Mules had 3 speed manual, non-synchromesh transmissions with 2 speed transfer cases, and were 4-wheel drive.
All Mules except the A5 variants had 4-wheel steering.
Only the A5 variants had Electric Ignition as standard.
They had no suspension aside from the low-pressure tires and the seat cushions.
The lower speeds and high horsepower (17hp) of the Mule make it a versatile vehicle off road. It can climb over logs, go up steep slopes, and cross rivers in 1st gear.