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The Mighty Mite PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 30 November 2005

Possibly one of the most hi-tech Jeeps ever built, the Might Mite remains a little known enigma. The story of the M-422 is one that tends to be full of typical governmental red tape, over spending and poor planning on the part of many of the people involved with the program. The M-422 was designed as a very role specific vehicle for the United States Marine Corps. The Marines needed a Jeep that could be carried by their combat helocopter into any situation while still being light enough to allow the helocopter to carry other items and/or personel. Unfortunately the WWII era Jeeps and the later M38s and M38a1s were too heavy for the helocopter that was in service at the time. What was to be built as an answer would be a truly revolutionary vehicle.

Once the need for what would become the Mighty Mite was recognized the government in typical fashion figured out what the specifications for the contract would require and opened the contract up for bid. There were 5 main reqirements:

1.) Weight not exceeding 1500lbs.

2.) High mobility and manuverability.

3.) Small, yet sufficient cargo and towing capacity to perform typical infantry tasks.

4.) Reliability and ease of maintenance.

5.) Versatility to enable it to be adaptive to the various needs of the infantry.

Now the specs were laid out but no manufacture could be found. This contract was made available for bid in the early 50s yet it wouldn't be until the end of 1959 that the M-422 would finally be ready for production and would end up being built by AMC who would ultimately purchase the Jeep Corporation in 1971. While it was over the unrealist weight limit of 1500 lbs it was still only 1740lbs fully fueled and ready to go. Lets take a look at some of the revolutionary cutting edge technology that was used to enable this vehicle to be so light.

The power plant of this little beast was an all aluminium air cooled V-4 engine. The engine was built by Wisconsin engine under contract for AMC. The 108ci engine would run on 80 octane fuel and would produce 55hp at 3600 RPM and 90 lb-ft at 2-3000 rpm. The engine drew air into the carberators through intakes mounted on the side of the Jeep back by the cowl and often would have snorkels attached to give the Jeep a better fording depth. The engine had a mechanical fan that drew air through the front of the Jeep and over the engine while the exhaust gases were actually routed through the tubular frame and out a rear mounted tail pipe to expell the gasses from the chassis.

The power from the engine was then routed through a 4 speed transmission with a "granny" ultra low first gear. Mated to the back of the transmission was a sort of splitter box to route power to the front with the flip of a switch. This box did not have a low range like many transfercases do but it did have a sort of limited slip differential built into it to make sure that the power went to the axle that could use it. The splitter box did have a lever that had to be used to engauge the front axle, other wise the vehicle operated in rear wheel drive. From there power went out to all aluminum Dana 27 centersections that were fitted with 5:38 gears and Power Loc limited slips at both ends. This impressive combination made the little Mite hard to get stuck off road. The brakes on this system were mounted in board up by the differentials instead of out at the ends of the axle and for it's time this was very revolutionary. The power was fed through the center sections down to the wheels by CV style shafts which entered knuckles that were attached to the swing arm by a kin pin style knuckle. This design made the turning radius on the already very short vehicle super tight. The swing arms are supported by an odd suspension design that uses quarter eliptical springs to control the frame mounted spring arms. The springs are attached with u-bolts to the swing arms and then attached at the frame by shackles to allow the spring to flatten out at it flexes. The design is very effective if not some what unorthodox.

Cutting weight out of the vehicle was the primary purpose behind the design. The body is made out of all aluminum, as are the axle centersections, transmission and engine. The frame used tubular steel and any where possible weight was removed. The exahust runs through the frame to eliminated that added weight, the engine is air cooled to save the weight of the coolant. Every aspect of this Might is light! The final package is so well ballanced that one of the rear tire and wheel combinations can be removed and the vehicle will safely go down a flat road with only three wheels on the vehicle. All of these amazing traits made the vehicle very capable off road. A second version of the vehicle, the M-422A1 was longer but other than the difference in length it was the same vehicle. The M-422 had a 65 inch wheel base and a 107 inch over all length while the M-422A1 had a 71 inch wheelbase and a 113 inch over all length.

The Mighty Mite is really sort of an enigma. The $5200 dollar price tag meant that only 4000 or so models were ever built. The replacment parts for the vehicle were often model specific and if they had not been built by AMC for the vehicle they were often unavailable. Besides these logistical problems the vehicle while capable was short and very cramped so any tall Marines would have a very uncomfortable ride. Perhaps the most ironic thing about the Mighty Mite is that by the time the vehicle actually went into production the Marines had a helocopter capable of picking up a standard M38a1 or M151 Jeep. This unfortunate side effect of bureaucratic red tape meant that the vehicle would never be produced in large numbers or used for a very long period of time. The Might created a fuss when it was introduced, had its hey day in the jungles of Vietnam and then was retired into the civilian surplus market. Today these little Jeeps are very rare and are not seen very often but if you are lucky enough to stumble a cross one be sure to look under the hood and see what all the fuss was about!

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 14 December 2005 )
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