During World War II, the necessity for a lightweight reconnaissance vehicle led to the creation of the Jeep. However, this wasn’t the last time the U.S. Army sought the help of a vehicle manufacturer to develop military vehicles. A few years after the original Jeep (the Willys MA) became such a helpful tool for the Army, the necessity for more lightweight vehicles led to the creation of another fascinating member of the Jeep family—this is the history of the M422 Mighty Mite Jeep.
In 1946, after World War II had come to a close, the U.S. Army teamed with the American Motor Corporation to create a lightweight vehicle optimized for both manhandling and airlifting, which meant helicopters could transport them without trouble. Development on this vehicle eventually went into the ’50s, and production didn’t officially begin until 1959 to aid the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, which had begun a few years prior. This vehicle was the M422 Mighty Mite Jeep, the first model of Mighty Mite Jeeps—but not the last.
Quite a few parts in this Jeep made it special. First, the M422 was the first Jeep to have an aluminum body. The reason for this was that the manufacturers were looking for ways to cut down the vehicle’s weight. With the help of the aluminum body and even an aluminum engine, the M422 clocked in at a weight of 1,700 lb, and it had the capacity to carry half that weight (850 lb) on the battlefield.
The M422 was also the United States’ first small military vehicle to be equipped with independent suspension all around, with ¼ elliptical leaf springs. In addition to these special attributes, the M422 carried center-point steering, American Motors’ aluminum air-cooled AV-108-4 V4 engine (which could develop 52 bhp and lb/ft of torque), a maximum speed of 65 mph, a 65-inch wheelbase, and the ability to alternate between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive with ease. The M422 could even increase the amount of people it could carry from two to six with the help of foldout seats and backrests in the rear.
Another unique feature of this vehicle was its fording depth. As long as they had the right fording equipment attached—with which M422s came equipped at the time—these Jeeps could operate in nearly 60 inches of water. Air lines throughout the M422 helped necessary parts function properly underwater, allowing easy maneuvering for Marines behind the wheel.
The history of the M422 Mighty Mite Jeep is a story that adds another fascinating layer to the Jeep legacy. For this reason, collectors love restoring and preserving vehicles such as this one even today. If you need assistance in restoring one of these historic vehicles, we can help. At Army Jeep Parts, we offer military vehicle restoration services that provide repairs for parts such as fuel pumps, steering boxes, and more.