M54 (truck)

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Truck, Cargo, 5 Ton, 6×6, M54
REFORGER 1991, M54 Truck unloading.jpg
M54 cargo truck during Exercise Reforger, 1991
Type 5 ton (4,536kg)[a] 6x6 cargo truck
Place of origin  United States
Production history
Manufacturer International Harvester, Kaiser/Kaiser-Jeep, Diamond T, Mack
Produced 1954-1956
Number built 1,126
Variants M54A1, M54A2
Specifications (with winch[1])
Weight 19,945 lb (9,047 kg)
Length 298 34 in (7.59 m)
Width 97 in (2.46 m)
Height 116 in (2.95 m)

Engine Continental R6602
224 hp (167 kW)
Transmission 5 spd. x 2 range trf. case
Suspension Beam axles on leaf springs
Fuel capacity 78 US gal (300 l)
280 mi (450.6 km)
Speed 52 mph (84 km/h)

The M54 Truck is a 5-ton 6×6 U.S. military heavy cargo truck. A member of the M39 series, it is rated for five-ton (4536 kg) off-road cargo loads and ten-tons (9718 kg) highway. The basic M54 is fitted with a Continental gasoline engine, whereas variants had different engines (see below).

The M54 was the primary heavy truck of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine forces during the Vietnam War.[2] It was modified into an armored gun truck with double, or M45 Quadmount .50 caliber M2 machine guns.

The M54 was also used by the U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force, and deployed by ARVN forces in Vietnam.

The M54 began to be replaced by the M939 in 1982, but continues to serve in other nations' armed forces around the world.[citation needed]

Design and development[edit]

The M39 (G744) series was designed as a 5-ton (4536 kg) three axle all wheel drive off road truck to replace World War II era trucks such as 4 and 6 ton 6x6’s built by Brockway, Diamond T, Mack, and White. Rushed into production by International Harvester in 1951, soon Kaiser (renamed Kaiser-Jeep in 1963) also became a major manufacturer[b], with Diamond T and Mack building smaller numbers. The M39 series evolved into the M809 (G908) series[c] in 1969, which followed, but did not replace, it. The M809 Series was then improved into the M939 series. [3][4]


Engine and driveline[edit]

The M39 series were originally powered by a Continental R6602 gasoline engine, a 602 cu in (9.9 L) inline 6 developing 224 hp (167 kW) at 2800 rpm. The -A1 upgrade had a Mack ENDT-673 turbocharged diesel engine with 210 hp (160 kW) at 2100rpm. The -A2 had a Continental LDS-465-1A turbocharged multifuel engine, with 205 hp (153 kW) at 2600rpm.[d][1][3][4]

All M39s (excluding M139C/D/F) had a Spicer 5-speed manual transmission, 2-speed transfer case, and Timken axles with the same gear ratio.[1][3][4]


The M39 series had a ladder frame with three live axles, the front on semi elliptical leaf springs, the rear tandem on quarter elliptical leaf springs with locating arms. There were three wheelbases. The short, used for tractors and dumps, is 167 in (420 cm) / 194 in (490 cm), the long, used for cargo and wreckers, is 179 in (450 cm) / 206 in (520 cm), and the extra long, used for long cargo and expansible vans, is 215 in (550 cm) / 242 in (610 cm). (Measurements are from the centerline of the front axle to the centerline of rear bogie / rear axle). There was also an extra heavy duty extra long chassis for extreme service.[1][3][4]

Many M39 series were equipped with a front mounted 20,000 lb (9,100 kg) winch, intended for self-recovery. A winch weighed 714 lb (324 kg) and added 15 12 in (39 cm) inches to the length of the truck.[1][3][4]

The M39 series had both single and dual rear tire models, very few single rear tire trucks were built. Most used 11.00x20s with dual rear tires, some had larger 12.00x20s. All M139 chassis based trucks had 14.00x20s.[4][5]


Cargo variants[edit]

A USMC M54 (dropside) truck in Lebanon, 1983

There were two main variants of the cargo truck, the standard M54 with a 14 ft (4.3 m) long flatbed cargo body and the M55 model on an extra long wheelbase with a 20 ft (6.1 m) body. The M54 was modified to serve as a dropside cargo vehicle as well, these being designated M54A1C and M54A2C. Service variations existed as well, notable was the tall intake on the air cleaner of M54s deployed by the U.S. Marine Corps.[4]

Tractor and Wrecker variants[edit]

M543A2 Wrecker

Only one semi tractor model was developed, the M52. The first model wrecker was the M62, succeeded by the M543, with a different boom. The M246, with a XL wheelbase, was a Tractor-wrecker, with a fifth wheel mounted behind the boom, for towing semi trailers. All wreckers had a front winch.[1][3][4]

Construction variants[edit]

M51 Dump Truck

M39 series trucks were used widely in construction, often for river bridging, and a number of specialized construction variants were developed. The M51 dump truck was developed for general construction work, while the M139[e], M328[f], and M748[g] were used to deliver large sections of bridging material.[1][3][4]

Expansible vans[edit]

The M291 Expansible van, on an XL wheelbase with a slide out section on each side, had a large working floor area and was used in communication roles. Some had hydraulic lift gates. None had a front mounted winch.[1][3][4]

Chassis cabs[edit]

In addition to standardized models, bare chassis cabs were produced for specialty bodies. An extra heavy duty model, with 14.00x20 dual rear tires on a reinforced extra long chassis, was often used for bridging trucks, and the M139C, with lower ratio axles, was an Honest John rocket launcher.[4]

M39 series dimensions[edit]

Model[1] Wheelbase[h] Length[i] Width Height Weight[j]
M51 Dump Short 282 in (720 cm) 97 in (250 cm) 111 in (280 cm)[k]. 21,523 lb (9,763 kg)
M52 Tractor short 273 in (690 cm) 97 in (250 cm) 103 in (260 cm)[l].

19,027 lb (8,631 kg)

M54 Cargo long 314 in (800 cm) 97 in (250 cm) 116 in (290 cm)[m] 19,945 lb (9,047 kg)
M55 Cargo extra long 386 in (980 cm) 97 in (250 cm) 117 in (300 cm) 24,063 lb (10,915 kg)
M62 Wrecker long 348 in (880 cm) 97 in (250 cm) 127 in (320 cm) 33,325 lb (15,116 kg)
M139C chassis[5][n] extra long 353 in (900 cm) 114 in (290 cm) 106 in (270 cm)[o]. 18,929 lb (8,586 kg)[p]
M246 Tractor-wrecker extra long 352 in (890 cm) 98 in (250 cm) 132 in (340 cm) 32,830 lb (14,890 kg)
M291A1 Expansible Van[q] extra long 371 in (940 cm) 99 in (250 cm) 137 in (350 cm) 26,270 lb (11,920 kg)
M328A1 Bridge transporting extra long 366 in (930 cm) 115 in (290 cm) 121 in (310 cm) 26,586 lb (12,059 kg)
M543 Wrecker long 349 in (890 cm) 96 in (240 cm) 109 in (280 cm) 34,440 lb (15,620 kg)
M748A1 Bolster long 314 in (800 cm) 98 in (250 cm) 121 in (310 cm) 21,264 lb (9,645 kg)

M39 series models[edit]

(Not all models are shown)[1]



  1. ^ Off-road load rating.
  2. ^ Successor AM General built all M809s.
  3. ^ With a longer hood and Cummins NH250 engine.
  4. ^ The same engine used in some M35 series 2 1/2 ton trucks.
  5. ^ Extra heavy duty chassis were often used for non-standard bridge bodies.
  6. ^ Standard bridge bodies were large stake sided with a rear roller to help unloading.
  7. ^ Bolster truck were used to transport long poles, pipes, and bridge parts. Truck carries trailer when not in use.
  8. ^ S for short, L for long, XL for extra long.
  9. ^ With winch except M291.
  10. ^ Empty weight except M139.
  11. ^ Reducible to 88 in (220 cm)
  12. ^ Reducible to 86 in (220 cm)
  13. ^ Reducible to 85 in (220 cm)
  14. ^ Largest of M39 series, used as Honest John rocket launcher.
  15. ^ Reducible to 89 in (230 cm)
  16. ^ Empty weight without body.
  17. ^ Without winch.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "TM-9-2320-211-10 Operators Manual for Truck 5 ton, 6X6, M39 series". US Dept. of the Army. Nov 1977. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Gilbert, E.; Gilbert, O.; Anderson, D. (2006). The US Marine Corps in the Vietnam War: III Marine Amphibious Force, 1965–75. Osprey Publishing. p. 35. ISBN 1-84176-987-8. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Crismon, Fred W. (1998). Modern U.S. Military Vehicles. MBI Publishing. pp. 91–97. ISBN 0-7603-0526-9. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Doyle, David (2003). Standard catalog of U.S. Military Vehicles. Kraus Publications. pp. 178–188, 200–204. ISBN 0-87349-508-X. 
  5. ^ a b "Characteristic Sheets". Ordnance Tank Automotive Cmd. Retrieved 6 Dec 2014. 
  6. ^ "Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC)". Embassy of the U.S. Phnom Pehn Cambodia. U.S. Dept of State. Retrieved 24 Apr 2014. 
  7. ^ "Military Assistance Program 1000 System Delivery Master File, FY 2002". Records About Military Goods and Services Provided to Foreign Countries. U.S. National Archives and Records Admin. 2002. Retrieved 24 Apr 2014. 

External links[edit]