The design of the M-4 was started in 1956 by Belford Maule and the prototype Bee Dee first flew in February 1957. Maule started the Maule Aircraft Company to develop and build the aircraft in Napoleon, Michigan as the Maule M-4. The first M-4 flew on September 8, 1960. The M-4 is a steel-tube and fabric high-wing braced-monoplane with a cantilever tailplane with a single fin and rudder. It has a fixed tailwheel landing gear, and the prototype was powered by a nose-mounted 145 hp (108 kW) Continental O-300 engine. It has an enclosed cabin with two rows of side-by-side seating for a pilot and three passengers. The prototype first flew on September 8, 1961 and production started in 1963. Other variants were introduced including the Rocket which is powered by a 210 hp (157 kW) Continental IO-360-A engine, a deluxe Franklin-powered M-4 Astro-Rocket and a Franklin-powered Rocket which is known as the M-4 Strata-Rocket.