Written by Will Marshal
Photos Barry J Holmes
A twenty-two thousand pound ex-United States Military M1079 LMTV truck named Brutus does not exactly sound like an anniversary gift that would get a ringing endorsement, right? This is exactly what Kande Jacobson of Adventure Driven asked of her husband Seth, and it’s a thing of beauty.
Brutus started life as a contract built Austrian Steyr 12 M 18 military truck. Stewart and Stevenson constructed the LMTV, along with its 16 other platform variations for the U.S. Government as two-and-a-half-ton and five-ton cabover trucks. These vehicles were designed to replace the increasingly old M35A2/A3 “Deuce-and-a-half” and M809 five-ton trucks.
It was extensively redesigned from its original Steyr build in order to meet the U.S. Army’s demand for a minimum of fifty-percent U.S.A. sourced components. The resulting vehicle was what has become one of the most extensively produced combat support vehicles ever made for the U.S. Government (over 75,000 units produced since 1984).
The Inner Workings of an M1079 LMTV
The LMTV’s are originally fitted with Caterpillar 3116 diesel engines, and later the CAT C7. Allison was chosen as the transmission supplier with an integral transfer case with no low range, and full-time four-wheel-drive with a 30/70 percent torque split front to rear. Meritor supplies the front and rear portal axles. The frame is constructed from C-channel with tubular crossmembers of 758 MPa swedish sourced steel, while the cab is constructed of composites, and the suspension comprised of traditional leaf springs and shocks. Hutchinson double-beadlocks and 47” tires adorn the hubs with fancy CTIS (Central Tire Inflation), so that tires can be deflated or inflated on the fly.
Make no mistake. Brutus is military grade, and we are pretty sure that is why Kande fell in love with this hulk.
The LMTV is the the first vehicle to pass the Army’s 22-year accelerated corrosion test due to its extreme corrosion resistant construction. Their particular M1079 LMTV is a short wheelbase van model that shares the same rear cab as radio trucks. Sourced in already excellent condition, Seth and Kande went through it with a fine tooth comb, stripping excess material that was no longer relevant to the truck or their needs and improving where needed.
Where to Begin?
First stop was the van box, which needed to be stripped of its insides and cleaned up, and then the extremely heavy air-lift rated roof hooks removed. All-in-all Seth says that several thousand pounds of excess was removed from the vehicle just by getting rid of military-specific hardware and accessories.
Next up was the cab. Military trucks are notoriously loud. They have everything they need and nothing they do not, and sound insulation falls under the “do not” category. These trucks are so loud in fact, that at highway speeds without hearing protection, permanent hearing damage can be possible over extended periods of time.
So all the door cards came off, the seats came out, and the heavy rubber matting was lifted. Unknown mass-quantity levels of rubber-butyl sound deadener were applied to escentailly every surface inside the cab, bringing those sound levels down to a very reasonable “better than the inside of a cement mixer” level. Comfy Scheel-Mann seats replaced the “not much more than a cooler lid” factory seats, and even a hula-girl now adorns the new HVAC/AIRCON dash so that “hotter than balls” is a comment of the past.
The truck is good now, great even.
But why stop there?
A cot in the back and half a dozen action-packers is not something you can live out of for a long time. Goose Gear of Long Beach, CA was contacted for a custom cabinet and kitchen build on the inside of the truck. Gorgeous birch cabinets host a plethora of gadgets from cookware, to a pull out pooper and all the amenities in-between. A 1300 watt Northern Arizona Wind and Sun solar array on the roof plumbs power to the trucks electrical grid and 600 amp-hour Battleborn Batteries lithium-ion battery bank.
KC Hi-Lights adorn just about every surface of the vehicle from headlights, to auxiliary and scene/work – Brutus has the light output of a small star, and the 18,000lb Come-up winch has a gravitational pull like one, too.
Suspension was upgraded in the form of custom built three-inch Icon Vehicle Dynamics shocks with external bypass reservoirs to make the 22k pound monstrosity float quite unlike the teeth rattling dump truck it could have been.
It is a work in progress, and is something that will probably never be finished. Sounds like madness, but Seth and Kande have their reasons. The platform is the perfect start to what is ultimately, the greatest go-anywhere RV they could ever dream of – military might and capability but available to the civilian market.
What could go wrong, right?
Well, as the very well known “lowest bidder” joke goes, not all is unicorn farts and rainbows. While these trucks can be purchased dirt cheap on liquidation websites like Iron Planet, their immense size and custom military components make them difficult to work on sometimes.
Having replaced 250-300 parts right off the bat that are known problem children, Seth says he wishes he would have started off with a rebuilt truck from Acella Truck and saved the time and headaches. While it might be a little more expensive, the “you do not want to know” look Seth gave us when asked about the cost of building something like this made us shy away and tip toe back to our cardboard box and blue painters tape RV that we made from Mom’s new refrigerator box in the backyard.
Not All Roads Are Smooth
So what is the biggest pain on this truck so far? Apparently it is how difficult the air system is to diagnose. Being that the air compressor has combat redundant features, and is a non-standard design, it makes pinning anything down increasingly difficult. The good news though is the wonderful overland community that has constantly welcomed Seth and Kande in with open arms whenever a bug worked its way up on the truck and left them stranded temporarily. But from a truck that is battle tested, you cannot really blame it for going a little haywire from time to time.
Downfalls to rolling such a big truck off-road? Surprisingly, there has not been many. Obviously a high center of gravity has its limits, and the 14’ height means the In-n-Out drive-through is out of the question, but Seth and Kande are over the moon with Brutus. It’s the match made in heaven that they initially thought it would be.