The Mighty Mite Is America's Forgotten Automotive Military Hero

May 27, 2019 2 min read
The Mighty Mite Is America's Forgotten Automotive Military Hero

The M422 Mighty Mite lives in the shadow of its military brethren. Here's why this overlooked hero deserves your attention

Military vehicles are responsible for pioneering all manner of technical origination. Through wartime innovation, engineering marvels designed to support allied forces usually find homes in home-bred production vehicles.

The Willys Jeep, British Land Rover and Toyota Land Cruiser all claim credit for pushing the boundaries of mechanical dependability during times of conflict, but there is one forgotten vehicle that deserves attention.

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Meet the M422 Mighty Mite. The name may suggest a vehicle of Sesame Street proportions but, from 1959 through 1962, the lightweight ¼-ton 4x4 tactical truck set a new standard for smaller military vehicles. Suitable for airlifting and manhandling, the M422 prototype first appeared in 1946, claiming title as the first ‘all-new Jeep’ designed for the U.S Army post-WWII.


Further researched and developed by a Bantam-led engineering team, the design was finally utilized by AMC at the tail-end of the 1950s. Innovations included an aluminium body (the first U.S Jeep to boast such a design) and fully-synchromesh transmission. Weighing in at 771kg, the Mighty Mite remains America's lightest military truck to date.

Further features included front and rear limited-slip differentials, inboard differential-mounted drum brakes, center-pointed steering and an aluminum V4 engine. Perhaps the most notable addition was the all-round independent suspension, sprung by 1/4-elliptical leaf springs.

Developing 52-horsepower and 90 lb/ft of torque, top speed was quoted at 62mph and off-road carrying capability at 390kg. There were enough seats for six people, upon folding down the tailgate, too. Wholly impressive for something the same size as a sit-on lawnmower.

However, production was short lived. Although 4000 were set for full-scale construction, the final number was less than half. At $5k (roughly $45k today) per unit, these vehicles were far from cheap; especially as, due to further engineering advances, the little Mites were obsolete almost immediately after production started.

As such, these overlooked military machines are seriously rare. Originally designed to support troops in Vietnam, as a capable 4x4 that could fit within the payload restrictions of Vietnam-era helicopters, changes in helicopter performance (mainly the introduction of the Huey) kept the Mite from seeing action in the field. Instead, its larger automotive brethren were deployed.

The Mighty Mite should still be celebrated, however. The vehicle’s lightweight construction and common weight-savings conceived a tactic that is still employed in modern equivalents. And what better way to acknowledge the forgotten hero than by rehoming one of the survivors?

This 1961 specimen is up for sale through the Orlando Auto Museum. Details on the vehicle itself are scarce, but from the supplied picture documentation, the Mighty Mite could use a little cosmetic TLC. It appears as though the canvas hood may need replacing and – as a museum piece – the mechanicals will most likely require a full-on service.

Yet, even with some work to be done, this remains a seldom found chance to acquire a legitimate piece of forgotten American automotive history. Get a closer look here.

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