Aug 272012

9/29/2012: This truck left today for its new home! Here’s the old for-sale listing…

I bought this 1965 Kaiser-Jeep M543A2 5-Ton 5×5 Medium Wrecker back in 2001, and I’ve been using it as a yard crane ever since. It was never road-worthy since I got it, and I never found the time and energy to fix it up into the fine truck that it could be. Now that I just got a very nice M936A1 wrecker to replace it, I’m putting it up for sale so it can move to a new home where it can get the attention that it deserves. Read on for details!


This truck is a running project truck which needs a complete restoration. It will need to be towed away because it is not road-worthy, and I’m selling it because I never found the time to fix it up properly.

The truck is located on my rural property near Riverside, California 92503. It starts and moves, and the crane works. The brakes do not work. It has a clean California title, and has Historical Vehicle plates. It is in “Planned Non-Operational” status. It is offered for sale AS-IS, WHERE-IS. Buyer is responsible for transport. Weekends are strongly preferred for inspection and load-out, due to my work schedule which keeps me occupied on weekdays.

My asking price is $4,000 or best offer, and I will also consider trades.

What Works

  • The truck starts, runs and moves. It takes a fair amount of cranking on a cold start, so there may be an air leak in the fuel system. It does build air pressure.
  • The parking brake works. I still recommend using wheel chocks, since the truck just has a single mechanical driveline brake.
  • The crane works. All crane functions work. However, see comment below about remote clutch control. The hydraulic hoses look pretty weathered.
  • The truck does move under its own power. However, service brakes do not work! (See below).
  • The hazard light on top of the cab works.
  • I put in a new pair of group 34 batteries around 7/2012. The battery box is the newer plastic style, with a home-made wooden battery support structure inside to keep the group 34 batteries secure. The wooden stuff will come out easily if you would rather run 6TL batteries. I may have a battery hold-down bracket laying around somewhere, but it’s not presently with the truck.

What Does Not Work

  • The service brakes do not work. Not at all. The pedal goes to the floor. I tried bleeding the master cylinder, and it doesn’t pump at all, so at the very least the master cylinder needs to be rebuilt or replaced. I recommend completely overhauling the hydraulic brake system. I did replace one pair of brake shoes many years ago when they got contaminated from an axle leak, and the cores are included in case you would like to re-line them.
  • When I previously tried using the emergency glad hand at the rear as an air source, lots of rust blew out. There is a leaking air fitting on the back of the trailer brake lever on the steering column, and oily water drips from the leak onto the driver’s lap. Thus, I suspect that oil is getting into the air system, probably from leaking compressor seals. I recommend overhauling the compressor and replacing the old steel lines. I would use nylon DOT-approved air brake tubing if I was replumbing it myself.
  • I think that the syncros are pretty well worn in the transmission. I hear an air leak in reverse, probably from the poppet valves on the transmission and/or the air cylinder in the transfer case.
  • The lighting is semi-functional at best.
  • I haven’t used the front or rear winches, so I don’t know if they work. The chain/hook from the front winch is cut off, but included. I’m not sure if the clevis attachment on it is still usable.
  • The rubber air hose leading from the remote clutch control at the rear of the wrecker body has burst. Until that is replaced, it’s necessary to shift the crane into gear at the rear of the truck while the transmission is out of gear, and then engage the transmission and PTO from inside the cab. The remote clutch control did work properly before that hose burst. I wouldn’t count on the other air hoses in the vicinity of that control to last much longer.

What is Included

  • Hard cab top.
  • Medium tow bar with all three kinds of ends (3/4″, 1″, and axle chain feet).
  • Whiffletree bar. Bar is nearly new, but does not include the pins for attachment to the towed vehicle.
  • Both field chocks. One has the pin, the other does not. The pin is a simple piece of round bar stock welded to the retainer chain, so the missing one will be easy to fabricate.
  • Boom jack legs, boom jack feet, one of the two boom jack length adjustment pins, and the large pin for attaching the boom jacks to the boom. The spreader bar and spreader bar pins are not included.
  • One large wrecker chain with a pear link at one end, and a pear link plus grab hook at the other end.
  • One 3/8″ chain with grab hooks.
  • One single-sheave snatch block for use with the rear winch (3/4″ cable).
  • A few other minor goodies hidden here and there.
  • Spare tire/wheel.

Terms of Sale

  • Asking price is $4,000 or best offer.
  • Clean California title with Historical Vehicle plates. Vehicle is registered “Planned Non-Operational” at this time.
  • Truck is offered for sale AS-IS, WHERE-IS.
  • Buyer is responsible for transport. Vehicle needs to be towed away. Vehicle is located on a rural property on dirt roads. Note that vehicle weighs around 34,000 pounds and does not have working service brakes!
  • Weekends are STRONGLY PREFERRED for inspection and/or loadout.

Possible partial/full trades which might interest me include:

  • A set of seven good 14.00xR20 tires on combat rims for my M923 cargo truck.
  • Collectable cryptographic hardware (non-CCI only!).
  • Modern military radio communications gear.
  • A slant-back hard top for my HMMWV.
  • A ring mount for my M923 cargo truck.
  • An M31C pedestal for my M38A1.
  • One or two hard cab top kits for M939-series trucks, NOS or excellent condition.
  • A shelterized AN/GRC-46 RTTY set.



Click on these thumbnails to see larger pictures.

First, some overall pictures of the truck. The passenger door window is there, but I forgot to roll it up before I took the pictures.

Here’s the cab. The seats are chewed up by rodents. I had previously removed the center hump to work on the transmission air leak, and I didn’t bother bolting them back down. It has a box-style driver seat.

Some of the accessories are stowed on the bed. The rest are stowed inside the two large toolboxes behind the cab (not pictured here). In addition to what I listed above, there’s a bar laying in the bed that looks like it might be one half of the rare light tow bar. It’s bent and it’s not the half with the lunette, so I didn’t bother listing it above. The deck plates in front of and behind the crane aren’t bolted down. I had removed them to deal with a hive of bees that moved in under the crane… twice! Some cavities under the crane bed are now filled with Great Stuff foam.

Here’s a close-up of the front winch. It’ll take some work to get that cable untangled.

Here are pictures of most of the included accessories.

  5 Responses to “1965 Kaiser-Jeep M543A2 5-Ton 6×6 Medium Wrecker SOLD”

  1. Mark,

    For some strange reason, I woke up this morning thinking about the M543A2 wrecker I operated as a Private E2 in Phan Rang in 1966-67. When I discovered your blog and saw these pictures, old wheels started turning. Do you have any idea if this one came from Viet Nam? There are some detailed similarities to the one I had from the stripes on the front bumper, out riggers, boom, and tow hook to the rebar “feelers” on the ends of the front bumper that some pictures show but were apparently cut off before you sold it. One noticable difference is that the exhaust on mine came up behind the cab and was about a 4″ straight pipe that my Platoon Sergeant had a flapper plate mounted on the top to keep the rain out. Of course, that could have been replaced by the stock looking exhaust pipe on this one.

    I enjoyed your pics and comments. I will visit again as I have time.

    K. E.

    • Hi!

      I don’t know the history of this one before I bought it from a seller in Wisconsin (if I remember right).

      Those “feelers” on the front bumper are metal tubes (possibly electrical conduit) that originally had orange flags on them. The flags rotted off. The tubes that held the flags are inserted in slightly larger tubes that were welded to the bumper, so they could be easily removed. I think I pulled them out and stuck them in one of the tool boxes when I was getting the truck ready to be shipped. They did make it easier to see where the bumper is from way back there in the cab.

      Thank you for visiting and commenting!

  2. Mark: after looking at the photos,the thoughts and story behind my relationship with the M543A2 I got to replace the M62A1(gasser) that took a RPG on the return trip from Lai Khe 0n 6Aug.67 Great unit,ran well,had it painted gloss OD,hand lettered with the “ORIENT EXPRESS” dragon painted on the hydraulic tank–it was the only wrecker in our battalion with DUAL EXHAUST!! Good luck with your blog–John

    • The wrecker picture sure brings back some old memories.I was stationed in Aschaffenburg Germany ,,1960 to 1963,and was assigned to a 5 ton like the one in the pic. The one i operated was a gasoline model ,as were all other military vehicles in Germany at that time.It was most definetly the most powerful machine I have ever operated. It had a siren with attached red light,like old fire trucks had. It got really bad fuel milage,about 1 gallon per mile.But it could pull or lift most anything youcould hook up to.Lots of good memories,thank you for the pictures.

  3. who can tell about how the air compressor works on these kieser ton ans a half is it electrical clutch like air conditioner or other engagement idea,