Buying advice

rgrob

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Hi, new to the forum but I have been lurking, reading, and learning for a bit. Like a few of you here, I was drawn to the idea of buying a LMTV as a base platform for long distance/overland type of rig. It checks many boxes for what you might want to get off the beaten path, not real off road, but crappy broken roads and washboard. But my question, and my ask of the experts here, is how to buy one that is a) in excellent dependable mechanical condition (not fussy about appearance) and b) doesn't cost an arm and two legs (aka Acela, etc.). I've spent my fair share of time trolling through Gov Planet, but many of those are pretty hit or miss and make sense more if you have a pretty good shop at home and the time, skill, tools to recondition it yourself.

So ideally, I would love to find a place that does do a good job of reconditioning and addresses the known weak points and can get one of these machines to a dependable state without breaking the bank. Your thoughts and suggestions are greatly appreciated. If you guys don't know about it, probably doesn't exist.
 

NDT

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To perform a full set of preventative and predictive maintenance on one of these 20+ year old trucks is weeks of work. Shop labor rates are rarely under $100/hr. I would suggest that if you are not a fairly competent mechanic/electric tech, the FMTVs are not a good choice.
 

rgrob

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To perform a full set of preventative and predictive maintenance on one of these 20+ year old trucks is weeks of work. Shop labor rates are rarely under $100/hr. I would suggest that if you are not a fairly competent mechanic/electric tech, the FMTVs are not a good choice.
I get what you are saying, its a valid point. So for a bit more background, I am reasonably competent mechanically and electrically, I am a mechanical engineer and have been working on my own vehicles for around 30 years. When younger I traveled everywhere with my tools and Haynes manual in the car with me as I didn't have the money to drive anything even remotely new.

Having said that, my issues are:
  • My jeep fits in my garage and a FMTV never will. Maintenance type work I could do outside in the driveway perhaps, but anything that will take a couple of days isn't a good idea. I would need to rent some space somewhere.
  • My mechanical knowledge is about gas engines and typical civilian type vehicles. Never really touched a diesel (though I know how they work), hydraulic systems (other than just standard brakes), or air brakes. I am good at some things, but know my limitations.
So mostly I would like to get something where a reasonably competent mechanic has tackled the main areas and addressed the common weak points, and I would learn and pick it up from there. Willing to spend some money up front for a decent (not down to the frame rails) recondition that as that is often better (and maybe even cheaper) than having a series of break downs over time. However after that I fully expect to turn my own wrenches on this.
 
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NDT

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Sounds like you are plenty qualified to wrench on these. My FMTVs live in a mini warehouse, yes it runs into some coin, but nearly no neighborhoods will tolerate you keeping this kind of truck at your house.
If you spend some time on this forum, you will discover the problem areas that you will need to address. As a ME you are well equipped to understand the vibration problems that tear these trucks up.
 

Suprman

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I keep one in my driveway I dont care what my neighbors have to say about it. Auction trucks are a gamble you have to be brave. Or buy a truck from someone reselling it. Big resellers get big bucks for trucks. Some may go thru every inch of it some may not. What state are you in?
 

rgrob

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I keep one in my driveway I dont care what my neighbors have to say about it. Auction trucks are a gamble you have to be brave. Or buy a truck from someone reselling it. Big resellers get big bucks for trucks. Some may go thru every inch of it some may not. What state are you in?
I am in Ohio, Columbus to be exact. I have the same feeling about the auction trucks, many of them have been picked over as parts trucks and the effort to get them going again is not insignificant. Don't get me wrong, I am sure all of them can be brought back to useful life, but for that I would want my own covered space and workshop and the time to start at one end of the truck and work my way to the other end.

I would keep a running one in my driveway, I think that would be ok, but disassembled in my driveway might not be a good look.
 

mkcoen

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Unfortunately there is a big difference between working on a mid-70's to mid-80's civilian vehicle and one of these. On the former you can handle most anything as long as you have fuel, spark, air and some electrical tape to tie things down. On the latter you have so many intertwined systems (especially electrical and air powered) that you really have to ask yourself if you want to be 100 miles from nowhere with your family when something decides to pop. As an example, I was sitting in line for a parade when one of the brake canisters decided it had had enough. It took me about 30 minutes just to get out of line and off the road because of waiting for enough air to build to unlock the brakes and move a few feet by which time all the air had dumped and the brakes locked up again. I was in town and able to get a ride to specialty fitting store to buy the parts to close off that circuit. If I'd been in the middle of Montana it would have taken a tad bit longer.

If you still think these are the route you want to take hang out at Expedition Portal and count how many other people thought the same thing then finally figured they had had enough and sold theirs.

I should also say I really enjoyed my truck even with all the problems it seemed to keep having. But it was a toy that I kept mostly close to home. The longest trip ended on a tow truck when the fan clutch ate my radiator. There is no way I would enjoy driving a thousand miles at 55mph in one (and I am into Overlanding) or chance stranding my family because I didn't replace a little piece of rubber somewhere deep in the bowels of some seemingly insignificant part.
 

Smike740

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I am in Ohio, Columbus to be exact. I have the same feeling about the auction trucks, many of them have been picked over as parts trucks and the effort to get them going again is not insignificant. Don't get me wrong, I am sure all of them can be brought back to useful life, but for that I would want my own covered space and workshop and the time to start at one end of the truck and work my way to the other end.

I would keep a running one in my driveway, I think that would be ok, but disassembled in my driveway might not be a good look.
Rgrob, I purchased my LMTV from a private party and still ended up having a few major issues, fortunately I have the tools and space to do my own repairs and for me thats part of the fun. I live close to you (Plain City) , if you want to visit some time I would be happy to show you my truck and rewiew some of the areas that are common problems on these trucks.
 

Suprman

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They are 15-25 year old American vehicles. They will all have some issue from time to time. The original owner got rid of them for that very reason. That being said I love my lmtv. So much nicer to drive then the older trucks.
 

Reworked LMTV

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TN
Hi, new to the forum but I have been lurking, reading, and learning for a bit. Like a few of you here, I was drawn to the idea of buying a LMTV as a base platform for long distance/overland type of rig. It checks many boxes for what you might want to get off the beaten path, not real off road, but crappy broken roads and washboard. But my question, and my ask of the experts here, is how to buy one that is a) in excellent dependable mechanical condition (not fussy about appearance) and b) doesn't cost an arm and two legs (aka Acela, etc.). I've spent my fair share of time trolling through Gov Planet, but many of those are pretty hit or miss and make sense more if you have a pretty good shop at home and the time, skill, tools to recondition it yourself.

So ideally, I would love to find a place that does do a good job of reconditioning and addresses the known weak points and can get one of these machines to a dependable state without breaking the bank. Your thoughts and suggestions are greatly appreciated. If you guys don't know about it, probably doesn't exist.
I am doing pretty much the same type of build.

I bought mine from GovPlanet. Here's what I have learned:
The guys who work the MV lots know a lot about these vehicles. And they can be a big help. Might even throw in newer batteries or something if you get to know them. Ask them what they think about the vehicle you are looking at. They know the junk vehicles. When I looked at my truck, there were other trucks that did not run parked near mine. I asked about them and they said " Probably just an electrical connection, happens all the time".

Oil analysis is not always a good indicator or engine viability. Why? The oil may have been recently changed.

If you can work on a Petro engine, you can handle working on a diesel. You just need bigger arms and a bigger wallet : )
 

Reworked LMTV

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Honestly, anything rubber or plastic will likely need to be replaced. Plan ahead. You CAN do this!

The MV support network is strong on Steel Soldiers. There is a wealth a information on here. If you break down, I can pretty much guarantee SS members will come to your aid.

People like Suprman and Simp are great examples of MV experts.

Like on the Overlanding Forum, there are lots of varied opinions and personalities : )

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

― Stephen R. Covey
 
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Ronmar

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Port angeles wa
I agree with NDT’s assessment. Unless you know you are dealing with a reputable seller and not just a flipper, you may still get a basket full of issues. And a reputable seller will of course want to get paid for all the time they have into the PM/repair.

unless you are prepared to do your own maintenance and learn enough about the systems to handle on the spot repairs(like bypassing and caging a blown brake chamber) then a project based around an LMTV might not be for you.

If you are prepared to do these things well then you could probably buy 2 auction trucks and mix and match parts to get a good project truck, be money(and spare parts) ahead and gain enough experience to deal with failures...
 

rgrob

New member
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Columbus, OH
I agree with NDT’s assessment. Unless you know you are dealing with a reputable seller and not just a flipper, you may still get a basket full of issues. And a reputable seller will of course want to get paid for all the time they have into the PM/repair.

unless you are prepared to do your own maintenance and learn enough about the systems to handle on the spot repairs(like bypassing and caging a blown brake chamber) then a project based around an LMTV might not be for you.

If you are prepared to do these things well then you could probably buy 2 auction trucks and mix and match parts to get a good project truck, be money(and spare parts) ahead and gain enough experience to deal with failures...
I also agree with NDT. Also, finding a reputable seller was what I was trying to do ("Buying Advice") and I don't paying more than an auction price to get something that has at least a first pass by someone who is very familiar with these vehicles. From there, it's on me and I'm fine with that. I will need to up-size my tools and spend a lot of "quality time" reading the TMs for these beasts, but that's ok with me.

Buying a spares truck is a great idea, and would probably be pretty cost effective as you don't really care if its running, my only problem there is having the space to keep it. I need to move to Colorado, I have a couple buddies there with acres of free space, but its a long commute from Ohio.
 

AllenF

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Riverside, Ca
Here is how I saw/see it.:geek:
Auction is the bottom and Acela is the top. Anything other than Acela is most likely going to offer issues at the most inconvenient time and place. It always comes down to Murphy's law. 😡

With this in mind, ask yourself

Am I (and my wife) ready and up for an adventure/project?
Am I ready to add, at the least $10,000 to the project?
Am I in a hurry or can I devote some time and sweat to finish to project?
When it is done what will I be doing with the truck?
As already noted, sounds like you have the skills, and this site is your copilot. These trucks are big and impressive and capable beyond any pickup. If you have someone on here that lives near you by all means go check theirs out and chat them up.

As for myself here is where I am coming from. I see these trucks like used sailboats. They have seen better days and have been in the weather for too long. If I ever plan to go anywhere meaningful I had better go over it pretty well. I also need to be able to understand its weak areas and have great solutions to shore those areas up. Doing so yields reliability. Going off road means I will be on my own just like that sailboat in the deep ocean. Know what you will need and bring it along with the tools.
Being very familiar with your truck only comes from hands on experience. So really where I need to start from is with a truck that costs less and needs to be gone through (to be fair they all need this so try to spend the least you have to). As I go though it I know what has been changed and what has been checked. I know because I did it my self. I trust me more than a complete stranger. Once it meets my satisfaction I will take short trips close by and venture further as I work out any bugs. Time and experience will build confidence. Overall I am not a gambler. As such brakes and tires are critical to me. Since my use is as an overland/boon docking RV , I need something reasonably reliable. This means more time will need to be invested and a bit more money too. I feel that if you know what you want to do with it you are in a better place to get one and look forward through all the work and cost to see the fun you will have with it later on.
Reading here helps you see what you can expect.
Knowledge is power

Often it is more about the journey than the destination. Enjoy the ride:naner:
 
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Location
Seattle Wa
I am on the same path as you but I am going through GovPlanet/Auction to purchase mine. I don't mind if it has some hickups because I will be doing a complete frame off restoration. My Newbie opinion is that you should not buy a LMTV at auction if you aren't mechanically sound with some fabrication skills and full array of tools. Also if you want it to be as reliable as possible then you should be planning a frame off restoration replacing every hose, worn components, deep dive into the motor, trans, axles, hot tank the radiator, etc...... That at least is my plan. I have only been searching the web building the truck in my mind so take my Newbie opinion for what it is worth. Search the internet, watch the tons of Utube videos on rebuilds and comb this site are all steps I am taking before I pull the trigger, and of course have a big bag of money..... :) Good luck and share the build here when you get it.
 

fasttruck

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Mesa, AZ
If you but the truck get the pubs: operators' manual, organizational maintenance manual and parts book, lubrication order. Find out what "caged the brakes" means. How to operate a GI light switch and such. Where to get 24 volt lights an d so on.
 
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San Diego, CA
I also agree with NDT. Also, finding a reputable seller was what I was trying to do ("Buying Advice") and I don't paying more than an auction price to get something that has at least a first pass by someone who is very familiar with these vehicles. From there, it's on me and I'm fine with that. I will need to up-size my tools and spend a lot of "quality time" reading the TMs for these beasts, but that's ok with me.

Buying a spares truck is a great idea, and would probably be pretty cost effective as you don't really care if its running, my only problem there is having the space to keep it. I need to move to Colorado, I have a couple buddies there with acres of free space, but its a long commute from Ohio.
If you plan on owning one of these trucks in Colorado, you should be aware that the state will not allow you to drive it on the roads. It's a new law there, and spreading among other states. As a result, you can not register it for use on highways. Only for off-road.

I know a guy in Colorado from an LMTV Facebook forum. He had such difficulty dealing with authorities that he finally gave up and sold the truck. They wouldn't let him work on it in his driveway. He had to drive it to an RV lot every time. Not to mention he couldn't register it for highway use.

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