2008 - Volume #32, Issue #4, Page #17[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Mechanical Mule: The Ultimate 4-Wheeler
"I use mine to haul wood to the house all winter long, leave it parked outside, start it at 30 below and haven't done more than change oil on it in more than 10 years," says Terry Markarian, owner, Mechanical Mules of America (MMA). "They were introduced in the early 1950's and were designed to be more maneuverable and carry more than a Jeep. They were manufactured through the 1970's. A Mule could be airdropped, land on its side or top, be righted and driven away."
The 14 hp (military rated), four-stroke, two-cycle aluminum motor needs no cooling system and fits in a compact space under the bed. The driver's seat sits on the front edge of the Mule with a foot basket that extends forward and down. The hand controls, also at the front edge, combine with a flop-down steering wheel to make walk-behind control easy.
Not only does the Mule have 4-WD, but it also has crab steering for extreme maneuverability. The transmission has three forward and one reverse gear, with a high and low range for each. Stick it in first gear, low range, and Markarian says the rig can go almost anywhere. All four wheels are locked, meaning it keeps going as long as even one wheel has traction.
MMA claims to be the only remaining refitter for the Mule. When Markarian and his crew take a surplus Mule out of mothballs, it is torn apart with all metal sandblasted, primed and repainted. All sealed bearings are unsealed, inspected and resealed. Motors are pulled out, inspected, tested and replaced. A new carburetor and fuel pump to handle modern gas are installed, as well as any other parts that need to be replaced, reconditioned or rebuilt. MMA has a specially built "rotisserie" that allows the mechanics to rotate the machine 360 degrees for further work. The original electrical system is replaced with a 12-volt system including starter, alternator, battery and front and rear lights. New upholstery is added, and the reconditioned unit is test driven by Markarian.
Mechanical Mules start at around $11,130 for 4-WD/2-wheel steering and one seat. A 4-WD/steering unit with passenger seat and foot basket, as well as a winch and other goodies, sells for $12,460. Markarian even has a fully equipped Mechanical Mule with a 106 mm recoilless rifle available for around $28,000.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Mechanical Mules of America, Inc., P.O. Box 1009, Hamilton, Montana 59840 (ph 406 961-4024; www.mechanicalmulesofamerica.com).
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