Editor’s note: Huge thanks to Gregg G. for proving this Owner Review of his super-cool 8×8 military truck (Oshkosh M985). What is it like to own and maintain a 34-ton (GVWR), 34-foot long, 8-wheel-drive truck that rides on 53-inch tall tires?
Could there be a more impractical vehicle an individual could ever own? Yes, and this is it! The Oshkosh M985 HEMTT (Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck). This is a Military cargo mover rated to transport up to 12 tons on pavement or off-road.
There are ten variations of the HEMTT ranging from the cargo version, tankers, wreckers, tractors, and various load handlers. This one is a 1987 M985 cargo truck, a diesel-powered 8X8 vehicle that weighs 39,000 lbs empty, 68,000 lbs loaded, and can tow an additional 32,000 lbs. Ike Gauntlet anybody? This particular M985 is equipped with a 5,400 lbs load handling crane at the rear. Powered by a 12.1-liter 2-stroke Detroit diesel rated at 450 HP and 1300 lb-ft of torque. This may sound very powerful, but remember it’s just under 20 tons empty. It’s not fast. It will max out at about 62 mph, but the truck feels much happier at 55 mph.
When driving one of these monsters you have to remember that it is 34 feet long with a turning circle of 105 feet. The driver’s position is in front of the steering axles (of which there are two), so you have to enter the intersection before you initiate your turn, and even then judge it wide. The ride isn’t too bad but can get pretty bouncy depending on the road surface. I have sent a passenger to my right into the roof, even with a seat belt on.
The cab is surprisingly quiet as long as the windows are rolled up. When they are down you do hear the drone of the 8V92 Detroit diesel that is directly behind the cab. The truck has a 4-speed Allison automatic transmission and a 2-speed transfer case with multiple power to wheel options: 2WD, 4WD, and 8WD. 8X8 is only available with the transfer case in low range, but I am going to modify the controls to allow 8X8 in High range.
Fuel economy? Forget about it! It is rated to get 2 MPG fully loaded and the military requires a 300 mile cruising range, thus giving it a 156 gallon tank. So, an empty tank can cost you up to $400 or more to fill on this monster. I think I am getting about 4 MPG running empty, but haven’t checked as I think I am better off not knowing. Did I mention it’s impractical? Unless you are a business or farm that requires the capabilities of this truck it becomes simply a 20-ton toy.
I never realized how much I could use a crane until I actually got one. This crane has been used to move a couple of generators, an air compressor, safes, and the tire/wheel assemblies off of this truck. Each one of these 53-in tall tire/wheel combinations weighs over 600 lbs.
I get asked all the time:”What do you do with that?” Well, just about whatever I want. It is street legal, and I am not required to have a CDL as long it is not a commercially used vehicle. Not all states have the same CDL laws. I take it to car shows and people really enjoy seeing it, and it is always the biggest machine there. It has won awards at multiple shows. I have taken it to parades and special events, and was requested to take it to a military vehicle show about 50 miles away.
How much does it cost? What did our tax dollars pay for this? Initial contract cost in 1987 was $361,629.00. It went back to Oshkosh in 2001 for a “0” reset/recap rebuild. It was stripped to bare frame and rebuilt as a new truck with 0 miles and a warranty at 75% of new cost, so another $273,000.00. Then in 2009 it went to a military overhaul facility that completely services the truck, repaints it, puts on new tires and brakes and makes any other repairs required by a thorough inspection at a cost of $80,00-100,000. Altogether, there is somewhere near $750,000 tied up in this truck. This truck was hardly used since 2001. It has only racked up 5,000 miles before being released to auction and was sold for 1.4% of total cost (or about $10,500). I traded some other trucks in to get this 8×8. I got the truck I was dreaming about.
The military has changed the sales “Demill” code on these now and they can no longer be sold as a complete usable truck. Now they are to be “Mutilated” and no parts are to be salvaged. Yes, you read that right, they have to be thoroughly destroyed/scrapped. That is sad to the few of us that own them outside the military as we can’t get many parts from them. There are approximately 250 of all variants of the Oshkosh 8×8 in private hands and not likely to be any more released. Of those only about 20 were M985 models, making this an extremely rare piece of machinery. Parts are available for these through several suppliers and Oshkosh directly, so we are able to maintain the trucks.
If you are seriously interested in finding one of these machines you can expect to pay $30,000-100,000 depending on configuration and condition.
There are some out there for sale. I recommend to think about what you want it for, can you maintain it yourself, will you have to pay to service it? Above all, will the wife or significant other be good with it? I am single, so no need for permission here.
Editor’s note: Here are a couple of cool military trucks that are a little easier to live with as a civilian.
Here is the ETL Overland 4×4 Extreme RV.