I purchased my M35A3 with the intent of using it as a recreational vehicle. So far, the vehicle has been a ton of fun. At the encouragement of another un-named Steel Soldiers member, I have chosen to post the story of my first adventure with the vehicle.
Keep in mind as you read this that I work as a computer geek - clean rooms, data centers and rows upon rows of neat, orderly, and clean servers are what I am accustomed to.
Five days after purchasing the Vehicle, I decided to take it off-road for the first time. I selected Bundy Hill ORV Park as the venue for my first excursion. It took about 1.5 hours to get there traveling at 53mph (seems to be about 2950 RPM on this truck). Before heading in and wheeling, I asked if they had a way to get me unstuck if I proved to have more balls than brains. Operating as a gravel pit during the week, I was assured it would not be a problem. So, in we went. It only took me 30 minutes to bury the M35A3 up to it's fenders, water coming in the passenger side door. I had no intention of EVER taking my M35A3 that deep, but I was unfortunate enough that someone with a custom rig running on 60"+ tractor tires had been playing in the center of the hole an hour previous. I had tested the hole 1/3 of the way from each side before proceeding with the crossing - was only bumper deep. I thought for sure that at only a truck length and a half, this was going ot be an easy crossing. My heart really sank when the front-end suddenly sunk and the vehicle landed solidly on it's frame in his ruts. I had also took the hole at about 15mph.
So - a quick summary of where we are at this point. A computer geek with is two cell phones, two laptops and telephony test gear in the cab is now sunk 5 ft into the center of a silt hole at a gravel pit with water coming in the cab. Shock was about all that registered. I was not prepared to get dirty! I had not even contemplated such a serious encounter.
As the 50 or so spectators watched from around the hole on their quads and custom rigs, I used my cell phone to reach out to the main office for help. They sent one of their park rangers down to take a look at my situation. When he saw me he laughed - he had jeered at me on the way in that he would like to buy it... for some reason he had lost interest LOL. The park brought down a large dozer to get me out - I was skeptical as the dozer was only 2/3 as big as the M35A3. After about a dozen or so attempts & creating some massive ruts with the tracked vehicle, the M35A3 was freed from it's silty prison. Hooray, right? Yes and no - all was not well.
Apparently approaching the hole with some speed like off-roading with a cheap pick-up was a bad idea. When the truck sunk, the force of the water on the radiator pushed it back into the fan blades, which in turn broke off and mutilated the line to the air clutch on the fan, embedded in the radiator, and decimated the fan shroud. Additionally, the rearmost passenger tire had gone flat in the hole as well as the spare. When inspecting the damage to the vehicle, the tire on the same axel but opposite side went flat.
Summary - 1.5 hrs away from home, the radiator and fan are toast, two flat tires, no spare. So - what does one do? Call Progressive Road-Side Assistance of course.
Apparently Progressive had it listed as an AMC general ... I had to tell them it was not a Delorean. Then they asked if it was a Hummer - i had to say not really, it's bigger. Finally I had to have the rep pull up a web browser and google "M35A3". What followed was silence and an ".... OH". She informed me that there had been a mistake in the classification of the vehicle and I needed the commercial vehicle department. Long story short, they sent a Semi tire repair company. LOLOL they guy was lost with the CTIS and two piece rims.
I ended up being fortunate enough to make a new friend at the ORV park who works on big trucks for a living. He facilitated the re-coring of the radiator, the procurement of a replacement fan, and the installation of said items. The whole process took a couple weeks. As a whole, the truck sat down near the park being repaired for the majority of time I had owned it.
When I picked it up, the two rear tires were flat. I was able to air them up using a glad hand to airline jig I picked up at the truck stop, and at 10lbs, the CTIS took over and they staid aired up. All good to go - Radiator is repaired, and the tires are not flat. right? WRONG!
I had not cleaned all the clay off of it after my excursion, and the wheels were way off balance. In a short mile, the death wobble of the M35A3 was SOOO bad, the hose at the bottom of the turbo separated from the turbo. The loss of power in the motor and the crazy woosh of air were staggering. I managed to limp it back to the place where it was being repaired, begged for the use of a hose and proceeded to use the nice new shiny DeWalt power washer I'd purchased to clean the clay out from the wheels. After re-attaching the bottom hose to the turbo and a thorough cleaning of the wheels / tires, all was well. We were off!
On the way back, as life would have it, the M35A3 was great; however, the Jeep my wife was following me in had a steer tire sidewall blowout. That turned out to be the last piece of the adventure. One tire change later, we finally made it home.
It took me 7 hours of cleaning to return the vehicle to it's state of cleanliness before going wheeling at Bundy Hill. It was a great adventure, and hte most expensive 30 minutes of fun I've ever had. Hopefully the next outing will be as much fun, but not as expensive. For now, we will keep things tame and just do the work commute in it thrice a week so it does not sit too much.
Pictures are attached - not a bad first adventure, eh?