Market Finds: Are You Brave Enough To Drive This Classic Off-Road Ambulance?

Are You Brave Enough To Drive This Classic Off-Road Ambulance?

By Andrew Golseth
May 9, 2016

Photography courtesy of The Finest

Just before joining the United States Air Force, I was given a sound piece of advice that changed the course of my future forever: “Be sure to get an AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code) that’ll give you skills compatible with the civilian world,” I was told by many wise veterans.

It may sound obvious to the readers without military experience, but there are several military specialty careers with more transferrable skill sets than others—thankfully, being a JAG Corps paralegal somehow translated into automotive writing. I have no idea how this happened, but I’m sure glad it did.

Much like military specialty careers, service equipment is often tailored to job-specific functions—some can’t be retooled for civilian use, while others have potential for life after duty. Take this U.S. Army 1967 Kaiser M725 Ambulance for example. Sure, it was originally intended to carry out a very specific order: competently act as a mobile hospital on the battlefield—but that doesn’t mean it can’t be useful for something in the home front.

Built on a 1 ¼ ton Jeep Gladiator M715 chassis, this state-of-the-art Vietnam era rescue wagon can transport up to five stretchered patients or eight upright soldiers. The medical transport features air ventilators, a gas heater, a surgical lamp, and a door that separates the front cabin from the rear cargo hold. It probably wouldn’t take much to convert this into a do-it-yourself garage-built RV, either. It’s roomy, reliable, and robust, meaning it’ll carry a party of weekend campers anywhere.

Powered by a stout Jeep Tornado 230 straight-six cylinder engine producing 132 horsepower and 210 pound feet of torque, you won’t be the fastest 4×4, but it’s enough to slug the 5,180-plus pound rig to 60 mph with a good tailwind—fast enough for an old off roader, right? With sturdy front and rear straight axles equipped with hydraulic four-wheel drum brakes, though, its forté is definitely at probably 40 mph or less.

With such a large enclosure, it could make a great parts hauler for a shop or garage. How about converting it into a brewery tour bus? With the M725 mil-spec market averaging between $15,000-$25,000, this offers a ton of utility for very little coin. If you decide to preserve its restored olive drab and red cross “livery,” it’d make for a great 4th of July parade vehicle.

Leave it as is, convert it into a camper, make it a killer shop truck, or haul drunks from bar to bar. Whatever you do with it, it’s sure to be a good time for little money while giving this old wartime ambulance a civilian revival.

– Vietnam-era Army ambulance

~132 horsepower, Tornado 230 cubic inch OHC inline-six cylinder engine, synchronized Warner T-98 four-speed manual transmission, leaf spring suspension, and hydraulic four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 165 inches.

Vehicle information
Chassis no.: 12909
Federal stock no.: 2310-921-6369

Auction house: The Finest
Estimate: $15,000 -$25,000 (no reserve)
Price realized: Auction on June 11


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Ben Rulffes
Ben Rulffes
2 years ago

I know I’m 4 years late on this discussion. But I’m from Northern NY, just had the joy along side a good friend of building one of these. To almost what guitar slinger wished for in his comment. Briefly I’ll explain what we did, we too didn’t like the little engine, nor the closed knuckle low geared driveline. So we got a doner truck and frame that just happened to be a 1996 Dodge 12 valve Cummins. We pulled measurements shortened the dodge frame 3 feet and dropped the ambulance right over the Cummins (with some minor custom body work extending the front end)and it’s entire driveline. Then we too though something needed to be done with interior so we went with the seats, steering column, and entire dash (including everything behind it) from the same 96. Roughly 600 hours later we have it registered and cruise it down the road at a steady 65mph. (Hate to say it but it’s smoother and better riding then my road princess duramax) hopefully some will see this and enjoy our modern twist on a historical ride and enjoy it! We just put together a website and will hopefully be putting the whole build with pictures and videos on there soon. We’re hoping to do a phase 2 build, with some drivetrain mods (twin turbos, built trans, etc) and complete paint job. Check us out

Ben Rulffes
Ben Rulffes
2 years ago
Reply to  Ben Rulffes

Forgot to say give us a likes, some shares and thanks if you do, as well as just simply checking us out. We appreciate it!

Tom DesRochers
Tom DesRochers
7 years ago

How feasible would it be to backdate the styling to look like something from the tv show M*A*S*H* ? I suspect they used a few Vietnam-era vehicles in Korean costume.

5 years ago
Reply to  Tom DesRochers

Eh, they used a Dodge version in MASH unfortunatly. But we dressed in Vietnam uniforms and were a MASH unit for Halloween this past year.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
7 years ago

At a cost of more like $10,000 . a tweak here … a hot rodded motor or better yet a transplant there .. here an upgrade to disc brakes … there a new interior to suit … and I can see a whole host of things this Viet Nam War [ errrr .. sorry … police action ] era ambulance could be used for … from an RV .. to a food truck …. to one heck of a tow vehicle …. right on down to one seriously bad***ed urban assault vehicle that despite its somewhat lurid past that in light of todays roads and infrastructure wouldn’t exactly be out of place … though to be honest I’d also be inclined to repaint the thing a completely different color seeing as how that era doesn’t exactly sit well with the majority not to mention the excessive over militarization of the US of late . Sigh …………

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
7 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

PS; I meant to include the fact that the beast does have great ‘ bones ‘ underneath … making it ready , willing and able to live up to any civilian duties its new owner might decide on .

FYI ; Memorial or Veterans Day parades .. not the 4th .. would be the more appropriate use of this vehicle if left as is … though as stated earlier … thats not exactly an era the US .. its leaders or its military should be in the least bit proud of .