Mackie’s Kaiser Jeep M715 - New Life on The Trail

Mar. 20, 2013 By Jaime Hernandez

It’s a rare thing to see a full-sized truck playing on the rocks these days. Jeeps, mid-size trucks and rock buggies have become the norm due to their shorter wheelbase, track width, flexible suspension and bolt-on aftermarket parts that help give these rigs super powers beyond any OEMs belief.

While traversing the red rock of Moab, Utah, we met Kevin Mackie from NorCal, owner of a unique 4x4 Kaiser Jeep M715. Mackie and his olive drab truck stood out from the sea of Jeeps. The Kaiser’s chiseled body, solid steel construction and dominant stance meant business. Mackie fired it up and black smoke came out with a rattle—it was a diesel! The Kaiser Jeep truck resonated well with the crowd and won us over, so we had to go in for a closer look.

Mackie embarked on his first 4x4 build three years ago, which completely transformed this retired military Kaiser Jeep M715 truck into an amazing trail rig, ready for expedition and adventure. We spent some time with Mackie on the trail and were really impressed when we learned that he was new to off-road and four-wheeling in general. By the looks of his truck build and driving skills, he fooled us.

Kevin Mackie did confess that he had been involved with the import tuner scene and was a Honda master technician for 15 years. In other words, Mackie had a knack for modifying, and it was evident on the M715. Fast import cars and racing once fired Mackie’s adrenaline until a life-altering experience drove him away. Disgusted by the street-racing scene and what was happening with the tuner market, Mackie had to find another outlet for his gearhead tendencies. It was around that time that he discovered this strange-looking machine parked by his shop that sparked his interest.

The Kaiser Jeep M715 was produced from 1967 to 1969 as a cargo/troop carrier for the U.S. Military. It was heavily used during the Vietnam War and has served in South Korea and Europe. The truck is so iconic that in 2010 Jeep developed the NuKizer 715 as a tribute to the original Kaiser Jeep M715 (Photo Josh Burns).

Mackie and some friends went over for a closer look and discovered it was some sort of military truck. The owner came out to see why these guys were snooping around, and was a little upset at first. Mackie introduced himself and apologized to the owner. After seeing that these young men were genuinely interested in learning more about the Kaiser Jeep truck, he took a liking to Mackie. Long story short, Mackie bought the 1969 Kaiser Jeep M715 for a song and a dance—with one condition, he had to use it. Mackie agreed and has stayed true to that stipulation.

Mackie is the 3rd owner of this M715, including the U.S. Military. Even though the truck had been sitting for 15 years, a little work on the brakes and some new fuel was all that was needed to get this bad boy running again. After he got it on the road, Mackie continued to drive the truck for three months before any major modifications were done.  He told us that it was tough to drive with no power steering or brakes. Its top speed of 55 mph also really limited where he could go; most of the time he had to take side streets to get around town. Nonetheless, the Kaiser Jeep truck was quite the sight and raised a few eyebrows around the Silicone Valley.

Mackie’s M715 now is powered by a 7.3L IDI Powerstroke diesel engine featuring modified injection pump and Banks sidewinder turbo kit. A Dodge hydroboost was also added under the hood for power assist and larger capacity master cylinder. According to Mackie, it has no problem locking up the 40" tires.

Once the honeymoon phase was over, Mackie started to look at options on how to make this old military truck a better fit for the concrete jungle and beyond. The goal was to build a truck for expedition and sustained off-road travel. Mackie’s best friend Randy Ellis talked to his father about donating a retired forestry truck to the cause—it had a Powerstroke diesel ripe for the picking. Mr. Ellis agreed and the boys started their work. 

Both Mackie and Ellis worked on transforming the M715 into a modern diesel-breathing trail rig. The 7.3L Powerstroke diesel motor would replace the factory inline 6-cylinder gasser. Other goodies came along with the swap, such as an automatic 5-speed transmission and matching transfer case.  he transformation began in 2010 and the labor of two friends produced this amazing Kaiser Jeep M715 truck.

A ZF 5-speed Automatic Transmission gives the Kaiser Jeep longer legs for highway speed.  Backed by a 13-56 Borg Warner Transfer Case, the Lo-Range turns the axles with custom drive shafts.

The body was slightly modified for more extreme off-road use. Mackie bobbed the truck bed 16 inches and the frame just behind the rear leaf spring hangers. This not only looks good, it actually helped improve the departure angle for the M715.

In the bed, an auxiliary diesel fuel tank and toolbox combo was added. The fuel tank is equipped with a heater core to warm the fuel, allowing bio-fuel use. In the tool box, an air compressor is plumbed to feed a 2.5 gallon air tank under the cab. This cargo area is all tied in with a bed cage that supports a full-sized spare tire and Hi-Lift Jack.

The front axle was replaced with a Dana 60 featuring 4.56 gears, Detroit Locker and Superwinch hublocks. The brakes were upgraded to Ford F-350 front disks and calipers. Mackie retained the Kaiser Jeep leaf spring suspension and flipped the axle under the pack for added lift.

In the rear, a Sterling 10.25-inch axle now propels the M715, churning with 4.56 gears and factory LSD. The drum brakes were upgraded to GM disk brakes. A line lock has also been added for a parking brake. The original military rear springs were used with the axle flipped for added lift.

Teflon black American Racing ATX Artillery 20-inch wheels wrapped with 40-inch ProComp Xterrain tires look good on the M715 and also add great bite on the slickrock.

To help steer this almost 6,000-pound truck and 40-inch tires, a PSC hydraulic assist power steering system has been added. A modified GM power steering pump is used to flow pressurized fluid to a Toyota heavy-duty gearbox, which is tapped and linked to the PSC ram assist. The hydro-boost brake system also works off the same high-flow power steering pump.

Custom Rock Sliders and fuel tank were fabricated for the M715. They both flow so well with the truck that they just blend in.

The interior got a complete makeover. A khaki color was added to keep the heat down on topless days, along with new XRC Smittybilt seats and a center jump seat for family outings. Mackie retained the original “Jeep” steering wheel, giving it a vintage look.  The cab and its occupants are well protected with a custom roll cage and Sparco 5-point harness.

Mackie upgraded the gauges with Autometer 12 volt models that matched the original faces. He also changed over the M715 electrical system from the original 24 volt to 12 volt, making life a lot easier for electronics. An intercom system from an old fire truck was added for long-distance travel, which uses headsets from a small aircraft as things can get loud on the open road. Mackie is in the process of linking it to bluetooth for even more functionality. If that wasn’t cool enough, the M715 also features a baseball grenade. Talk about a conversation piece.

All mechanical work, design and minor fabrication was done by Kevin Mackie. Major welding and fabrication was completed by best friend and co-builder Randy Ellis. The roll cage was done by Comers Toy shop/Sunnyoaks muffler, and aluminum fab (radiator and fuel tanks) were done by Judy KIng in Santa Clara. Overall, a fine example that great things are still being built and re-built in the U.S.

Since we last saw Mackie in Moab, he has added a few more things to the Kaiser Jeep M715.  A new front bumper equipped with a Superwinch Talon 18K SR winch.  A spare tire carrier designed to open like a lift gate on a hatch back is also in the works, along with a number of other modifications like off-road lighting and a roof top tent.

The best part to our update is that Mackie is still driving his M715 whenever possible—staying true to his original promise. He was recently out wheeling in Nevada with the Vegas Valley 4Wheelers. “I love to drive it, I take it whenever I can,” commented Mackie. He also shares the joy with his family: “My son is 7 and he loves to see it pull into the school for pick up.”  Some of you may relate. I remember my folks picking us kids up in the jacked up 4x4 Bronco with Boggers. All the kids called it the monster truck and got big smiles whenever they saw it.  Pretty cool feeling.

Look for Kevin Mackie and his Kaiser Jeep M715 at a trail near you.

Have an over-the-top build? We want to see it. Contact us at Newsletter
Join our Weekly Newsletter to get the latest off-road news, reviews, events, and alerts!