There is no arguing that it takes a little out-of-the-box thinking to create something that stands out in a crowd. Building a cool truck from a Chevy, Ford, or Ram truck is done every day, but it’s not often we get to lay our eyes on something that not many people have ever seen. Take for instance Bryce Malone’s 1968 Kaiser Jeep M715.
“My dad was a Navy Senior Chief Electrician’s Mate who served more than 30 years in the United States Navy. He served in Vietnam and Korea and was then called back for Desert Storm. He was in Special Operations for the Navy. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1998.”
“This M715 is my way of paying homage to him and other Senior Chiefs that have served our country,” Bryce says. “The story behind the truck starts in June 2020 when I bought it from a guy who picked it up from an auction in South Dakota. After Korea, many of these trucks did not make it home. Those that did were donated to fire stations and the forestry department. This one happened to be a brush truck from a rural fire department in South Dakota. During its military service, it served mainly as a troop and cargo carrier.”
Bryce tells us it had some issues when he bought it, and the leading was a lack of power. “It could go through anything but was slow to do it,” Bryce says with a laugh. “Kaiser used the Buick Tornado single-overhead-cam engine. It was ahead of its time and as such, had many issues.”
“At first, I was going to restore the M715 to its original form. But after driving it, it became clear that the engine, gearing, and overall design of the truck were not overly conducive to today’s highways and speeds. I tore the truck down to its frame and that’s when I decided it needed a diesel. I discussed the project with Josh Gruis, owner of Jag’s Pro Truck shop in Zimmerman, Minnesota to see if he had any interest in the build. He was game.”
When most enthusiasts decide to do a diesel swap, the first-gen Cummins is usually the engine of choice. Let’s face it, it’s an easy swap and parts are readily available. Bryce and Josh decided to go a different route.
“I had seen some swaps done with the first-gen Cummins but after speaking to Josh, we decided the common-rail 5.9-liter Cummins would be the way to go,” says Bryce. “I found a 2006 Dodge Ram 2500 that was the perfect donor truck for the project. The body was rough, but the drivetrain was in fantastic shape. As I began to tear it down, Josh suggested it might be easier and cost-effective if we swapped the M715 body onto the frame of the Ram 2500. At first, I was hesitant because I really wanted to keep as much of the original structure in place. However, knowing I wanted power brakes and steering, and the frame was already suited for the power and torque the Cummins puts out, it was an easy call.”
And so, the project began. Like all projects, the plan evolved every step of the way, but Bryce always maintained the end goal of honoring his father and other Senior Chiefs who have served in the Navy.
The M715 was disassembled at Bryce’s home shop and then media blasted. Luckily, the body had zero rust and was in great shape. Sure, it had a few dents, but those were easily repaired. “It was at this point I knew the rest was going to require a lot more than I was comfortable doing,” affirms Bryce. “This is when I brought the truck, trailer load by trailer load to Jag’s.”
This is where Bryce met a gentleman by the name of Ralph Braun who he dubbed the “diesel whisperer”. “This guy is amazing,” says Bryce. “He is very creative, can fab anything, fix anything, and is just fantastic to work with. “We would bounce ideas off of one another and things just evolved. The engine had 330,000 miles on it but when we tore it down to rebuild it, we learned the previous owner, a veterinarian, took extraordinary care of the engine and it was immaculate.”
The transmission received the requisite upgrades and rebuild to handle the extra horsepower Bryce would be putting to it. With motivational duties handled, Ralph began to mock up the truck one piece at a time. “Originally, I thought keeping the yellow color it had on it would be cool, but then I had an image in my head of a US Navy warship and also the P40 Warhawk that used shark teeth on the front,” Bryce mentions.
Since Bryce planned to make this M715 a driver, some drivability upgrades were in order. He added Dakota Digital gauges, heater and fan, new door seals, window seals, and new canvas.
Bryce ended by saying, “we changed out the gear set and went with 4.33 gears. Everything on this M715 is custom, from the bumpers, drop-down electric steps, bed-mounted spare tire, cooler and jack carrier, to the custom PRP seats. The truck is meant to be as tough as the Senior Chiefs it was made to represent. The entire undercarriage, cab floor, and bed are lined with Reflex bed liner. The truck was designed to go through or over anything it might come across. I cannot think of a better way to pay homage to my dad and other chiefs. The truck is an absolute badass.”
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