Bryce Malone’s ’68 M715 Jeep “Senior Chief”

There’s no arguing that it takes some out-of-the-box thinking to create something that stands out from the crowd. Building a cool truck from a Chevy, Ford, or Ram truck is done every day, but it’s not often that we get to see something that not many have ever seen. Take Bryce Malone’s 1968 Kaiser Jeep M715, for example.

“My dad was a Navy Chief Electrician who served more than 30 years in the US Navy. He served in Vietnam and Korea and then was called back for Desert Storm. He was in Special Operations for the Navy. Sadly, he passed away in 1998. “

A mix of old and not so old to create the perfect truck.

“This M715 is my way of honoring him and other senior officers who have served our country,” said Bryce. “The story behind the truck begins in June 2020 when I bought it from a guy who picked it up at an auction in South Dakota. After Korea, many of these trucks didn’t make it home. The ones that did were donated to fire stations and the Forest Service. This one happened to be a brush truck from a rural fire department in South Dakota.During its military service it served primarily as a troop and cargo carrier.”

Bryce says it had a few problems when he bought it, the main one being a lack of power. “It could go through anything but was slow to do so,” 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 problems.”

M715

“At first I was going to restore the M715 to its original form. But after driving it, it became clear that the engine, transmission and overall design of the truck was not too conducive to today’s highways and speeds. I tore the truck down to its frame and it was when I decided it needed a diesel. I discussed the project with Josh Gruis, owner of the Jags Pro Truck shop in Zimmerman, Minnesota to see if he had any interest in the build. He was game.”

When most enthusiasts decide to make a diesel switch, the first generation 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 generation Cummins, but after talking with 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 powertrain was in great shape. When I started tearing it down, Josh suggested it might be easier and cost effective if we swapped out the M715 body for the frame on the Ram 2500. At first I was hesitant because I really wanted to keep as much of the original structure in place, but knowing that I wanted power brakes and steering, and that the frame was already suited for the power and torque that the Cummins provides, it was a simple conversation.”

And so the project began. Like all projects, the plan evolved every step of the way, but Bryce always maintained the ultimate goal of honoring his father and other senior officers who have served in the Navy.

The M715 was taken apart in Bryce’s home shop and the media was then blown up. Luckily the body had zero rust and was in good shape. Sure, it had a few dents, but they were easily repaired. “It was at this point that I knew the rest was going to require a lot more than I was comfortable doing,” confirms Bryce. “That’s when I brought the truck, trailer load by trailer load to Jag’s.”

It was here that Bryce met a gentleman named Ralph Braun whom he called the “Diesel Whisperer”. “This guy is amazing,” says Bryce. “He’s very creative, can do anything, fix anything and is just amazing to work with. “We would bounce ideas off each other and things just evolved. The engine had 330,000 miles on it but when we tore it down to rebuild it we learned that the previous owner, a vet, took extraordinary care of the engine and it was flawless.”

The transmission received the necessary upgrades and was rebuilt to handle the extra horsepower that Bryce would put on it. With motivational tasks handled, Ralph began to mock the truck one piece at a time. “Originally I thought it would be cool to keep the yellow color it had on it, 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,” mentions Bryce.

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 concluded by saying, “we swapped out the transmission and went with 4.33 gears. Everything on this M715 is custom, from the bumpers, fold-down power steps, bed-mounted spare tires, cooler and jack stands, 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 covered in Reflex bed liners. The truck was designed to go through or over anything it might encounter. I can’t think of a better way to pay tribute to my dad and other chiefs. The truck is an absolute badass.”

Want to see more Reader’s Rigs? If you do, click here. This column is dedicated to showcasing what you guys and gals are driving and I need your help to give Reader’s Rigs the props they deserve. If you want to share yours, I want to hear about it – I can never get enough. If you’d like to see your truck featured as a Reader’s Rig, send me some pictures of your truck showing the engine, interior and exterior, along with all relevant information about it, and I’ll make you famous on the internet. You can send your contributions to [email protected].

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