Desert Turtle - M1010 Build

ExpoMike

Well-known member
In following with some other "Turtle" builds like Turtle Expedition and the Mountian Turtle M1010 build, I bring you Desert Turtle, our '84 M1010. Actually this is my second M1010. The first build got started but at that time I decided to go a different route and bought a Dodge Ram and FWC popup camper. It was a great rig but some life changes a few years later had me selling that rig. Between that rig and our Kamparoo trailer prior, we learned a lot of what we liked/didn't like. Fast forward a few years and we are back to wanting to get out again. At this point what do we want? Must be 4WD, must have a real bed and must have some of the amenities we liked in previous rigs (heater, fridge, hot water, etc.). It also needs to be fairly capable out on the trails and comfortable for highway traveling. Oh and in a budget we can afford! Really liked the 4WD Sprinter vans and there are some amazing builds but since those started being imported to the US in 2015 and are in high demand, they were way out of our price range. Love the Fuso/camper setup but again out of our budget. Really liked the FWC flat bed setups but again with a proper truck and the camper, way out of our budget. Hummm.... what to do?

I had always had a longing to have built my first M1010 and it has been burning in my mind for the last 10 years. Over the last year or so, I would do searches for them for sale. They popped up from time to time but the prices were really getting up there. For a rig where there is almost zero driver/passenger comforts (i.e A/C, Cruise, power anything, etc.) I just couldn't bring myself to drop what the asking prices were. I just kept looking. Back in March of this year I ran across one on Steel Soldiers site that looked to be in good condition and was priced right. It was in Detroit, MI and I am out in San Diego, CA. A lot of back and forth with questions and pictures, I felt I would make the leap (ironically, both M1010's are the only vehicles in the 55 I have owned, I did not see in person before buying). Getting it shipped was another ordeal, given the height. Finally found a shipper and a few weeks later it arrived. Overall in good shape but a little rougher than my first one. Now the build starts...

Loaded up and heading to San Diego
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Arriving! Black soot on upper corner of box was from the big rig exhaust hauling it. Think they might want to turn their fuel down a little. LOL
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More to follow.... :)
 

ExpoMike

Well-known member
Once off the trailer, looking things over you could see where the decals were at from one of the previous owners. After it left the military, it was bought by a sheriff department in Florida. It was used for the Bomb Squad! Hope they were not trying to get to a scene in a hurry. LOL First point of business was to get it register in CA. Having all my paperwork in hand, I headed to my local AAA office since they can do this. Definitely wanted to avoid DMV! About 30 minutes later, it was titled.

One thing I knew it needed right off the bat was tires. My last M1010 I put 35" tires on because I got a great deal on some H2 Hummer wheels and some new tires from Mario at Adventure Trailers (customer wanted to downsize). To get these to fit I need to do a 2.5" lift. This time around I am looking to not need to modify a bunch of suspension to get tires to fit. Also it has the stock 16x6.5 wheels which limit tire sizes. After a bunch of research, I decided to go with Toyo Open County M/T in 255/85-16, which fit without any suspension mods or changing the wheels. These have been popular on M1010's over the years and should work great for our needs. Ordered them from my local Discount Tires.

Old 235/85-16 tires. They look good but was well over 10 years old and had a ton of dry cracking.
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New Toyo 255/85-16. Much better!
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Hard to tell they are on due to the lighting but with the new tires
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In the driveway with our '99 Cherokee. Makes the Cherokee look small. :)
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ExpoMike

Well-known member
First order of business is to go though all of the systems and get everything base lined and up on maintenance. The rig only has 15,000 original miles but it's now 35 years old and who knows what was done. Here are some common CUCV upgrade items. Start relay upgrade - actually done by previous owner. Glow plug resistor bypass - done and moved to 12 system as it should have been. Replaced glow plugs with ones that do not swell up - done. Some of the next things will be fluids, drive train and suspension items. Starting to gather parts.

New shocked arrived. Bilstein 5165. Loved the 5160 series I had on my Ram.
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Since I need to replace the diff fluid, might upgrade the covers. Made by Solid, they are cast iron and beefy!
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Well I think that brings me up to date. Stay tuned...
 

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ExpoMike

Well-known member
I had done a few SketchUp drawings of ideas for the box. The first one I did almost 10 years ago, before we had the FWC. Since then we decided we need a real mattress as these thinner foam cushion type pads just don't cut it. Not being able to get a good nights sleep was are biggest issues with both the FWC and Kamparoo. About a year ago I did an updated drawing with a permanent bed design. Still have a few ideas I want to draw up. These are to scale but not all details are drawn (like windows, drawers, etc.)

Original design
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Updated design
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ExpoMike

Well-known member
Very neat! I always love seeing these. If you haven't already, go on Instagram and look up "bornforadventure". He has a sick M1010 that he takes off-road, as well as owning a handful of square body Chevy and GMC trucks at once!

Thanks. I don't really do Instagram but I have seen his M1010 and some other things on YouTube. Very cool rig.
 

ExpoMike

Well-known member
Gathering more parts. I had these gauges custom made by Speedhut. This is their Revolution line but done up to look like their HUMVEE line of gauge. Wanted to keep that military vibe but have modern gauges, since there are none in the CUCV rigs. The LED near the bottom of the gauge is a programmable warning light, that will light up red when activated. Speedo is a GPS unit, so doesn't matter what size tires or gear ratio I run. Also has compass and altimeter. Tach is a diesel model that will run from the "R" output on the alternator. I have used Speedhut gauges in a couple other projects and have loved them.

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chilliwak

Expedition Leader
Wow thats a pretty cool looking set of gauges Mr Expo. I am sure they were not cheap. Nice little addition to your rig. Cheers, Chilli...😎
 

ExpoMike

Well-known member
Thanks Chilli. Cheaper than an engine rebuild. :D Got them ordered during a 15% off sale, ended up being just under $800 which is about on par for any very high quality gauge sets.
 

ExpoMike

Well-known member
Nice gauges...i wonder, do they come with blue backlights....
If you go to Speedhut's site, all gauges are built to order. They offer a number of colors for their gauges. Their HUMVEE line are the only ones who uses this color green. I asked that they used the same artwork and lighting for my gauges. Noramlly this is not an option for a normal build of their gauges. I also had them rotate the smaller gauges to put the needle sweep from 7 - 5 versus their normal 9 - 6 configuration. These truly are one of a kind (unless someone copies me).
 

ExpoMike

Well-known member
Being deep into a 5 speed trans swap in my '65 C10 Panel truck, I took the M1010 down to the local gear shop (Pro-Gear) and had them drain, install my new diff covers, with Lube-Locker gaskets and put fresh fluid in. Got that system marked off my list.

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ExpoMike

Well-known member
Been toying with a different idea for the box interior. Wife and I are looking at the idea of bunks instead of a single bed. Much better use of space and no one ends up having to crawl over the other one. Rough idea, fairly to scale but not 100%. More of a concept drawing.

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