by Silvio Iacuone
In April 2015, Nick Denardo trailered two vehicles to the Military Transport Associations rally held at the fairgrounds in Sussex, N.J. In addition to a 2001 John Deere Military “Gator,” he planned to display his recently restored M274A5 Mule, complete with a TOW missile launcher.
“TOW” stands for Tube Launched, Optically Tracked, Wire Guide. Deployed in the 1970s, TOW launchers are still in use today.
This particular Mule, acquired from David Kelone, was originally built with fenders, battery box, and wide sand tires as the platform to carry the TOW weapons system. As seen in the accompanying pictures, the Mule was in tough shape and desperately needed both cosmetic and mechanical restoration.
Since there are very few surviving TOW mules, acquiring all of the TOW parts and mule specific brackets was a chore. In Nick’s own words, “The Mule was essentially two projects in one.” He explained, “The first project was to locate the brackets along with a suitable Mule.” The second was to complete the TOW launcher.
The project began in August 2009. The mule restoration included a complete tear-down of the axles, wire brushing, and sanding followed by painting the body and frame. Nick found an NOS Mule motor along with the miscellaneous parts including a new seat assembly from WeeBee Webbing. The Mule required about 5 months of working late nights and weekends. Sourcing the TOW parts however, took another year and a half.
Over those 18 months, after searching shows and the internet, the Mule was almost complete. It just needed a launch tube. Due to TOW launch tubes being classified as “controlled items” and near-impossible to find, DeNardo decided to fabricate a replica out of thin fiberglass.
The TOW Mule’s first show was at Aberdeen 2011. It joined Nick’s other mule that carries a 106mm recoilless rifle.
After viewing this Mule, it can certainly be said that Nick prefers mules “with a kick!”