“A challenge?!” was Paul Sanders’ response to the question, “What inspired you to restore a Mighty Mite?” When looking for a historic military vehicle to restore, Sanders of Lakeville, Minn., was interested in finding a project that would fit in his two-car garage, was unique, something he had not worked on before, and affordable. The Mighty Mite seemed to fit the bill with its small size, air-cooled engine, leaf-sprung independent suspension and aluminum construction.
In his search for a Mighty Mite, Sanders came across the G503 forum and started to comb over the G843 Mighty Mite section. The two that he eventually purchased were listed on G503. Prior to becoming a Mighty Mite owner he had seen only one Mighty Mite in his life.
Both of the vehicles Sanders purchased were in poor, “basket case” condition: Not running, not driving, and hardly rolling. One was missing the engine. The other had an engine but the top end was removed, and it had been left open to the elements.
While the body is made from aluminum, corrosion can still be an issue. The riveted construction meant Sanders had to learn a new skill set of drilling and setting rivets.
In the end, Sanders felt fortunate to have two vehicles from which to make one. “Like all the quality restorations in the pages of Military Vehicle Magazine,” he explained, “I completely disassembled every piece of the M422A1, media-blasted them, then either had them repainted or plated.”
Sanders handled the disassembly, reassembly, and mechanical rebuild of the vehicle. Gary and Paul Wirth of MV Specialties in Hastings, Minn., took care of prepping, priming and painting the items.
The crew at Midwest Military, while not a “mainline” Mighty Mite parts supplier, provided all the common M-series components. Rob Walsh of Boise, Idaho, (and owner of the web site M422A1.com) was an invaluable source of information as well as a few NOS and reproduction items like the front bumper.
When asked about the reactions he receives while driving or showing the Mite, Sanders quickly responded, “Wow! That is small – is it street legal?”
The distinctiveness of the vehicle really stood out for Sanders on two memorable occasions. “I brought it to a local car cruise in Hastings, Minn., where you are surrounded by hundreds of shiny wheeled machines. In the center of it all was my little green machine.” he remarked, “Many of attendee would stare at it long enough to realize the unique engineering accomplishments of what was in front of them.” Then questions started. “What is it?”, “Who made it?”, and “Is it a diesel?”
“It is fun to point out that a Mighty Mite is not water-cooled, steel, nor a solid-axle Jeep,” he added. Being an AMC product prior to AMC acquiring Jeep, he said, made it the company’s, “own little enigma.”
The second notable reaction to his Mighty Mite occurred at the 2015 MVPA convention in Topeka, Kan. Soon after Sanders had finished the restoration, he loaded it on the trailer and was Kansas bound.
While setting up the his display prior to the convention opening, there were quite a few people stopping by and talking with Sanders, complimenting the quality of the restoration and being very enthusiastic about seeing a nicely restored Mighty Mite. When the convention opened, the interest continued to grow. “Being complimented by a group of peers and awarded the MVPA Judges Choice award,” Sanders said, “has undoubtedly been the highlight of my historic military vehicle collecting hobby.”
Sanders did encounter a few obstacles, however. “There is not a large enough interest for any of the surplus dealers to invest the time, money, or effort into the Mighty Mite, but Rob Walsh and I have made some headway into solving the parts shortage of a few key items,” he said. The fragile front bumpers are often mangled on the Mighty Mite, cut off and replaced with whatever is at hand. Walsh (www.M422A1.com) took it upon himself to design the tooling to have the front bumper items reproduced. The fragile front bumpers are often mangled on the Mighty Mite, cut off and replaced with whatever is at hand. Sanders is the sole supplier of the CV boots, transfer case shift boots, accelerator pedal boots and air cleaner hoses. These items are not offered by any of the surplus dealers.
“With these additional parts being made available Rob and I hope to increase the number of Mighty Mites being restored and put back on the road for all to enjoy,” Sanders said.