Chrysler’s T-23 High Mobility Truck

While flicking through some old documents recently, we came across the T-23, a monstrously large US truck from the 1940s that was designed to be one of the best off-road vehicles in the world at the time and replace the GMC CCKW.

It was almost as tall as a Sherman tank, had 5-foot-wide tires, and enormous ground clearance. We had never heard of this truck before, and after sharing it around, it seems the internet hasn’t either!

This awesome truck has nearly been lost to time, so we thought we’d share the limited information and photos we have of it here.


Finding a CCKW Replacement

The T-23 was a started to solve a number of problems the US encountered with its supply trucks during the Second World War.

It is often hard to claim one nation was outright “better” at any one aspect of the Second World War, but in terms of cargo vehicles, the United States was far ahead of its peers and enemies.

Thanks to its well-established automotive industry, the US was able to build millions of trucks that worked in a huge variety of roles around the world and with its allies.

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They were arranged into classes by their cargo-carrying capacity and driven wheel arrangement. The famous Willys Jeep, for example, was a 1⁄4‑ton, 4×4 truck.

But despite the absolute success that was the US’ motor transport system, the enormous scale and pressure placed on it revealed some drawbacks.

CCKW truck in mud.
The CCKW was the backbone of US logistics.

The most prevalent was a lack of parts commonality. Too few parts were shared between vehicles, even if they were dimensionally similar. In addition, too much time was wasted in the repair process because components were too difficult to remove and replace (this sounds laughable today, when you compare their complexity with modern vehicles).

Off-road performance also had room for improvement, especially after the advent of new technologies. Planners expected the introduction of guided missiles and more accurate bombing to quickly make major supply roads impassable.

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Therefore, supply vehicles would need good enough cross country mobility to take alternative, less developed routes at short notice.

The backbone of the US logistics on land during the war was the GMC CCKW, a 2½-ton 6×6 truck that had a two-person cab and a flat bed with foldable bench seats. It was likely the best cargo truck of the war, but it too suffered from some of the issues mentioned above, particularly regarding its off-road abilities.

Thus, the Army set about finding a replacement.

Chrysler T-23

It seems the US were looking for a new 2½-ton truck to replace the CCKW as far back as 1943. Chrysler submitted a design that would provide exceptional mobility while maintaining the same cargo capacity.

This vehicle was the 2½-ton, Cargo Truck, 4×4, T-23. Unlike the CCKW, the T-23 (sometimes just T23) was a 4×4, but this did not mean it was lacking in mobility.

The entire vehicle was created to provide the absolute best possible off-road performance. In documentation, it is described as:

An entirely new type of cross country truck providing high ground clearance and floatation characteristics for negotiating swampy terrain previously considered impassable to standard military vehicles.

T-23 truck.
The T-23. The ring above the cab is a gun ring, which would have been fitted with a machine gun for anti-aircraft work.

This was partially thanks to a monstrous ground clearance of 25 inches (635 mm) at the lowest, by the axles, and 37 inches at the center. For comparison, the CCKW has 10 inches of ground clearance.

This ground clearance was achieved by placing the differentials in the frame of truck, rather than on the axles, and four huge tires. These were 5 feet (1.5 meters) wide and usually inflated to low pressures for maximum surface area and grip over soft ground.

Interestingly, the tires had a centrally controlled inflation system that could inflate or deflate them even while the T-23 was moving. This was controlled by the driver by switches in the cab.

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With this, if a paved supply route was blocked, T23s would have been able to simply deflate the tires and by-pass the blockage off-road without stopping.

The T-23 was a very big truck though, with a length of 231 inches (5.87 meters), a width of 96 inches (2.44 meters), and a height of 111 inches (2.82 meters).

T-23 side view.
Right-side view of the T-23. Note the incredible ground clearance.

Much of this was taken up by the 146 inch (3.7 meter) long bed, which had a capacity of 2.5 tons. The T-23 had an empty weight of 14,595 lbs (6,620 kg), and a maximum loaded weight of 19,595 lbs (8,888 kg).

At the front, under the cab two-person cab, was a 10,000 lb winch.

Power came from a 331 cubic inch (5.4 litre), 6 cylinder Chrysler engine that produced 120 hp. This gave it a top speed of 42 mph, and a 4,500 lb (2,040 kg) towing capacity.

Incredibly, the T-23 was could ford up 65 inches of water – this is enough to completely submerge a Jeep!


With the T-23, Chrysler managed to create a truck that “out-performed any other wheeled vehicle under the conditions for which it was designed”. Two prototypes were made and tested just after the war, where they proved to have excellent mobility, but it did not enter service.

Currently, we do not know why. The book “U.S. Military Wheeled Vehicles” by Fred W. Crimson seems to be the only non-military source that mentions the T-23. That book only mentions that “the project was cancelled due to higher priority work.”

Documents from the 1940s that mention the T-23 state that it “could not be considered satisfactory as a general purpose truck.” While this isn’t very specific, we interpret this to mean that the T-23 may have been excellent off road, but lacked qualities required of a truck that will be used in vast numbers around the world.

T51 truck drawing.
Plans for T51, a 6×6 proposed by General Motors.

Perhaps it was too large, too expensive or too complicated.

After the T-23, the US Army looked at another vehicle to replace the CCKW. This was the Carrier, Cross country, 2½-ton, 6×6, T51. The T51 incorporated many features from the T-23, such as its wide, low pressure tires and tire inflation system, but it too failed to enter service.

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The CCKW’s replacement wouldn’t come until the 1950s, with the arrival of the M35 series of trucks.