What's most interesting about the M-Gator, however, is the vehicle's remarkable similarity to the World War II jeep. The M-Gator has a 79 inch wheelbase and 48 inch tread versus the Willys 80 inches and 48 inches respectively. Gross vehicle weight is about 2500-lbs for both. The biggest difference is the engine. The M-Gator's three cylinder diesel is good for only 18-horsepower and 29 kilometers an hour compared to 60-hp (gross) (about 45 net hp) and 88 kilometers an hour for the Willys' "Go-Devil" engine. The LUMES vehicle would likely be even more jeep-like.
The M-Gator, the Armys off-the-shelf, off-road golf cart, has proven successful and popular with light infantry forces and support troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Originally purchased with unit funds, the Army has begun the formal process of procuring what they call the Light Utility Mobility Enhancement System, or LUMES. Thus the LUMES designation formalizes the requirement that the M-Gator is already filling with the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, hauling cargo around base facilities and in confined spaces where the Hummvee is impractical. LUMES will also incorporate some requests from troops who have used the M-Gator, such as trailer towing ability and the ability to evacuate casualties. Rollover fears had led the Army to discourage this with the M-Gator.
Although the Hummvee is widely considered the "new jeep," it actually replaced a number of heavier vehicles, such as the M561 Gama Goat, and struggled with lighter missions previously assigned to the last true jeep, the rollover-prone M151. Some units, especially special forces, use Chenowth dune buggies known as Fast Attack Vehicles, but these have proved impractical for most non-special ops roles, probably due to the lack of cargo capacity. Recent experience with the M-Gator shows that when it comes down to it, the more things change, the more they stay the same. --AJ Wagner