Lots of people who get interested in buying an M35A2 learn about the A3 variant as well. So I get the question a lot – should I get an A2 or A3?
Some people get nervous about the A3’s automatic transmission. Also, parts the A3 are not as prevalent. Since the A3 was basically an in the field upgrade, parts were not made specifically for it. Instead you find A2 parts that might work on the A3.
Of course driving an automatic is easier (on some level, of course the manual is more fun!). And the A3 has better noise control, electric wipers, and power steering. But does that warrant getting the A3 just for it?
For me personally, the A2 is just simpler (but in a good way). It has been tested for decades and many other experts will tell you the same story: working in or on an A2 is fun. But the A3 is tougher to repair.
There’s lots of stories of some of the “upgrades” breaking:
– The Central Tire Inflation System (CTIS) fails (but you can always remove it)
– the CAT engine’s starter failing
– bad auto-trans
Now before you get me wrong – I am not hating on the A3. It was a decent enough project, it made the A2 a little nicer, but the military knew they needed something else. The A3 was never going to keep pace with the HUMVEE, and making the A2 perform in that area just didn’t make sense.
The CAT 3116 does make more HP than the multi-fuels. And the brakes on the A3 are going to be better unless you get a 1987+ model A2.
But we are back to the question: does the higher price (often a few thousand more) on the A3 make it worth it?
If you can get a good deal on an A3 in good shape, and want the benefits of the auto trans, go for it. What is more important is that you stick to your budget, know how to repair whatever you get, and have fun.
Or better yet – buy both! For all the ragging A2 and A3 owners give each, they both are really excellent trucks.