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Book Review of

“The Hard Ride - Vietnam Gun Trucks (Part 2)"

Review By Patrick Keenan - Editor

2nd Edition


Basic Item Information


The Hard Ride – Vietnam Gun Trucks (Part 2)

This Review Covers both the 1st and 2nd Editions of Volume/Part 2


By James Lyles


(1st Edition) Planet Art Publishing - Quezon City, Philippines

(2nd Edition) Rhame House Publishers – Wheaton, IL USA

ISBN Number

(1st Edition) ISBN 971-93037-2-7

(2nd Edition) ISBN 978-0-9836092-0-9


Vietnam Era Gun Trucks


Soft Cover Book

Number of Pages

(1st Edition) 79 pages

(2nd Edition) 98 pages

Number/Type of Photos and/or Illustrations

(1st Edition) (308) Black & White Photos and Illustrations

(2nd Edition) (250) Color and (50) Black & White Photos and Illustrations

Text Language


Retail Price

$39.95 USD Available at the website: http://vietnamguntruck.tripod.com/hardride.html


Patrick Keenan

Review Date

January 19, 2007 (1st Edition)

January 13, 2012 (2nd Edition)

Review Summary*

Review Type

Normal Read

Basic Positive Features

Massive number of previously unpublished photos from directly from Gun Truck Crewman.  Specific Info on almost 400 separate Gun Trucks.

Basic Negative Features

2nd Edition: Weak Book Binding and No Page Numbers Provided

1st Edition: No color photographs, and at times poor photo printing quality


2nd Edition: A Must Have.

1st Edition: Highly Recommended

* For information regarding the review terms, grading scale, etc. please go to the WarWheels Review FAQ/Key

Also see the review on Part/Volume 1 of "The Hard Ride".


Pages from Second Edition                

 Pages from First Edition                  


Detailed Review

PLEASE NOTE:  In January 2007, I originally reviewed Part/Volume 2 of “The Hard Ride: Vietnam Gun Trucks”.  That book was entirely printed in black ink and was released in November 2003.  However, in April 2011, the book was updated, improved and re-released by Rhame House Publishing; The most dramatic difference being that the book was printed in color when possible.  Therefore, there are now two (2) editions of Part/Volume 2: The “1st Edition” being the book from 2003 with the yellow cover and printed in black/white ink and the “2nd Edition”, being the book from 2011, with the blue cover and printed in color ink. 

Lastly, although very similar in content, there are definite differences between the two editions.  Therefore, I decided to update my review in light of the release of the 2nd Edition.  In addition, you should know that the majority of the review below covers both editions of Part 2.  However, if there are notable differences between the two editions, I will clearly note that fact.

Patrick Keenan January 2012

Book Content

Normally, when I decide to do a review of a reference or model kit, it is a review sample or a new product I’d like to work on or read.  This review came about much differently in that the book came to my attention by accident and is a few years old.  However, within 1 minute of glancing over both volumes of “the Hard Ride”, I decided that they just had to be reviewed in order to get the word out to other WFV enthusiasts and modelers that these books are out there and available.  To me, both parts/volumes of “The Hard Ride” are books that are unique and unparalleled.

There are two parts/volumes of the “Hard Ride”, the second part being this book.  I’ve chosen to review them separately but making the write ups available at the same time.  In my opinion, they are so closely linked that they must be reviewed together.  In fact, the author, James Lyles, told me that the book was originally supposed to be published as one volume, but the first publisher unilaterally published them separately.  I have to agree with Mr. Lyles, the two volumes should have been published as one.

Anyway, the most important aspect of both parts/volumes of the “Hard Ride” that you should be aware of is that they were authored by a veteran Gun Truck Crew member.  In fact, Mr. Lyles was the NCOIC (non-commissioned officer in charge) of a number of gun trucks in his Vietnam era military career.  Being an ex-gun truck crew member gave him unparalleled access to information and photos not normally available to most authors.  Not only did he provide a large number of photos to this book, but as an ex-gun trucker, he was able to persuade other ex crew members to provide information and photos too; No small task.  Being “one of their own” he was able to access a massive treasure trove of material and photos from the other ex-gun truck crews because they knew he would do them proud.  In fact, there are literally many dozens of contributors to his books, not just a few.

Mr. Lyles does not fail his brethren as it is obvious that “The Hard Ride” is a labor of love to him.  By the way the books are written, one can tell he wants you to know about the vehicles, but most importantly he wants you to know about the gun truck crews themselves and their dedicated service while performing very difficult and dangerous missions.

The content of part/volume 2 concentrates specifically on the Quad .50 and APC hulled gun trucks, M37 “Beeps” and M151 Mutt Gun Jeeps.  On the other hand, part/volume 1 gives basic information about the Gun Truck operations and then concentrates specifically on the “regular“ 2 ½ ton M35 and 5 ton M54 gun trucks.  Other information and photos provided by the author in volume 2 includes material about Gun Trucks with multi-angled armor boxes, misnamed and misidentified Gun Trucks, more personal gun crew stories, enemy weapons and some of their Gun Trucks, Gun Truck weaponry (authorized and unauthorized) and  lastly it provides specific information about almost 400 vehicles, including their names, crews, and their donor vehicles (M35, M54, M37, etc.).  Wow.


Accuracy of Information

The information provided in parts/volumes 1 and 2 of “The Hard Ride” is probably as good as you can get anywhere on any subject.  It is top notch.  As stated before, being that the author was an ex-Gun Truck commander, you are getting information and photos direct from primary sources.  Also, it is obvious by the information itself and how it is presented that Mr. Lyles is very well informed about the full spectrum of gun truck materials from individual gun truck operations/tactics, equipment, convoy procedures as well as the overall mission of the hardened vehicle concept during the Vietnam era.  The information provided by the other ex-gun truck crews is of the same top quality, multiple dozens of them!  In fact, the information is so solid that many of the misconceptions and incorrect information previously presented as fact in other references are corrected by photographic and/or eye-witness accounts, usually from multiple sources.
Editing of Information/ Text Flow

As is the case with Part/Volume 1, the flow of the text in Volume 2 is usually fine and is logical in most instances.  The author writes effectively and succinctly and is able to get his point across easily.  The major weakness of both volumes 1 and 2 again (in my opinion) is due to the fact that the first publisher unilaterally split the book into two volumes.  Volume 1 doesn’t suffer too much, but Volume 2 is more adversely affected, at times seeming incomplete or unfinished, especially if read alone.  You really need both volumes to get the full benefit of this resource set. 

It is obvious to me that parts in both volumes are out of place and used as filler in less logical places.  In fact, there are sections repeated verbatim in both volumes. I am convinced that if the book were published as envisioned by the author, these negatives would not have been as prevalent or even present at all. Although the 2nd Edition of this volume 2 is edited better than the first edition, this issue could not be fully solved due to the original choice by the first publisher.  Finally, I did find one curious fact about the 2nd Edition of Volume/Part 2 when compared to the 1st Edition; the 2nd Edition does not have any page numbers.  Although this is not a critical fact, it is a bit different to read a book with no pages.

Photograph and/or Illustration Quality and Selection

Again, the biggest strength of this book is the photo selection.  Like Part/Volume 1, the 2nd Edition of Volume 2 contains a similarly large 300 photos presented, 250 of which are in color, whereas the 1st Edition of Volume 2 has no color photographs as it was printed in black ink.  Even more startling is that a majority of the photos have never been published before, as they come directly from Mr. Lyles or he has obtained permission to use them from ex-gun truck crewmen.   Reading the book is almost like looking over someone’s personal photo album, except with a much more diverse subject matter due the sheer massive number of contributors.  The only complaint I have about the photos is that many are smaller than I’d like to see, and the detail can’t be discerned due to that size.  However, I’ll “forgive” Mr. Lyles in his decision to present as many photos as possible in his books.

As one can imagine, the quality of the photos is not as professional as some references, since a vast majority of them were taken by the young crewmen themselves.  However, they are surprisingly good considering the age and conditions they were created in.  Remember too, these photos were NOT taken for us modelers or enthusiasts to identify widget A or the color of part B.  These were taken for themselves and I am ecstatic that these men have shared them with us through Mr. Lyles’ book.  Please note that the photos printed in 2nd Edition of volume 2 are of much better quality than what was provided in the 1st Edition.  At times the photos in the 1st edition suffered from the efforts of the first publisher.  See the “Quality of Medium” section below for more information.
Use as Reference
Taken together, parts/volumes 1 and 2 of “The Hard Ride” are the best references about Vietnam era Gun Trucks that I have seen in terms of quality and quantity.  I am not saying there is not some other reference equal or better to the “Hard Ride” out there, but I haven’t seen it yet.  Again, see my previous comments and opinions about the Photographic selection and accuracy of the book as that should suffice in convincing you that these book are "must haves" for gun truck enthusiasts in particular as well as for wheeled fighting vehicle aficionados and modelers in general.

Quality of Medium

The 2nd Edition of Volume 2 is a soft cover book similar in size and quality to other the 8 ½ “x 11” modeling reference books. The soft cover media is of a decent quality which facilitates fairly frequent use/reading of the book.  The pages are of good quality glossy paper as well.  However, after some normal browsing, the book's binder failed and a few pages came out. Although disappointing, this fact would not have prevented me from buying the book due to the qualtiy of the subject matter.  

Also, please note that the 1st Edition of this volume suffers from mediocre quality of materials and is sadly substandard, although the binding was fine.  The print quality and paper quality are lower than that of most mainstream books available.  The print and photos are grainy and at times the lower quality paper adversely affects the photographic image.

Like volume 1, I feel very strongly that part/volume 2 of this book is unparalleled in its quality and quantity of information provided about and photos of Vietnam era Gun Trucks, crews, operations, etc.  It is a must have for anyone remotely interested in gun trucks, armored cars or wheeled fighting vehicles and I would even wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone else with even a fleeting curiosity about these men and their awesome machines. 

However, please remember that there is a definitive quality difference between the black & white 1st Edition and the color 2nd Edition of volume/part 2.  Besides getting color photos in the 2nd Edition, it is also printed on higher quality paper and the text and images are more clearly and crisply reproduced.  So, if you have a choice you are still much better off getting the 2nd Edition of Volume 2, despite the small issues of no page numbers being provided and the weaker book binding.  Finally, being a person who loves gun trucks and already owning the black & white 1st Edition, I was still considering buying the new 2nd Edition, but I wasn't quite sure.  Well, after seeing this book in person, in my opinion it is definitely worth the money to do so based upon the improvements made, specifically due to the inclusion of color photographs.

2nd Edition: A Must Have.

1st Edition: Highly Recommended

Thanks to Rhame House Publishing for the Review Sample.

Copyright: Patrick Keenan - January 13, 2012