The United States Armed Forces have had a lot of motorized land vehicles throughout the years. From the weird armored cars of the First World War to the Jeeps and Harley Davidson bikes of the Second World War came the Humvee, Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP), and modern artillery trucks of today. Among the vehicles of modern warfare, the Humvee is considered to be an icon and probably one of the most influential to the public.
Originally called the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), the revolutionary light utility vehicle of the Army didn’t sound appealing and convenient to utter on the battlefield. The soldiers who were using it started calling it Humvee, an informal derivation from the acronym HMMWV. The U.S. military used the Humvee in the Gulf War and Operation Just Cause in Panama. It was also the main ground transport vehicle in the Battle of Mogadishu during Operation Gothic Serpent in 1993.
The flat-like jeep Humvee wasn’t just successful in transporting military personnel on the battlefield, it also won the hearts of civilians back home for a while, which led to the civilian version of the Humvee—the Hummer. In this article, we’ll tackle how the Humvee inspired AM General to create one of the most controversial road-legal, high-end SUVs of all time.
A Quick History of the Humvee
The story of the Humvee began when the United States Armed Forces felt the need to update its light vehicle fleet in the middle of the 1960s. Before the service of the Humvee, the U.S. military used M151 jeeps, which were the updated version of the original quarter-ton Willys MB and Ford GPW Command Reconnaissance vehicles. The military attempted a series of modernization efforts before it drafted the specifications for a light service vehicle—all of which failed to cope with newer requirements.
Among the first manufacturers to design a vehicle based on the requirements was Lamborghini and FMC Corporation, which developed the Cheetah and XR311 4WD vehicle prototypes, respectively. Both failed the requirements as both featured rear-mounted engines that gave them poor handling. It was in 1979 when the US Army released the final specifications for a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, an all-in-one vehicle to serve in the ¼ and 1 ¼-ton range. This was also the year when AM General began developing its own HMMWV design.
Internally, AM General’s design was given the M998 A0 codename. This design led the competition by 1991, which was at the height of the Persian Gulf War.
The original M998 featured a low-profile stance, with wider and longer body configuration compared to the M151 jeep. It had a divided windshield, the recognizable sloping trunk lid, round headlights and vertical slat grille, on-the-fly tire inflation and deflation mechanism, a gross weight of 5,200 lbs, and a payload capacity of 2,500 lbs. It was powered by a 6.2-liter V8 diesel engine as well as a 6.3-liter V8 gasoline engine; both of which were paired to a three-speed automatic transmission.
Humvee vs Hummer: What is the Difference?
The Humvee was primarily a militay-only vehicle, meaning, AM General wasn’t originally planning on developing a stripped-down and comfy version of the truck. So how did AM General come up with a civilian Humvee, you ask? Thanks to none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, after seeing an Army convoy of Humvees in a movie set, successfully convinced AM General to build a civilian model of the HMMWV.
In 1992, the Hollywood superstar received the keys to the first civilian Humvee called the Hummer H1. Unlike the Military-commissioned Humvee, the Hummer H1 was painted with glossy body finish and was equipped with air conditioning, sound insulation, improved upholstery, sound system, and convenience packages. Arnold’s two Hummer H1s were the inaugural models that marked the beginning of Hummer sales.
It wasn’t long before the Hummer brand fell to the hands of General Motors, which assumed distributorship of the original Hummer H1s in 1999. AM General was still manufacturing Hummer H1s around the time and it continued to do so until 2006. Shortly, GM introduced its designs for the H2 and H3 models, which were a bit curvier, smaller, narrower, and better in handling.
The Beginning of the End for the Hummer
When the Hummer first came out to the public, people were blown away. The reactions were so positive that even big names in different industries scrambled to own one. It was a dream vehicle for proud Americans despite its super-wide body that barely fit the average garage. On top of everything else, the Hummer somehow became an important symbol of America. This was around the time when the U.S. economy was booming and oil price was low.
However, the Hummer only enjoyed a short-lived fame as people began turning their eyes toward its fuel efficiency. Not long after, environmentalists became the biggest enemies of the Hummer during its civilian duty. Around this time, the U.S. got involved in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq where the military Humvee experienced the biggest blows that contributed to its fall—landmines and direct heavy gunfire.
In an attempt to save the Hummer brand, GM released the H3 in 2005. It was the smallest, lightest, and most fuel-efficient of all three Hummer models since the H1. Extensive efforts to keep the brand afloat included ads which appealed to women drivers but everything came short. Apparently, nothing could save the brand. Hummer soon found itself barely hanging on and the global financial meltdown in 2009 gave the brand the final blow. GM found itself in the worst situation as it filed bankruptcy in 2009 and was left with no choice but to let Hummer go.
The World Almost Saw a China-made Hummer in 2010
When the global financial meltdown pushed Hummer further into the abyss, GM came up with plans to save the brand. One of the plans was to sell it, and GM quickly found a prospective buyer, which wasn’t immediately disclosed. It turned out that the buyer was Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company Ltd., a China-based manufacturer of maintenance machinery and a range of road equipment. GM was going to sell the Hummer to a Chinese company, which meant the Hummer H4 would’ve been a China-specced successor of the Hummer H3—almost.
Before the two companies could finalize the agreement, the Chinese government stepped in and cut the deal as it turned out to contradict China’s environmental efforts. It completely collapsed in February 2010, which was also when GM announced Hummer’s shut down.
2021 Hummer Rumors: Is the All-American Vehicle Coming Back?
Nine years since its discontinuation, the Hummer brand is rumored for a possible comeback; a homecoming from the grave. At first, the rumor seemed impossible as the causes that ended the brand in the first place are serious economic and environmental issues that are still relevant today. The rumor of a Hummer comeback sounds more plausible now that full-size trucks and SUVs are slowly entering the electric vehicle scene. Environmental concerns have been the biggest enemy of Hummer and crossing it out of the list scales up the possibility of a rebirth.
Based on a report published on Reuters earlier this year, GM could be planning to invest $3 billion to support the development and production of electric trucks, which may include a range of Hummer models. In addition, the publication claimed that Hummer could make its return as early as 2021. The chances of this happening are high, as the world has seen rapid development in electrification.
Right now, however, if you want a mean-looking vehicle wider than your garage, you may need to shop for a military surplus vehicle. Visiting a military surplus shop may give you a good chance of finding a Hummer for a good deal.