BY CODY FACTEAU
Thirty years ago this past week, the Pentagon awarded a production contract worth more than $1 billion to AM General Corporation to develop 55,000 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV). Nicknamed the Humvee, this unique vehicle was designed to transport troops and cargo, but it became so much more. It's wide, rugged and a hulk of a vehicle that stole the spotlight when the American military used them during the invasion of Panama and the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990's. So, just what is the Humvee and why does everyone want one?
In 1992, a civilian version of the Humvee, known as the Hummer, went on sale. It was an American-style attention grabber with its 'Super-size Me' road warrior looks and 10,000 pounds of muscle-y road hogging might. Let's remember this was the 1990's and gas prices were relatively low. An important fact as it got less than 10 miles per gallon. It was an instant hit with celebrities, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, who went on to own a whole fleet of Hummers.
Of the civilian models of the Hummer; H1, H2 & H3, the H1 was my favorite. It was produced from 1992-2006 and it came with a number of engine options: 6.2 L Detroit Diesel V8; 6.5 L Detroit Diesel V8 or Turbo; 6.6 L DMAX Diesel V8 or the 5.7 L Vortec V8. It had a 130-inch wheelbase, 184.5-inch length and 86.5-inch width. It was 79-inches tall and boasted 16 inches of ground clearance. It could clamber over a 22-inch high obstacle, handle a 60-percent grade and wade through 30 inches of water. It was the perfect "Apocalypse" vehicle!
Some nifty facts about the Hummer H1: Inboard brakes; portal gears that allow the drivetrain's half shafts to be up high for greater clearance; a high radiator that slopes over the engine on a forward hinged hood; the air intake is mounted high to enable fording waist-level water; magnesium-aluminum alloy or rubber inserts for the tires for run-flat ability and a chemical agent resistant coating (only available on the military version ... Rats)! It's also interesting to note that although the Hummer was considered a civilian version, a lot of the cool and patriotically appealing military features were left, like the hood rings that allowed a helicopter to transport it. How cool is that!
As time went by and our economy slumped, gas prices skyrocketed, the Hummer became a target of heavy criticism by environmentalists. AMC kept downsizing the vehicle, coming up with smaller and lighter versions, which were more fuel efficient and priced to sell. But by 2008, Hummer sales had shrunk by more than 50 percent. GM was hit hard by the global recession and slumping auto sales and required a multi-billion-dollar federal bailout to say afloat. The Hummer's days were numbered. After a failed bid by the Chinese to acquire Hummer in 2010, the last Hummer H3, earmarked for a rental company, rolled off the line at Shreveport, La. on May 24, 2010.
The Hummer ... a less than dignified end to what could only be described as the ultimate symbol of American ingenuity and fortitude. (I should put a disclaimer in here that the Humvee is still produced for the military, it's the civilian model Hummer that kicked the bucket, so to speak).
Cody Facteau is a 17-year old homeschooler from East Burke. He enjoys anything to do with cars, particularly the Classics. He loves Le Mans racing, his favorite TV shows are Gearz with Stacey David and Top Gear (BBC), and hobbies are Lego's and Xbox 360. Cody is also a cadet with the Civil Air Patrol, the Air Force Auxiliary. Check out Cody's Car Talk on Facebook. Career goals? What else, cars!