Designed in 1979 by American Motors Corp for the US military as a ‘High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles, or HMMWV pronounced Humvee. Over 200 000 have been produced and the Gulf Wars have made ‘Humvee’ a household name. Engines include a V10 diesel and full-time four-wheel drive transmission. There are several derivatives including a civilian version. For expedition use this version is particularly unpleasant to drive as the wide track does not fit into the average dirt or sand track. The H1 civilian is no longer made.
I drove the H1 and found it a difficult vehicles to drive because of its sheer size. The V10 engine has huge torque, but with very slow throttle response, so that it was as it it was either maximum power, or nothing at all. The few that were brought into South Africa were not a success, again because of size. On normal Kalahari sand tracks the H1 really struggled because only two of its wheels could track at a time, the other two out on the edge of the track picking up slicks, bushes, rocks and punctures.
In 2002 the Hummer H2 was launched and two years later the H3. The H3 is the smaller, less expensive, more practical and less show-offy vehicle, built in South Africa, mostly for export. Powered by a 5-cylinder, 3.7 litre petrol engine, a diesel engine option once announced never materialised. It is the first Hummer with manual transmission although automatic is an option. It has full-time four-wheel drive and three buttons operate its three main functions: high-range 4×4, high-range 4×4 centre diff locked and 4×4 low-range, also locked. A locking rear differential is an option, clearance is good, approach angle is good and departure angle is fair. Interior space is mediocre for such a large vehicle and the load bay is taken up by bulky plastic panels that seem to serve no other purpose than to take up useful space.
On the road the ride is ordinary, comfort ordinary, handling a little worse than ordinary, visibility poor, but off-road it is pretty good, but not up to Jeep Wrangler standards, but good. The rear diff lock is necessary if you want to show off, off-road. But as a package, I can’t say I like the Hummer very much at all, because it’s a very ordinary car in a fancy skin.