Inside a 1990s-vintage Hummer, fit and finish and quality of materials rival only those vehicles built under Eastern European Communist regimes; think gargantuan all-wheel-drive Trabant


Not just another 4x4, the Hummer is an all-terrain vehicle in a class of its own, as capable off the road as it is imposing on it. The Hummer owes its existence to the U.S. Army's requirement for a "go-anywhere" workhorse, and AM General was given the go-ahead for its production in 1985, since when more than 150,000 military examples have been delivered. In 1991, AM General made the decision to offer a civilian version, virtually indistinguishable from its military forebear.

This left-hand-drive Hummer H1 Wagon with five-door wagon coachwork was exported from the U.S. to Germany and registered there before being shipped to Italy, where it is believed to be the only example of its kind. Finished in anthracite metallic with charcoal leather interior, and equipped with dashboard-mounted GPS and almost every conceivable luxury feature available, it has covered just 13,395 miles from new and is presented in mint condition.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1999 Hummer H1
Years Produced:1992-present
Number Produced:more than 300,000 (civilian and military)
Original List Price:$83,211 (1999)
Tune Up Cost:$800
Distributor Caps:None
Club Info:The Hummer Club, 18101 Coastline Dr., Malibu, CA 90265
Alternatives:Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG, Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, Cadillac Escalade modified by Canepa Design
Investment Grade:F

This 1999 Hummer H1 Wagon sold for $85,530, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Geneva auction held on March 8, 2004.

Few brands in recent automotive history have made their mark as quickly as Hummer. Whether it’s the real-thing H1 or the Chevrolet- derived H2, just about anyone can summon a visual picture of one of these SUVs-a military Humvee on the nightly news or a perhaps soccer mom’s H2 blocking your view of oncoming traffic.

For those unfamiliar with how such a brutish shape has become as clearly ingrained in our collective memory banks as even the most beautiful of sports car designs, a bit of back story is necessary.

AM General Corporation traces its roots to 1903 and the Overland Automotive Division of the Standard Wheel Company, which later became Willys-Overland, the builder of over 350,000 World War II-era Jeeps. The company had a series of name changes after the war, the result of various convoluted business dealings through the ’50s and ’60s. Then in 1970, American Motors Corporation purchased Willys, then called “Kaiser Jeep.” A government contractor subsidiary was spun off from AMC’s new acquisition a year later; this was AM General, a builder of buses, dump trucks, concrete transporters, and the well-known postal Jeeps.

In 1979, the United States Department of Defense was looking to replace its venerable military Jeep with a vehicle designed to meet a new set of specifications. Always a lover of jargon and the subsequent shortening of same, the military was asking for a “High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle” (HMMWV), which became popularly pronounced “Humvee.” AM General won the bid and began building the vehicles in 1985; subsequent contracts have extended production to the present day.

Just as the WWII Army Jeep had paved the way for the CJ series to be marketed to the public, in 1992 AM General capitalized on the Humvee’s visibility during the Persian Gulf War by introducing a civilian version, dubbed “Hummer.” It quickly became a favorite of the Hollywood set, with Arnold Schwarzenegger as its chief proponent. In 2000, AM General and GM began a joint development and marketing arrangement that led to the little-sister Hummer, last summer’s flavor-of-the-month H2, and a rechristening of the original model as the “H1.”

At introduction, the Hummer H1 was available as a two- or four-passenger hardtop, a four-passenger wagon, or with an open canvas top. MSRP was between $46,550 and $52,950. Options included air conditioning, central tire inflation system, run-flat tires, sliding rear window, 12,000-pound winch, brush and headlight guards, a deluxe interior package, trailer towing unit, and more. Pundits compared the pricing scheme to a no-bid military contract-Hummers have never been inexpensive.

Hummers were designed to be durable, not pretty. Inside a 1990s-vintage Hummer, fit and finish and quality of materials rival only those vehicles built under Eastern European Communist regimes; think gargantuan AWD Trabant. “Spartan” would be an overly kind description, as barber-chair vinyl was the order of the day. Instrumentation came from the “Hey, let’s stick another gauge here,” school of design. In short, Hummer owners use the word “refined” mainly to describe a process done to crude oil.

The 1999 Hummer H1 Wagon pictured here is a 1999 model built in a wagon configuration, the most expensive of the civilian models. It would have sold new for $83,211, including a $790 destination charge, reflecting the inclusion of more standard equipment than the first civilian models. Indeed, the interior was treated to a running series of upgrades; however, the most significant did not happen until GM entered the picture in 2000. It bears mentioning that until very recently, going to GM for help with interiors can only mean that things must have been desperate indeed at AM General’s design department.

Though expensive and crudely appointed, Hummers are absolutely miraculous off the pavement, where the special talents called for in the original military specifications shine. With 16-inch ground clearance, full-time four-wheel drive, fully independent suspension, the capability of fording water up to 30 inches deep and 60-percent slope-climbing ability, nothing compares. On-road, they drive better than you might imagine, but not nearly well enough that you’d want to drive one every day. unless you’re somewhere like Iraq. Chief limitations are an interior noise level that is similar to being trapped in a Cuisinart chopping walnuts, and a top speed of about 90 mph.

That said, while our subject Hummer’s under-14,000 miles are “low,” finding relatively unused examples Stateside is easy enough, as these are usually an owner’s third, fourth or fifth vehicle.

If you’re considering adding this “real deal” SUV to your collection, know that maneuvering an H1 to the coffee shop can become a major event in an urban setting. With its lane-filling stance-Hummers are 86.5 inches wide, compared to a late-model Chevrolet Suburban at “just” 78.9 inches-finding a parking space can pose a problem. Using one to run the kids to practice is not the province of the H1-that’s why they sell the H2. Think H1 if you own a cabin in a remote area, or want to get seriously into off-roading.

Where owning a Hummer in the land of the Red, White and Blue can be a statement of patriotic pride, it no longer carries the cachet it did a decade ago. In Europe, however, Hummers are rare and viewed as either sheer lunacy or braggadocio on a grand scale. Having a part interest in an oil well is a good idea, with diesel prices on the Continent at well over $4 a gallon, and the H1 only gets about 10-15 mpg-slightly better than the H2. Piloting an H1 in Europe is something like the antithesis of driving a 2CV in the U.S., and that’s likely why this one made such big money.

Used H1s are easy to find for well under $50,000 in the U.S., so this truck’s new owner could have probably flown here first class, checked into a Four Seasons for a week, found a nice example, and shipped it home for the same money he paid in Geneva. Instead he chose to pay the premium for on-site delivery and instant gratification.

Comments are closed.