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1996 AM General Hummer

by John Heilig


ENGINE:6.5-liter Diesel V-8
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:170hp@3,400 rpm/290 lb.ft. @1700 rpm
TRANSMISSION:Four-speed automatic
WHEELBASE:130.0 in.
CURB WEIGHT:6290 lbs
PAYLOAD:3830 lbs.
TIRES:37 x 12.50 R16.5 LT radials with central inflation system
INSTRUMENTS:speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, water temperature, oil pressure, battery voltage, tire pressure, analog clock.
EQUIPMENT: Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, cruise control, air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with cassette.
STICKER PRICE: $65,000 (est.)

There are a lot of outrageous vehicles on the highway today, but you have to admit that one of the most outrageous is the AM General Hummer.

The Hummer as you may know was the hero of the Desert Storm war. It is manufactured in the United States by a small company in South Bend, Indiana, that can trace its heritage back-to the Willys Company and, therefore, to the manufacturers of the Jeep. The "AM" in AM General is, in fact, American Motors. According to the statistics, AM General sells about 1200 Hummers a year, which is pretty good since they cost anywhere from about $55,000 to $80,000.

Our vehicle this week is the diesel-powered pickup truck style (called four passenger, open top, hard doors) with a list price of about $65,000.

Hummer is an interesting vehicle. It is probably classified as a sport utility because of its four-wheel drive capability and its ability to go essentially anywhere the driver wants. The off-road capabilities of the Hummer are excellent. We took many co-workers on rides around the company property. Even when the ground was soft we didn't leave ruts in the grass and we were able to negotiate anything. In fact, the off-road ride comfort isn't much poorer than the on-road ride comfort.

It has a wide track so it handles well. AM General claims the vehicle can hit a hill with an approach angle of 72 degrees and can climb a 60 percent grade. It can also handle a 40 percent side grade, and we were close to those limits several times. Interestingly, it also has a tight turning circle of about 27 feet radius, better than most cars. What it can't handle is a narrow track or path because it is over seven feet wide, But it also has extraordinary ground clearance of 16 inches which will enable it to go over just about any obstacle in the road.

We didn't extend the Hummer, although we gave it a good run on the highway and on the company property. The Hummer's $500 each tires are wide and give a relatively comfortable ride at full inflation. If you're on sand you can deflate the tires from the dashboard, then inflate them again when you hit harder pavement.

I guess the biggest drawback to the Hummer is that it's just a four-passenger vehicle, and those passengers sit far apart with the engine cover between them, We were speaking with a dealer from Delaware and he had-the hard top version on display at Nazareth Raceway, and he had a two-passenger seat installed between the outboard rear seats which helped a bit. But there is a lot of wasted space in the Hummer.

But it is a lot of fun as well. When we went to the town dump to get rid of some grass clippings, I was able to con some of the men there into unloading the Hummer if they could look at it and "kick the tires. "

Hummer has full instrumentation plus an analog clock and a tire pressure gauge. In addition, it has all the goodies of a modern car.

The biggest drawback to the model we had was the diesel engine. It was simply too loud. I'd like to try the gasoline engined version to compare noise levels some day. We had the radio at enormous volumes, and this was for classical music! There were times when I had to go for a pizza or our nightly TCBY visit and we used my wife's car rather than the Hummer because of the noise level. It's rare that I don't use the road test vehicle.

The engine gets its power to the road through a four-speed automatic gearbox. The transfer case shifter and transmission shifter are right next to each other on the console. The transfer case shifter is closer to the driver, and I felt it should have been the other way around.

Handling on the highways and winding roads is very good because of the wide track and excellent power steering. This track is so wide it makes Pontiacs look like motorcycles. But the wide track isn't put to as good use as it could be because of the restrictive seating.

And even though it doesn't have ABS or air bags, you always feel safe in the Hummer because of the quality of steel in the construction.

As I said at the outset, the Hummer is probably one of the most outrageous vehicles on the highway today. I did get a lot of smiles and waves from other drivers and pedestrians when I drove it around. It's. not the land of vehicle you'd want to go cruising on a Saturday night, but it's certainly a fun vehicle. I just wish it was quieter.