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Big, Brash, Brawny: History of Hummer

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On: Tue, Jul 29, 2014 at 9:57AM | By: Teddy Field


Big, Brash, Brawny: History of Hummer

At one time, the Hummer was the ultimate American automobile. It was big, brash, and you didn't care about the gas mileage. Arnold Schwarzenegger had one. The Army had thousands. And even David Caruso drove one on the hit TV show CSI Miami. Then gas prices started to rise, and people had to trade their Hummer for a crossover. But let's take a trip down memory lane and see where this automotive icon began.

Back in 1979, the U.S. Army requested proposals for its new High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle, or Humvee for short. Several companies submitted prototypes for the army to test, but AM General's innovative “Hummer” eventually won. The military brass liked its off-road capability, its ability to ford deep water, and its versatile armor/weaponized capability. It also proved reliable in a variety of extreme conditions, so the Army ordered 55,000 Hummers in 1983. Over the next several decades, the Hummer proved itself on the battlefield, providing our soldiers with tough, reliable transportation from Panama to Baghdad.

Back at home, bodybuilder-turned-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was busy filming his latest boxoffice smash; "Kindergarten Cop". One day on set, he noticed a convoy of Hummers heading to a nearby military base. He had his people get in touch with AM General to see if they would sell him one. AM General politely declined the request, pointing out that Hummers were street legal... only for the military. So the Terminator flew to the factory in South Bend, Indiana to convince them otherwise.

After some legal wrangling, Arnold managed to acquire a street legal Hummer for his personal use. The press went bonkers when they first saw Arnie roll through Hollywood in his sand-colored Hummer. And that helped convince AM General to produce a civilian version. The first Hummer H1 rolled off the assembly line in 1992, and Schwarzenegger bought that one, along with H1 number 2. He remained Hummer's unofficial spokesman for many years, and when General Motors bought the brand (the civilian brand that is) from AM General in 1999, they even agreed to donate millions to Arnold's after-school charity: After-School All-Stars.

For the 2003 model year, General Motors unveiled the “more practical” Hummer H2. It was based on a heavily modified Chevy truck chassis, and it offered all the blingy-brawn that an egomaniac would ever desire. Sales were initially strong, but you can bet that 99% of them never left the suburbs. For 2006, GM introduced an even “smaller” version called the Hummer H3. This 5-cylinder mini-brute became the brand's sales leader until the great Carpocalypse of 2008 effectively killed the brand. By the end of the decade, GM was in bankruptcy and they couldn't find a suitable buyer for the now politically incorrect SUV company. So they were forced to kill off the Hummer brand in 2010.

As for Arnold... he now drives a Mercedes Unimog.


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