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Mil-Spec Automotive Hummer H1

Fighting Chance
Mil-Spec Automotive Has Transformed the Hummer H1 into What it Should’ve Been All Along — an Uncompromising, Purpose-Built Vehicle

sprung suspension as one intended to be armored. MSA redesigns the suspension geometry for equal travel and a more comfortable ride. Stopping power comes by way of a new braking setup from Wilwood. It’s all sitting on 20-inch LRG wheels with Nitto meats.

The interiors have been heavily revamped to get away from the cheapo, compartmentalized original versions. They’re luxurious, yes, but not so much that it clashes with the ballsy character of the vehicle. GPS analog gauges give classic aesthetics with contemporary technology as well as a JL audio system with Bluetooth and Sirius XM. Extensive mods were made to mount seats for more legroom. Hand-stitched marine-grade leather, brushed aluminum accents, three-point seatbelts, MOMO steering wheel, improved HVAC setup, backup cameras, and interior storage are just some of the revised appointments to look forward to. Someone finally thought it through this time.

Although the front mid-engine layout is a bitch to get to, it’s now powered by an efficiently cooled diesel 6.6L Duramax.

Since you’re looking at what’s basically a hand-built vehicle, prices hover just north of $200K and go up from there for versions that are fully spec’d out. MSA is also scoping out some other vehicles with a military history that they can offer to the public with their own unique approach to revitalization. We anxiously await they’re next endeavor, and if they give it the same meticulous rebirth that they’ve brought to the Hummer, we may have to start buying more Powerball tickets so we can add one to our driveway. It’s nice to see that guys with a passion for their craft gave a sh*t enough about this heavyweight to bring it out of retirement and put it back in the fight.

Think about the various flare-ups in the automotive industry you’ve lived through. Many vehicles debut to great fanfare, but their flame is often extinguished just as quickly as it began. Outfits independent of the Big Three like DeLorean, Vector, Tucker, and Fisker certainly burst upon the scene to tremendous optimism. Unfortunately, they found themselves added to a growing list of names that automotive enthusiasts wax philosophically about what could’ve been. The public is also left to wonder if anyone’s got the cojones to resurrect the brand and improve where others fell short. The tale of Hummer also falls into this category of missed opportunities, but perhaps now the elements have aligned for it to finally reach its intended potential.

Let’s face it, there’s a certain exaggerated charm the Hummer H1 has. It’s like a real-life version of the AA-powered Stompers many of us had as kids. It originally started as a military vehicle known as the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or “Humvee”) in the 1980s and garnered the attention of some high-profile people who wanted to own one. Schwarzenegger played a key role in developing a civilian version with AM General, and soon enough demand was cultivated to justify making them available to the general public.

It was hastily given some upgrades like a vac-formed plastic interior and other creature comforts not found in the military version to make it more consumer-friendly, but still wasn’t engineered with as much attention to detail as it should’ve been for a daily driver. Eventually, GM acquired the brand, made some other alterations, and added models to the fleet that weren’t really true to the original DNA. Design problems and a number of other factors continued to plague the brand until it was discontinued about a decade ago.

So what happened? Hummer seemed to have all the ingredients to be successful, but perhaps it was just never given a chance to truly show off what it was capable of. Mil-Spec Automotive (MSA) wondered the same thing and contemplated what it’d look like today if the bugs had been worked out and better technology had been integrated. The company started restoring and flipping surplus Humvees in a garage and recognized there really wasn’t anyone out there giving the brand any love in the resto-mod space. Now they’re efforts have expanded to a full production facility in Michigan, so they’ve clearly found others who share their interest in seeing the continuation of this comeback story.

From left to right,
the MSA impresarios: Chris Van Scyoc (president), Adam Mitchell (CEO/owner), Ian Broekman (CIO).

Although GM slapped the Hummer name on the H2 and H3, MSA’s focus is improving the civilian H1 because of its military pedigree and the fact that it has a VIN, which makes registration a non-issue. A few small differences aside, basically the civilian H1 is identical to the military version anyway. The company sources their own vehicles to begin the rebuilding process, but also offers a program for those who want their personal H1 to be gussied up with the same enhancements. “It’s really a remanufacturing process, not a restoration,” says Ian Broekman, MSA chief innovation officer. Each vehicle takes about three to five months to build.

As you’d expect, the platform of the truck was robust to begin with, but never optimized for the general public and came from the factory with various imperfections that need to be ironed out. MSA tears the vehicle down to its body and frame, which are the only parts of the truck they retain — everything else is new old stock, fabricated, or produced in-house by the company. For instance, the trucks rolled off the line with about a 1-inch margin on the frame. Flaws like that are corrected, the frame is boxed, and components are individually powdercoated and reassembled with improved hardware. The aluminum bodies are inspected, any oxidation is repaired, and an impressive three-stage insulation process is applied to reduce the noisiness Hummers had a reputation for.

Among one of the benefits Hummers were known for having was a chassis focused purely on performing off-road, so you have great ground clearance with portal axles. Although it’s a bit challenging to access and wrench on, their front mid-engine layout gives them a near 50/50 weight distribution. However, the H1’s original drivetrain became notorious for being inefficient, poorly cooled, and about as powerful as a flabby balloon. Thankfully, the original setup has been ditched in favor of a powertrain MSA hand-builds with enough suds to power a platform this big.

Owners can now look forward to a balanced and blueprinted LBZ 6.6L Duramax paired to an Allison six-speed transmission with part-time 4WD, and a manual transfer case with 4H, 2H, and 4L. Now you’re looking at nearly 500 hp with about 1,000 lb-ft of torque, giving you about 20 mpg freeway and 13 to 15 mpg city. At the moment, MSA isn’t offering gas engines. An upgraded cooling setup is incorporated in the front, along with a transmission cooling system in the rear.

Since the H1s rolled off the same assembly line as the military versions, the spring rates were identical, which meant the civilian version had the same stiffly sprung suspension as one intended to be armored. MSA redesigns the suspension geometry for equal travel and a more comfortable ride. Stopping power comes by way of a new braking setup from Wilwood. It’s all sitting on 20-inch LRG wheels with Nitto meats.

The interiors have been heavily revamped to get away from the cheapo, compartmentalized original versions. They’re luxurious, yes, but not so much that it clashes with the ballsy character of the vehicle. GPS analog gauges give classic aesthetics with contemporary technology as well as a JL audio system with Bluetooth and Sirius XM. Extensive mods were made to mount seats for more legroom. Hand-stitched marine-grade leather, brushed aluminum accents, three-point seatbelts, MOMO steering wheel, improved HVAC setup, backup cameras, and interior storage are just some of the revised appointments to look forward to. Someone finally thought it through this time.

Since you’re looking at what’s basically a hand-built vehicle, prices hover just north of $200K and go up from there for versions that are fully spec’d out. MSA is also scoping out some other vehicles with a military history that they can offer to the public with their own unique approach to revitalization. We anxiously await they’re next endeavor, and if they give it the same meticulous rebirth that they’ve brought to the Hummer, we may have to start buying more Powerball tickets so we can add one to our driveway. It’s nice to see that guys with a passion for their craft gave a sh*t enough about this heavyweight to bring it out of retirement and put it back in the fight.


Visit http://www.milspecauto.com/


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