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Surplus Spending: Impulse Winning a 1991 Humvee

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An Impulsive Auction Bid Led Jason Squires to Dive Headfirst into the Challenges of Owning a Military Surplus Humvee.

Even if you consider yourself a paragon of fiscal responsibility and level-headed decision-making, you’ve probably made at least a few impulse buys throughout your life. These might’ve been inexpensive items, such as a candy bar from the grocery store checkout line, or more substantial expenditures, such as a new gun you just couldn’t resist. For Jason Squires, a spontaneous purchase led to a sudden feeling of buyer’s remorse and an especially awkward conversation with his wife. “I said, ‘I think I purchased a 1991 M998 HMMWV.’ She thought I had a stroke.”


Squires, who you may recognize from his written contributions to RECOIL and its sister publications, is a lawyer by trade. Several years ago, he was speaking with a close friend who was going through law school, and who had previously deployed on combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. Squires recalls, “He bragged about the Humvee (HMMWV in official parlance) and said if I ever get the opportunity to purchase one, do it.” This idea took hold, and he began casually browsing online listings, but was initially discouraged by the abundance of half-baked project vehicles on the secondhand market. “Most of the military Humvees for sale were obvious wrecks. Buyers would pick these trucks up at military salvage sales and then attempt to perform simple restorations before selling them.”

humvee turret

A .30-caliber machine gun attaches to a swingarm mount on the left corner of the bed. This weapon is fully functional.

Eventually, Squires came across GovPlanet, a website that auctions off military vehicles and other surplus equipment. Browsing these listings became a cathartic experience, especially during hard days in the courtroom. “I was representing a man on a complex felony trial, and I was really stressed out. My client was so guilty he fled the jurisdiction before trial. I had to sit there next to an empty chair and attempt to create reasonable doubt for the jury. I pictured myself in the Humvee having fun in the desert, not sitting in a courtroom. This fantasy created an impulsivity where I placed a $6,100 bid on a HMMVW in Yermo, California. At the 2:15 break, I checked my emails, and saw ‘You won the auction!’ I was shocked.”

humvee turret

After purchasing the Humvee, Squires modified it based on USSOCOM GMV specs. This meant installing a .50-caliber gun turret on the roof with an integrated ballistic shield. The gun in this photo is an inert replica, but Squires owns a real one as well.

After sheepishly explaining the situation to his wife, Squires wired the money, filled out the requisite paperwork, and awaited its delivery with nervous excitement. “The auctions have dozens of pictures from all angles, and a video starting the vehicle. I knew it started and ran, but it’s a static inspection and I didn’t know if it even rolled.” Five months later, it arrived on a flatbed trailer, and he soon realized he was in over his head. “I didn’t even know how to start the thing. There are no keys on military Humvees. You simply turn the switch, wait for the glow plugs, and then it fires right up.” However, this revealed yet another problem. “I was concerned about my new baby being stolen. I removed the batteries every night, which was a total pain. They’re under the passenger seat. I didn’t know any of this.” Later, he’d install a kill switch with a proximity transponder to prevent unauthorized joyrides.

humvee tailgate

Swinging aside the spare tire and folding down the tailgate reveals a wide, flat cargo area with plenty of room for fuel, water, food, and other gear.

First-time ownership of a military surplus Humvee came with many other challenges. “Licensing the truck was tricky. The paperwork that comes with it is just an invoice, really. I remember the GovPlanet rep saying, ‘The title costs an extra $125.’ Instead, they should’ve said, ‘Do you want to drive the truck on real roads? If so, buy the title.’ I did not take the vehicle with me to register it. I simply handed [the Motor Vehicle Division] the documents and demanded a title. Gutsy, but it paid off. I didn’t want some MVD tire-kicker asking about a rearview mirror and airbags.”

With the new registration and license plate in hand, Squires began driving the Humvee to the gun range, his kids’ school, and most frequently, gas stations. “A Humvee has you at the gas station quite often. Mine gets 10 miles to the gallon.” Despite its 55-mile-per-hour effective top speed, roaring mud tires, and lack of doors, he says he has taken it on several 600-mile road trips. He even drives it to court sometimes. “I don’t go to trial; I go to war! You want an attorney saving you who drives a Humvee or a Prius? These are my jokes when I’m asked why the hell I’m in a military vehicle wearing a suit and tie.”

humvee engine

Under the forward-opening hood, you’ll find a General Motors 6.5L diesel engine. This naturally aspirated V-8 produces 160 horsepower and 290 ft-lb of torque — not exactly a recipe for speed, but it pairs well with the Humvee’s low gearing to overcome difficult terrain.

Of all the hurdles Squires faced with the Humvee, maintaining it was the most formidable. Unlike the U.S. Department of Defense, he didn’t have warehouses full of spare parts and fleet maintenance techs on retainer. “From very early on, I knew I needed a mechanic. I would talk to any Army guy who would listen. I got a lot of ‘Hell yeah! I rocked a Humvee all the way across Iraq.’ I would say, ‘Great, what oil do you put in the gearbox?’ Every single time, they would look at me quizzically and respond, ‘Oh, I didn’t mess with that stuff.’” Eventually, he found a qualified Army light-wheel mechanic, and began learning from the veteran’s 17 years of experience wrenching on Humvees. “I was able to take apart every single thing and slowly rebuild or replace anything that needed servicing. That process took months, but I loved every second of it. I would come home, take off my suit, and dive in.”

humvee profile

With two mounted machine guns, zero doors, and a payload of diesel fuel and survival gear, Jason Squires’ HMMWV is anything but subtle.

In addition to the basic maintenance, Squires also sourced some rare parts to convert his Humvee to Ground Mobility Vehicle (GMV) specifications. The GMV was a USSOCOM program that modified the Humvee to meet the needs of U.S. Special-Operations Forces; upgrades included additional armor plating and a top-mounted gun turret with ballistic “chicken shield.” Although the .50-caliber belt-fed in these photos is an inert replica, Squires also owns the real deal, which he mounts at the range for some full-auto fun. Another mount on the rear quarter panel holds a .30-caliber machine gun.


Squires says this Humvee has led to some unusual interactions. One person veered close enough to high-five him while cruising on the highway. A concerned neighbor came by and asked if he was joining a militia. His most memorable experience was with an agent at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in southern Arizona. “I look like a military truck, but I’m clearly not military. He’s looking at me the way the warden looked at Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke, mirrored sunglasses and a what-in-the-hell-do-we-have-here look on his face. I’m slowly moving, clunking over these little speed bumps at 2 miles per hour, waiting for him to grab me and yank me out of the truck. As I passed him, he yelled ‘Stop!’ He walked around the vehicle looking at each thing and approached the driver’s side, then said ‘Go in style, brother. Go in style.’” 

[Editor's Note: This Article First Appeared in RECOIL #51.]

1991 AM General M998 HMMWV

Engine: GM 6.5L diesel V-8 (originally built with a 6.2L V-8; records indicate the engine was replaced by the Army in 2003)
Transmission:Three-speed automatic
Driveline:Full-time four-wheel-drive with two-speed locking transfer case and geared hubs
Tires:37×12.5×16.5 Goodyear Wrangler MT
Exterior Dimensions:15 feet long, 7 feet wide, 6 feet tall
Ground Clearance: 16 inches
Top Speed:55 mph (safe)/70 mph (at redline)

Parts Sources

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