By Andy Enright
We all have guilty pleasures, things we know aren't really right but which we can't help liking. All manner of convoluted justifications can be made to salve that guilt but the best way is usually just to admit to the fact that we're occasionally due a little slack. Or, in the case of the Hummer H3, 2200 kilos of slack. The brutalist Hummer isn't a vehicle that's easy to pass off as a convincing alternative to a Land Rover Discovery, but it is a definite statement of something. I love the H3 if only for its ability to paint a look of abject horror on the face of my rather pompous Prius-driving neighbour. Retain a sense of humour and perspective and you could love it too. Here's how to find a used example.
5dr 4x4 (3.7 petrol
How we got to the Hummer H3 is interesting. Drawing its influence from the original Humvee military vehicle (HMMWV - a military term for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle for the curious), the idea for a roadgoing Hummer was hatched when General Motors bought the AM General Corporation of South Bend, Indiana. This company manufactured Humvee vehicles for the US military and had started selling Hummer versions with slightly more creature comforts to civilians such as Arnold Schwarzenegger. The growth of the high end Sports Utility Vehicle market in the US and the brand equity of the Hummer name made the company an attractive target and in 2002 GM unveiled the Hummer H2. A loophole on 6000lb+ 'commercial' vehicles saw many business buyers able to tax deduct $38,000 of the car's $50,000 list price and helped sales skyrocket. Based on tried and tested GM mechanicals, the H2 used a front suspension system similar to a GM Silverado truck while the rear end was similar to a GM half-tonne truck. It drove like a commercial vehicle too and although a few were imported to the UK, it was too big for inner city streets. The H3 packs the Hummer look and feel into a more manageable size and, due to Hummer's production facility in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, was built in right hand drive form, a few of which were officially imported to the UK. Take up wasn't huge, the 3.7-litre petrol engine proving too avaricious for most prospective customers, but it shifted a few units before the Hummer brand was swatted by the global financial crisis. A sale to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company collapsed when the Chinese government failed to be convinced that the home-built car would be any more economical. The last H3s rolled from the line in 2010, whereupon the company was wound up.
What You Get
Anybody who ever drove one of the original Hummers would have been amazed at its reverse-TARDIS ability. Huge on the outside, there was probably less useable room inside than you'd get in a Ford Focus. It was genuinely a triumph of lousy packaging. The H3 is several steps removed from the original and things are a good deal more conventional inside, without a transmission tunnel so wide you need to semaphore your passenger. It's still rather American insofar as the plastics quality isn't great, but the centre stack at least looks stylish with its brushed metal finish. It does have a style of its own and it's not altogether unappealing. On a short off-road route, I managed to almost knock myself unconscious on the grab handle, thought better of it and got back on the tarmac. Other ergonomic glitches include awful rear visibility thanks to the tailgate-mounted spare wheel and a reduction in the Hummer's total load lugging ability thanks to rear seats that don't fold flat. The exterior styling is bluff and uncompromising with a front end that encourages traffic to get out of its path. The H3 is based on a Chevy Colorado pick up truck, so the underpinnings aren't exactly cutting edge. What's quite fascinating about the Hummer is that while to many it represents the unacceptable face of American bling, it's in fact built at the Struandale Assembly Facility in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. General Motors pumped over $100 million into the construction of this plant and the H3 was expected to pay its way. Early signs were promising for the Hummer brand with around 1,900 vehicles sold in Europe in 2006 compared to a mere 548 vehicles the previous calendar year but as soon as credit got crunched, sales evaporated. What To Look For (used_look)
What You Pay
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What to Look For
Finding a used Hummer H3 that has avoided tasteless customisation or conversion to a stretch limo is more difficult than you'd imagine. The other thing you'll need to look out for is damage to the car caused by overenthusiastic off-roading and that includes ambitious wading. The interior is generally hard wearing but there have been reports of differentials failing, so make sure the diffs aren't making a whining or groaning noise. Check for a service record stamped up as far as is practicable.
(approx based on a 2009 Hummer H3) Some parts might be harder to come by than others now that Hummer has no official presence in the UK but specialists like Bauer and Millett are always worth contacting. You can pick up an oil filter for around £12 and an air filter for £44, while a set of front brake pads is a hefty 214, and front discs run to around £350.
On the Road
When I talk of the H3's more manageable size, this is in comparison to the H1 and H2 models that preceded it. It's still a vast thing, fully 1989mm wide, so piloting it around inner city streets is real heart in mouth stuff. As a guide, a Dodge Viper is 1,910mm wide. To really get a handle on the width of the H3, its girth is to a Range Rover what a Range Rover is to a Peugeot 207. The bluff sides of the H3 fall away leaving it to your imagination what lies beneath. The big mirrors are great or would be if I hadn't clouted the door mirror irreparably on a makeshift sign advertising herbal remedies. Powered by a General Motors Vortec 3.7-litre five-cylinder petrol engine with twin overhead cams and variable valve timing, you get 244bhp at 5,600rpm and 328Nm of torque at a relatively heady 4,600rpm. Rather surprisingly, this is no lazy lugger. To make decent progress, you need to rev it hard. Give it everything and it'll haul to 60mph in 11 seconds. There's the choice of a five-speed manual gearbox or the preferable four-speed auto. Traction control and stability control aim to keep the H3 dirty side down and its manufacturer claims it will ford water 407mm deep and features a front approach angle of 37.5 degrees. For the off roaders among you, the departure angle is 35.5 degrees and the breakover angle is 23.5 degrees. Those that sniff at the H3 as a vehicle for wannabe gangsters might well eat their words when taking the car off road. It is astonishingly capable, especially when climbing steep slopes or negotiating rock-strewn gullies.
The Hummer H3 is a vehicle that, by almost any objective measure, has no place on British roads. It's hard to think of anything it does that's not bettered by a Land Rover Discovery yet there is a certain appeal to it. Yes, it's brash and hopelessly inefficient both in terms of engineering and packaging but it also represents a line in the sand, a time when the market tired of this sort of vehicle. Out of time and out of place it may be, but it's also inconveniently good fun, especially if you have deep pockets and plenty of land to play on. It's also refreshingly politically incorrect which will be a big draw for some. Unmolested used examples are getting ever thinner on the ground and there aren't any more being made. This could be your last chance to say you were there.