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2006 Hummer H1 Alpha - Rod Is My Copilot

Posted in Features on September 1, 2005 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Jim Fets

Seat time in an H1 has always been hard to come by. Especially trail time - using Low range on severe, military training trails. And especially, when Rod Hall is your spotter.

The occasion was the introduction of the H1 Alpha, a faster, more powerful, and easier-to-maintain Humvee. The brakes are better, it will tow more, and the crawl ratio has been improved, but the experience of operating a truly authentic 4x4 in its element remains the same.

We were honored to have as copilot one Rod Hall, who we first became acquainted with some 20 years ago when he dominated open-desert distance racing. The man is a legend, and good company besides. However, as a rule, race drivers do not make good passengers, so we tried to drive smoothly. We did not want to make Rodney spill his coffee, brace himself against the dash, or scream out loud, but we failed. Plus, we dinged the mirror on the very H1 Rodney now uses for his personal transportation. Much to his credit, and consistent with his outlook, Mr. Hall remained a calm, knowledgeable and relaxed copilot/trail leader 99 percent of the time. The other 1 percent is on us.

In our defense, driving an H1 is not like driving your average 4x4. And it had been a while since we sat in one. The cockpit takes a moment to get used to. There are 22 large rocker switches on the driver side alone, along with six small round gauges and a seventh with two needles, one red and one green, for tire pressure and inflation, front and rear. The space between the driver and passenger is occupied by Mr. Duramax and Mr. Allison.

First thing about driving an H1: It takes a few hours to notice that the left front tire is right under your left foot. So, on a narrow mountain road, you tend to hang the passenger over the edge. On the trail, you keep the driver side clean and pinstripe the passenger side. This will make any passenger uneasy, race driver or not.

The other thing is that you have ground clearance to burn. You can roll right over rocks you would normally drive around. There is a good 16 inches clearance down the middle, not to mention a 47-degree departure angle, a 32-degree break over, and a 30-inch fording depth. Plus, it's pretty hard to roll an H1. We've seen it done, but with a 60 percent grade capability and 40 percent side slope angle, it's not easy.

With all this ability to crawl along at crazy angles, plus traction from two lockers, you find yourself routinely operating at unusual degrees of tilt. When you come to a rock wall, it's easy to lock up, take the high side, and not worry about the angle. You can actually drag the mirror that way, as we remembered an instant too late.

The new Duramax 6600 makes a huge difference. The 6600 makes 300 hp at 3,000 rpm and 520 lb-ft at 1,500 rpm. The engine produces enough low-end torque to loaf along on the trail all day long with hardly a tap on the accelerator. Torque output is up 16 percent compared with the previous 6.5L turbodiesel. But it's on the highway where a 46 percent increase in horsepower provides vast improvement. For the first time ever, an H1 can whip out from behind a line of trucks on a mountain pass and accelerate. At one point, our speedometer indicated 93 mph, which is about all you want to do on 37-inch dual bead-lock tires. Interior noise, even on the soft-top we operated, is significantly reduced. There is still the sound of MT/R tires, some wind noise at highway speeds, and always the whine of a big turbo, but you can actually hear the radio, and you don't have to shout to the passenger.

Handling the torque is an Allison 1000 five-speed automatic, moving power through a full-time NVG 242 transfer case and on out to 1.92:1-geared hubs, which all adds up to a crawl ratio of better than 41 to 1. After an early morning highway blast, we spent the better part of the day in 4-Lo around Pyramid Lake, in Nevada, on steep canyon tracks, occasionally detouring to address suitable test obstacles. It was the kind of trail work "I guarantee you, no other production vehicle could take on," says Rod, a man not given to dramatic pronouncements.

He could be right. We took on terrain where we actually needed both lockers. We walked up vertical stairsteps so steep there was nothing but sky in the windshield. In those climb situations, the H1 is pretty much point-and-shoot, with the torque, the lockers, and traction control maintaining forward motion, and the gearing working in your favor. We just eased into it, waited for the front end to come down, and steered away. On the downhill sides, 12-inch disc brakes let us ease the 7,000-pound Alpha off steep drop-offs. We aired up and down on the move, using the central inflation system, which could really spoil you. As the day wore on, it all became routine. We smelled the desert sage, saw pronghorn antelope, and checked out the abandoned Nightingale Mine. And we did it with essentially zero stress on the machinery, operating well within the capability of the design envelope.

We always thought an H2 was a pretty good trail machine, but on an H1, you get more. You get dual batteries. You get a canister-type air cleaner that keeps water and dust out of the intake. You get real bead locks on runflat tires. You get a 12,000-pound winch loaded with 5/8-inch cable. You get steering gear that uses a 1-1/2-inch output shaft, like on a dump truck. You get no fewer than five coolers, including the turbo intercooler, the transmission cooler, and the fuel and power steering coolers. The transfer case is cooled via radiator fluid, and even the engine EGR is cooled and reburned to reduce exhaust soot.

All in all, it was a special day in a special machine. Few people ever have the experience. Not that many H1 Alphas will be made, and at $125,160 MSRP, not that many will be sold. But we're here to tell you, we envy the guy who gets one.

SPECIFICATIONS
'06 HUMMER H1 ALPHA
Dimensions (in.)
Wheelbase 130
Max. length 190.5 with winch
Max. width 101 with mirrors
Max. height 79 (open-top model)
Track, F/R 71.{{{62}}}/71.62
Capacities
Seating 4
Cargo volume 58.3 cu ft
Main fuel tank 29.5 gals
Aux. fuel tank 22 gals
Curb weight 7,558 lbs (hardtop)
Performance Data
Range 570 miles
Grade capability 60 percent
Side slope capability 40 percent
Angle of approach
(without winch)
72 degrees
Angle of departure 37.5 degrees
Break over 32.5 degrees
Fording depth 30 inches
Min. ground clearance 16 inches
Claimed 0-60 13.5 seconds

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