How does a vehicle manufacturer ensure its product is reliable, durable, and capable of withstanding the rigors of those who use the vehicle to extreme ends? Oftentimes, it's through extensive testing in the lab or on a test track. The people at General Motors go one step beyond when it comes time to refine the Hummer line of vehicles - they race their product off-road.
The Southwestern deserts can present a brutal environment to those who attempt to tackle their formidable terrain. To this end, the Hummer group maintains a desert race team that has already proven it has what it takes to keep a vehicle going and win races. Having successfully campaigned both a Hummer H1 and H2, it was time to build a new racer based on the latest offering in the GM line, the Hummer H3.
OFF-ROAD visited the GM Desert Proving Grounds in Mesa, Arizona, to follow the buildup over several months. The base vehicle was the seventeenth production vehicle off the assembly line. When the crew got it at the proving grounds, it was pristine, complete with new-car smell.
In short order, the build crew removed all the glass and completely stripped down most everything inside to bare sheetmetal, including the wiring, steering column, and dash components. With the new body baring all, the builders could see what they would be dealing with and make plans for turning the H3 into a desert racer. The goal was to compete in the SCORE Stock Mini and Best in the Desert 3100 classes. Legendary competitor Rod Hall and his team would be the ones to field the H3, and they planned to race in point-series competition starting in early 2006.
These race classes have strict rules when it comes to what can and cannot be modified on a "stock"-class vehicle. Follow along as we detail what it takes to turn a production line vehicle into a competitive, race-ready desert rig.
The race was not without incident, but the challenges were pretty minor, especially for a first race in a new truck. The team made some torsion bar adjustments, suffered a flat tire, and had a few small electrical glitches. Overall, the results of months of hard work were quite satisfactory. After the race was over, the H3 was sent to the paint shop for its new black-and-blue paint scheme. Look for the Hummer team to be competing in the 2006 race season.