Military Vs. Civilian Hummers

    Are They Really All That Different?

    Cole QuinnellPhotographerTrenton McGeeWriter

    Whenever a group of four-wheelers starts talking about Hummers, the conversation inevitably turns into a debate over the differences between civilian and military versions. Some people claim that the two are virtually identical except for a few more creature comforts inside the civilian model, while others swear the two models share almost nothing. We have to admit we were curious too, so after we had a chance to get up close and personal with typical mil-spec HMMWVs (see "Driving Uncle Sam," Oct. '98), we couldn't wait to crawl all over a civilian version and find out the truth.

    So what did we find? For starters, military and civilian Humvees are basically the same underneath. Same diffs, same axleshafts, same transmissions, same transfer cases, and same basic suspension components. The only functional variants include three engine choices and 12-volt electrical systems for civilian models (one engine choice and 24-volt electrical systems for the military) and slightly different spring rates, shocks, and tires. In fact, a representative at AM General told us that all Hummer chassis come off the same factory line and are then finished differently depending on their final destination. So when your buddies try to convince you that civilian models aren't as strong, tell them you know better.

    The biggest difference is obvious: The interiors are worlds apart. While the spartan military-issue interior is dominated by a giant radio and features cool canvas seats, the civilian model can include comfortable leather seats, carbon-fiber dash inserts, and enough creature comforts, doo-dads, and gadgets to help justify the hefty $65,000-plus pricetag. Civilian models have completely different dashes filled with gauges that we suspect have been borrowed from semitrucks and have lots of trim for a finished look. All you get on military ones is uncovered aluminum and a simple uncluttered dash.

    So after all is said and done, which one is preferable? Since the drivetrain and suspension are the same, the question is really how much leather do you want? If you’re looking to make the ultimate urban statement, then a civilian Hummer is probably perfect for you. If you want to ’wheel the thing hard and not worry about getting the inside muddy, then you’d be all over a military one.