After 12 years of being out of the business of selling vehicles to the general public, AM General is jumping back into the civilian market with the Humvee C-Series – a kit-car offering that will conform to the various constraints put on the automaker by the HUMMER deal with General Motors and U.S. Government regulations and emissions standards, according to multiple sources within AM General and those present during a recent focus-group-type discussion with the Canadian HUMMER Club.
First some background. The legal situation between AM General and General Motors is complicated, but we wrote about the specifics a few years back when there was some confusion as to who owned what when GM was trying to unload the HUMMER brand to a third party. Without getting into too much detail here, the only way for AM General to offer a vehicle to the civilian market while protecting the terms of their agreement with GM would be to fundamentally change anything that was unique to the H1 civilian vehicle, and not call it an H1 or even a HUMMER. At the time I said “It’s highly unlikely that AM General would try to design a completely new vehicle that didn’t look or have the same technology as the H1 and market it to civilians,” – and that’s still true. However I was only considering the possibility they would be selling a complete vehicle, not a kit-car, which clears many of the hurdles keeping AM General out of the civilian game.
Humvee C-Series Kit
In short, the Humvee C-Series kit will allow customers to build a street-legal HUMVEE provided they have the means to outfit the vehicle with a powertrain. That means you need to outfit it with an engine, transmission, etc. on your own. This is how AM General is getting around the EPA emissions standards and U.S. Government safety regulations that played a big role in shutting down civilian HUMMER H1 production years ago. But this is also the beauty of a kit car. You can add a Duramax Diesel (since the C-Series will likely come with the same lift as the 2006 Alpha) and Allison transmission if you so choose. The cost of the Humvee C-Series kit – $59,000 (subject to change, of course) may sound like a lot of money for a vehicle with no engine, but 2006 HUMMER H1 Alpha Wagons were running close to $140,000 new in 2006, and you can put in a hell of a drivetrain setup for much less than the difference. Yes, the H1 and Humvee are two different animals – but considering you could legally drive a brand new Humvee with your choice of powertrain options for $75k – give or take depending on options and how much labor you need to farm out – that’s a reasonable prospect for a lot of people in the off-road community, not just the HUMMER community. Though we’re told the price isn’t based solely on production cost and that historically high used HUMMER H1 market values played a large role in determining the asking price.
Even though it will be marketed to civilians – it will not contain technology that was created for the civilian HUMMER H1 model – which would be items like the interior trim (dash/radio/leather seats) power doors and locks, door-mounted mirrors, hard doors, and even glossy paint. The body style will need to be necessarily different from the H1, but the idea is to have it similar enough in style that some parts of the H1 may be installed at a later time (such as hard, locking doors). Just remember – it’s a Humvee – not a HUMMER.
The C-Series will have a 4-seat configuration – but would only be available as a soft-top, soft-door vehicle. Additional options, such as CTIS (Central Tire Inflation System), rocker protection, and maybe even two-piece beadlock wheels would be available as ‘add-on’ factory accessories.
Humvee C-Series Kit details
-Body w/ 2800 Installed Rivets
-Chassis ASM w/ Springs including cross members, geared hubs, half shafts, differentials (possibly locking rear), and cool pack.
-Soft Top ASM w/ Soft Doors
-Two Fuel Tanks
Available Humvee C-Series Kit Options
-Rocker Panel Protection
-Drive Line Protection
-CTIS Ready w/ Wheels & Tires
-CTIS Ready w/ Wheels Only
-Geared Fan Drive (Required for 200+ HP)
-12,000 Pound Warn Winch
Who Builds it?
You do! Or, more likely, a network of authorized or suggested mechanics would help you. While kit-car offerings have come a long way in the way of support and education in the last couple decades, it’s still no easy task. To check out a well-established kit-car enterprise, look up the guys at Factory Five Racing.
In the HUMMER world – don’t be surprised if someone like Predator Motor Sports was on the list for the first 5 kits. They’ve been working on and overhauling H1s for some time – and if they crunch the numbers and find out they can make a buck on something like this – they undoubtedly will. Even if they don’t purchase units themselves, they’ll likely be among the first people you’ll want to contact if you have no idea what you’re doing.
Humvee C-Series Kit Availability
We’re waiting on official word as to when the Humvee C-Series kits will be available and how the ordering process will work. It’s possible AM General will take deposits and initial orders, and once a particular threshold is met, the factory will initiate production. We’re told this number is around 50.
From what we understand the prototype should be complete within the next 30 days, and a marketing and promotions schedule will commence later this year. A website dedicated to the kit is currently in development and will likely be ready this fall.
Is it legal?
There are a lot of hurdles to owning a car that you build yourself – from insurance to titling to licensing. The process may be getting easier in some places, but nearly every state is different in how difficult it is. Kit cars are becoming more popular, and plenty of people in your state have undoubtedly gone through the process.
Is there a warranty?
Warranty coverage is unknown at this time, but some indicate they believe it may be 12 month/12,000 mile.
What’s in a name?
The “C” in C-Series refers to “Civilian” – just as it did when the Willys Corporation introduced the CJ series of vehicles which was short for “Citizen Jeep.” Later, Willys would become Kaiser Jeep, who would create a special division for military applications and the forerunner to AM General – which has changed ownership several times since incorporating into a separate entity from Jeep in the 70s. The CJ would ultimately become the Jeep Wrangler. That’s the short version of how AM General, HUMMER, and Jeep are related – for the long version check out AM General’s History page.
The idea of a kit-car, sold as-is, seems like a no-brainer for AM General on some level. They have the design, they have the means, it’s less work on the production side and only adds few more challenges on the order/shipping side. It’s not that AM General doesn’t have the capacity to succeed with this project, but it’s whether or not they want to invest all the resources they can in a program that will pale in size and scope to their military and government operations. They’re currently in the running for what could ultimately be a $5,000,000,000 contract to produce military vehicles like the BRV-O – and its only logical to assume priority is placed on programs like those rather than kit-cars sold to Joe Public. I would imagine the top-level discussion went something like, “if you think you can wholesale some body-only kits and the lawyers say it’s OK – we’re OK with it.”
It would certainly make for some interesting build threads in the various HUMMER forums – which interestingly enough – AM General used to float rumors and gauge interest in the idea back in January.