Kev’s HMMWV really doesn’t need a website all to itself… but why not?
When I started dreaming about buying my first Humvee, I was much younger. I didn’t consider that a military HMMWV would ever be available to own, so my dreams were limited to civilian Humvee H1 vehicles. And I wanted the giant yellow H1 wagon. Thankfully, in my youth, no one would finance me buying a $60,000 Hummer H1.
In 2013, AM General offered a “HMMWV C-Series Kit,” which was somewhere between An H1 Alpha and a military HMMWV. It was only available with 4-man configuration and soft doors, and only in 3 colors. While most people weren’t going to buy a HMMWV with no engine, some 3rd party companies offered packages as shown below, using a C-Series as the baseline for a then-upgradeable truck.
This article from 2014 (original story linked here) describes the historic moment when the US Government decided to sell of surplus HMMWVs. It was controversial at the time, but it continued… and started giving folks like myself a glimmer of hope that I might eventually own and drive one.
So I started looking at HMMWVs at auction. GovPlanet sells about 300 per week, spread across the country.
Sometime in 2018, I started watching closely and dreaming once again. At the time, I didn’t know the difference between an M998, an M1097, M1151, M1152 and the dozens of models and variants for sale at auction. Pictured here is the M1097A2 that I eventually bought.
Since GovPlanet sells about 300 per week, spread across the country, I started seeing trends that the majority were sold in Texas, California, or Alabama (the part of Alabama that was far away from me). Some locations such as Hermiston, Oregon occasionally sold HMMWVs and I found some other GovPlanet stuff at the nearby Hopkinsville location. Most of the things at Hopkinsville seemed to be trailers and storage containers, likely old Ford Campbell surplus.
In my research, I learned that the smaller model numbers under 1000 appeared to be the original, older ones, such as the M998. The higher numbers in the 1100 range appeared to be the newer versions and most of them seem to be turbocharged. I found my happy place in the middle, the M1097. But to the naked eye, every HMMWV is pretty much the same shape. There are just little nuances that you start to notice when you’ve been around them for a while.
In my search, I also discovered that the M1097A2 in a 2-man form is the exact same truck as the 4-man (true for pretty much any HMMWV). For a few thousand dollars, a person can add rear seats and the C-pillar to make it a 4-door. I had been seeing a bunch of M1097A2 troop-carriers at auction and did some specific research, as that was my new dream.
The A2 variant of the M1097 was a step better than the many of the other models that preceded, including the original M998. The A2 included heavier duty running gear and the rear “airlift bumper.” It also comes standard with a 4-speed transmission. I quickly learned that the 3-speed transmission in the older vehicles didn’t have a “Park” gear and would just be started in “Neutral.”
I ended up buying this M1097A2 pictured above. At the yard in Hopkinsville, we were able to get it started with two new batteries. We actually drove it onto the flat bed to get it home. Within an hour of getting it home, we removed the giant cover (aka “Gypsy Canopy”) and drove it around town without the extra height.
I picked this exact one for a few reasons:
It had all of the base features I wanted. The A2 variety with the heavy duty running gear and bumper seemed like a beefy choice.
This auction was located nearby in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Most of the HMMWVs sold on GovPlanet are from locations 8+ hours from me, so being 72 miles from Fort Campbell made this old 101st rig a tempting treat.
It was explained to me by someone who has experience in Army motor pool, that the speedometer / odometer cluster is a common item to replace. Therefore, a truck with 10,000 miles might get a new odometer and start its life again at zero.
The first thing I noticed about these HMMWVs going at auction is that some of them have ridiculously low odometers. You will see many selling with “1200 miles,” listed. However, when you look at the condition of the vehicle, it’s nearly impossible that the wear and tear was done in that amount of driving.
Even my roughly 30,000 mile odometer seems low, but again, I’ve been told that this is far more believable than 1200 miles. For 22 years in service, this truck would have done under 2000 miles per year. And after driving it every chance I get last year and this year, my personal mileage is comparable to that.
Inside the cab, there’s this amazingly massive gap between the driver and passenger. Mine came with nothing but the doghouse (engine cover), so I added a new replacement radio tray and bolted in a lock box. Since the doors don’t lock, I didn’t want to lose my registration and insurance cards.
It’s amazing what new seat upholstery and 3 or 4 pressure-washes can do. Unfortunately, this one needed somewhere between five and seven pressure washes. This isn’t a leather H1. It’s a military HMMWV and it’ll always have a bit of dirt on the floor. Fun fact, the floors are made with water drains so you can just hose off the inside.
The tires on this beast are BF Goodrich Baja TA, Load Range E. the 37″ tire is mounted on a two piece bolt-together 16.5″ rim with 24 bolts in pairs of two bolts. In other words, the bolts aren’t evenly spaced.
Some versions of the HMMWV wheel had 12 bolts, some apparently had 24 bolts perfectly spaced. I am told that this wheel was the heaviest load capacity wheel and went on up-armored trucks and shelter carriers that needed the extra capacity.
Inside the tire is a solid “donut” called a run-flat. As much clunky weight as it adds, I didn’t want to remove it as many have. I wanted to keep this truck stock with stock wheels, but I also like the idea of having an extra 50 miles of driving if I ever do find myself with a flat tire.
Photo credit: Federal Military Parts