Don’t blame the three young bucks listed as co-founders of Mil Spec Automotive for this H1. No, the blame lies squarely with whomever is driving the price of original 2006 Hummer H1 Alphas up as high as a quarter-million bucks. Spending like that on vehicles like this represents “blood in the water,” and these sharks are circling. The MSA team asserts—and it’s hard to argue—that an H1 that’s been disassembled and reengineered to a Singer 911 standard represents a better value than does a “used” and worn vehicle originally assembled to a “close enough for government work” standard. Some 729 H1 Alphas were built, of which who knows how many are truly in the kind of condition that warrants its quarter-million-dollar asking price. Mil Spec is only hoping to convince a dozen potential buyers that theirs is the better bargain.
Every Mil Spec Automotive H1 will have started life as a 1995–2001 Hummer H1 civilian model. The team started out working with cheaper, easier-to-source military examples, but their VINs cannot be registered in all states, hence the switch to less prevalent civi H1s. The vehicle is disassembled to a nut-and-bolt level; the frame is checked, cleaned, powder-coated in gloss black, and reassembled with all new hand-torqued fasteners. The 10-gauge aluminum bodies are similarly inspected, and many require rework, because of the considerable amount of flex permitted by the original. They’re then upgraded with sound, vibration, and thermal insulation, and ultimately painted with a thick, rugged bed-liner-type material that can be tinted different colors and contains Kevlar to improve scratch resistance. They’re then titled according to the year of their original VINs.
Naturally, Mil Spec upgrades the most miserable part of the early H1: its powertrain. Out goes the wheezing 6.2-liter diesel, or 6.5-liter turbodiesel, or 5.7-liter Small Block gas V-8 and the three- or four-speed automatic that backed it up. In goes a 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V-8 and an Allison 1000 six-speed automatic transmission. H1 Alphas used the LLY-code version of this engine, but MSA acquires and remanufactures the slightly later LBZ-code variant that received numerous strengthening upgrades. This is necessary to withstand the Mil Spec tuning that elevates output from the 360 hp and 650 lb-ft it made in GM’s heavy-duty pickups to 520 hp and 1,000 lb-ft. The cooling package is enhanced to match.
MSA is claiming a 0–60 time of 5.5 to 6.0 seconds, depending on body configuration and options (read: mass) and a top speed of 94 mph. That’s well down from the 11.1 seconds we measured on a 2006 model 7,558-pound H1 Alpha SUV. Speaking of mass, the finished trucks are coming out at about 6,900 pounds for the two-door pickup to 7,600 pounds for a full-tilt-boogie SUV.
The inboard vented and slotted 10.5-inch brake rotors and the halfshafts that connect them to the gear-reduction hubs are also uprated to 12,000-pound GVWR standards. There’s no ABS or parking brake function, however. MSA has been toying with a track-rat variant that is a soft-top model with cloth doors that weighs less than 6,000 pounds and is lowered 10 inches (6 from the suspension plus 4 from the tires—they did not invert the gear-reduction hubs). Fitted with an Intrepid Package the company is developing to boost engine output to 800-plus hp and 1,700 lb-ft of torque, its 0–60 is said to drop to around 5 seconds.
With Singer Porsches as MSA’s business-case template, the design changes little inside or out, but everything is finished to a much higher standard with minimal plastic parts in evidence. MSA was able to rearrange the interior somewhat in an attempt to reduce the feeling of claustrophobia, but the reality of that high-riding girder chassis off which the occupants are slung like saddlebags is that the four passengers still ride far away from each other and jammed up against doors that still can’t have armrests. There are dual air-conditioning units, but each blows pretty high-speed air through a pair of Ford Super Duty round air vents and floor registers. There’s no thermostatic control, so it’s kind of a freeze-or-fry proposition (MSA is looking for a new supplier). The window switches are from older BMW M3s because of the tactile click they provide. Naturally, USB jacks, Bluetooth capability, and a kickin’ sound system are part of the program.
Our test drive is in a 7,400-pound four-door hardtop pickup model equipped with the $5,499 Bold Body and Tire package that adds about 7 inches to the width and fits 38×15.5R20LT tires. (MSA does not retain the problematic central tire-inflation system, but a standard onboard compressor eases the task of airing tires up and down for sand-dune running.) This is the original prototype vehicle that will be used as a dealer demonstrator. A soft-top starts at $218,499. This four-door hardtop body style adds $13,999, and with a few more options, its final sticker price is $239,295.
Having road-tested both the first H1 diesel prototype and a later gasser, I’m immediately struck by how much more lively this powertrain is. Throttle response is linear and detectable, unlike with that first one. Another uniquely endearing H1 trait: The little back-and-forth motion you get after you come to a stop, due to halfshaft windup and slop in the reduction gears. The sound deadening efforts go far to insulate the powertrain noise, but the roar from the knobby tires still gets in (there’s $5,499 we’d save). Brake feel from the hydraulically boosted system is firm and confident, and the stoppers seem capable of besting the 164-foot stopping distance from 60 we measured in the 2006 H1 Alpha. Steering effort is quite reasonable from the small-diameter steering wheel that obscures my view of the speedometer for speeds above 60 mph. Ride quality feels pretty similar to that of the original H1—which is to say, rough and a little jarring, especially on these gigantic and heavy tires. Of course, one shouldn’t buy a military specification vehicle expecting a magic carpet ride.
If you’re trolling duPont Registry or the big auction catalogs for H1 Alphas, you should absolutely give Mil Spec a long, hard look. The performance upgrade alone justifies the similar spend. The modern fittings and nicer trim are pure cake-icing.
|Mil Spec Automotive H1|
|BASE PRICE||$218,499, $247,498|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 4-pass, 5-door truck|
|ENGINE||6.6L/520-hp/1,000-lb-ft turbodiesel OHV 32-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT||6,900-7,600 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||195.5 x 86.5-94.5-85.0-100.0* in|
|0-60 MPH||5..5-6.0 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||Not rated|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Currently|
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