Hummer H1: Ridiculousness in the hands of a few

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As soon as the garage door went up and light caught the dust-covered behemoth, I knew I was getting dragged back into a world I’d left decades before, whether I liked it or not.

The behemoth in question was a 1994 AM General Hummer H1, part of a collection of six vehicles from an estate I’d been given the opportunity to purchase. No prices were suggested. I had one shot to come in, assess everything, submit a “highest and best” offer for all, and roll the dice. It had been 15 years since I’d last owned an H1 Hummer, and I had little clue what their value might be today.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, when I traded in late-model specialty cars, a number of H1s passed through my hands, typically in the $30,000-to-$50,000 range. I also saw my fair share of the other poster children for military vehicles cum civilian status symbols: Lamborghini LM002s, Mercedes-Benz Geländewagens, Land Rover Defender 90s. These early ultimate machines were caricatures of the burgeoning SUV craze. Their rough ride meant they were usually, and quickly, exchanged for far more comfortable conveyances. Never did I consider any of them future collectibles.

Hollywood's impact on the car market

Which brings me back to the H1. This was a one-owner example with low miles in the desirable four-door hardtop “wagon” body style, with a 6.5-liter normally aspirated diesel engine. Pegging a price on it was a challenge. The market is full of Humvees, including less desirable gasoline versions, beat-up ex-army HMMWVs and civilian Hummer H1s, pampered 2006 Alpha editions with their beefier powertrains and upgraded interiors, and even state-of-the-art restomod versions. Asking prices vary from $30,000 to $300,000. Little did I know H1s had become even more popular since I sold that last one many years ago. I guess not everybody wants a Prius these days.

Despite the availability of so many large, capable, uncompromising SUVs today, people are still gravitating toward rugged, temperamental vintage machines like the H1 and its ilk. I certainly appreciate them, because they make no excuses for what they are, and there is something undeniably cool about that, especially in the case of the Lamborghini LM002. Countach V-12 and a stick shift? Yes, please. I mean, you could buy a new Urus, but why would you want to? You’ll never get to meet new friends who own tow trucks if you do that.

Of these four “vintage” military vehicles for the road, only the G-wagen, arguably the most practical of the group, remains in production today, albeit much modified. It’s still a status symbol, but far removed from its original intended use. Unless, of course, Mercedes-Benz had intended all along for the original G-wagen to become the go-to choice for nice Armenian American sisters with reality television series to drive to Spago.

1994 AM General Hummer H1
1994 AM General Hummer H1
1994 AM General Hummer H1
1994 AM General Hummer H1

Defender 90s, much like H1 Hummers, have also been the focus of a vibrant cottage industry of firms committed to “reimagining” them into updated, and quite costly, reborn variants for those who don’t like to buy off the shelf. And LM002s? They are rarely seen in the wild, but when they do come to market, they prove to be the most valuable member of this group—just as they have been since new. My only regret is that I didn’t nab one when they were $75,000.

As for the Hummer and the rest of the collection at the estate sale, I apparently got it right. I’d assigned a value of $55,000 to the H1, roughly $20,000 less than what it stickered for new and less than half of what 2006 Alpha versions have sold for recently. 

Despite my efforts, however, in my household I’m only joined in my enthusiasm for rumbling around in this magnificent beast by my six-year-old daughter and three-year-old son. To be fair, my daughter is getting tired of my yelling, “Everybody get to the Humma!” and my subsequent mandate that we all must talk like Arnold Schwarzenegger whenever we’re in it. Hey, you have to be a little ridiculous when you drive trucks like these, right? Just ask the Armenian American sisters.

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