RESTOMOD four-wheel drives are massive in the USA right now, and builders are asking equally humungous prices for them.
Anything vintage – CJ Jeeps, Ford Broncos, Dodge Power Wagons and old Toyota LandCruisers – is prime metal for the restomod treatment, which entails taking a classic vehicle and retrofitting it with a modern drivetrain, chassis updates, and luxury and convenience features.
If restomod fourbies are big business, then the biggest 4x4 available is surely the prime subject. Michigan-based Mil-Spec Automotive (MSA) has been reimagining the iconic Hummer H1 since 2015 and transforming the military-based vehicles into premium off-roaders.
“The Hummer was an off-road brand that was not really focused on that luxury-vehicle experience,” says Mil-Spec President, Chris Van Scyoc, of the company’s vehicles. “We’re giving the Hummer H1 an actual lease on life.”
The mod’s start with a rebuilt late-model 6.6-litre GM Duramax engine that makes 500hp, replacing the older version of the GM diesel V8 that came in the HMMWV and Hummer H1 vehicles. Modern suspension, brakes, interior trims and equipment complete the mechanicals, to deliver a contemporary driving experience with added efficiency, performance and refinement. All surfaces inside and out are restored and refinished to the customer’s specifications and add premium appearance and feel, without losing the purposeful character of the H1.
“The exterior of the Hummer is something that really doesn’t need to be changed,” says Mil-Spec CIO/Lead Designer, Ian Broekman. “It’s only important to enhance the vehicle. The entire interior of the vehicle has been re-developed and re-designed in-house by our team.”
The result is a vehicle with a presence like no other, be it rolling down Hollywood Boulevard or dusting up the Arizona deserts. The pictured vehicle – Mil-Spec’s H1 #007 – is finished in an exclusive Kevlar-infused, black polyurethane exterior coating with semi-gloss black accents, while the interior is upgraded with Napa leather upholstery among other luxury accoutrements.
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More significant is the Baja Suspension package on H1 #007. Developed by the late, legendary off-road racer Rod Hall, this set-up increases wheel travel to 13 inches at each corner by using longer coil springs and remote-reservoir shocks. The off-road-tuned suspension is perfect for getting the most out of the 38x13.50 R20 Toyo Open Country muddies on rough desert tracks.
An Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Famer, Rod Hall raced at Baja 50 times over his long career and campaigned Team Hummer with H1, H2 and H3 vehicles through the 2000s, recording some of his later Baja victories in the compact H3 Hummer. If anyone knew how to set up a Hummer suspension it was Rod Hall, and his input in to the set-up of H1 #007 makes this vehicle even more special.
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Special, handcrafted vehicles such as those from Mil-Spec Automotive don’t come cheap, with a Launch Edition vehicle such as #007 to set you back close to AU$400,000 by the time you get it here. The base price on the MSA H1 is around US$200,000, before you start adding the special features.
An interesting aside to the whole restomod 4x4 thing is that we’re now seeing owners of such vehicles selling their rigs, claiming that they are too good, too nice and too expensive to subject to the rigours of off-roading. At the going prices we can understand why, but don’t expect to snap up a used one for a bargain. They are usually low mileage and in demand, as buyers seek to get ownership while avoiding the long wait times that come with ordering a new, bespoke vehicle.