To trace the Humvee’s roots, you need to go back to the late 1960’s, and the Vietnam War, where the main form of light transport for the US Army during the bitter 19 year conflict was basically a derivative of the original Willys Jeep of World War II, this particular car known as the M151. Underpowered, under armoured and very very basic, the M151 was by no means a vehicle for the art of modern warfare, and thus the United States looked for alternatives during the 1970’s.
Assistance came however thanks in no small part to Lamborghini of Italy, as the company famed for the Countach and the Miura, were developing their own military vehicle for the Italian Army known as the Lamborghini Cheetah of 1977. Development of the Cheetah was assisted at the time by AM General in California, and after several attempts at creating the perfect military grade vehicle, Lamborghini eventually evolved the idea into a luxury SUV known as the LM002. Although Lambo had given up on the idea of a military grade vehicle, the idea stuck, and by 1979 AM General had developed the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, the HMMWV, or as we all have come to know and love as the Humvee.
16 inches wider than the Jeep, powered by a 6.2L V8 Diesel and built to climb a 60% incline and traverse a 40% slope, the new vehicle was to become the ultimate in battlefield transport. Air intakes were mounted atop the right fender on a stovepipe to roof level to ford 5ft of water, and electronics waterproofed to drive through 2.5 ft of water were specified. The radiator was to be mounted high, sloping over the engine on a forward-hinged hood. The vehicle was also endlessly tunable and can be modified to meet any tactical situation, including being able to haul and/or carry large weapons such as pieces of artillery, missile launchers and large machine guns. Steel panels 5 inches thick could deflect a majority of small arms fire, and a strengthened underside was built to protect occupants from IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) and small mines.
Although 61 companies tendered plans for the job, AM General (a subsidiary of General Motors), and their design that hearkened back to the Cheetah, was chosen, and an order for 55,000 vehicles to be delivered to the US Army over 5 years began in 1983.
The first action the Humvee’s saw was in Operation Just Cause, the US invasion of Panama in 1989, but the first major conflict the Humvee faced, and one that would put it on the face of the world, was in 1991, where after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, the US Army, in a coalition force with the UK and other EU nations, was deployed in Iraq to force back his armies. The sight of these leviathans conquering the desert plains set the world at home ablaze with excitement, and at the insistence of famed actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a civilian variant of the Humvee was created known as the Hummer, entering sales in 1992, again taking many queues from the previous military grade-cum-luxury SUV, the Lamborghini LM002. So essentially the Hummer and Humvee were based off a Lamborghini model twice. Also, just on a personal note, the one and only time I’ve ever seen Arnold Schwarzenegger was when he pulled up next to me at traffic lights in one of his many Humvee’s whilst I was driving around Beverley Hills in the late 90’s!
Today the Humvee has been sold to near enough every nation on Earth and deployed in pretty much every US conflict since 1991. The Balkan war of the late 1990’s, the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia, the war in Afghanistan against the Taliban and yet another war in Iraq, the Humvee has been a vital part of moving troops and munitions across the field of battle, but has also seen an important role in civilian life.
Aside from the Hummer luxury SUV, the Humvee itself has be modified and redesigned constantly for use as an exploration vehicle for the Arctic and Antarctic, a search and rescue vehicle, disaster response vehicles, and many civilian models are used in some of the remotest places in the world for the most basic needs.
Today, even 31 years after the first Humvee’s entered service, these trucks are still very much in their prime, and are being constantly modified for the changing face of warfare. Although replacements have been considered, the original winning design that made this vehicle a force to be reckoned with is refusing to give up without a fight.