I don’t think Jay Leno had a 2003 HUMMER H2 in mind when he gave me permission to start buying cars again. I’m sure some will question my sanity even more than usual by this purchase decision — especially since I sold the best SUV in the world, my 1999 Toyota Land Cruiser, in order to afford this Tonka yellow monstrosity. Still, I stand by my purchase decision — and I’m not even the least bit embarrassed.
Unlike a lot of my purchases, which happen by accident, I was actually seeking out the cheapest running HUMMER H2 available for sale in the USA. I personally feel the H2 is a misunderstood future classic, admittedly built during a low-point in General Motors’ history — but design and concept-wise, well ahead of its time. Since I had very limited firsthand experience with the H2 to make these assumptions, I thought it would be smart to add a well-worn example to my prestigious collection — and probably drop the property values of the entire neighborhood with my tacky choice in the driveway.
Back in 2003, my father was one of the first people in Kansas to take delivery of the all-new H2 — and he kept it all of two weeks. He had ordered it based on photos, assuming it would drive similarly to his GMC Yukon Denali — but he was very disappointed with the poor ride quality, visibility and third row seating that was chopped in half, thanks to the massive, interior-mounted full-sized spare. The fact that it was too tall for the garage was the final straw, so he quickly traded it for a Cadillac Escalade. I remember being a very disappointed 16 year old.
Flash forward 16 years, and the HUMMER H2 held its value much better than a comparable Denali or Escalade, since you can’t buy a new HUMMER anymore. While Denali and Escalade models have continued to thrive, the HUMMER brand died a very embarrassing death during General Motors’ bankruptcy in 2010. The great recession and $4-per-gallon gasoline were obvious factors contributing to the failure of this $60,000 SUV that got 10 miles per gallon — but there was also a massive shift in brand perception. The H2 was once the coolest, must-have vehicle for your feature segment on "MTV Cribs" — but then, seemingly overnight, it became a vilified symbol of American excess.
Of course, it’s easy to look at the H2 today and make fun of its excessive plastic panels on the outside, making it a caricature of the original HUMMER — as well as all the cheap-looking hard plastics throughout the interior. The visibility is also awful, the 10 second 0-to-60 mph time is even more awful, and the gas mileage is beyond awful — but in my opinion, it’s not a bad vehicle. For off-road credibility, it has 10 inches of ground clearance, skid plates and good approach and departure angles. It’s equipped with the 6.0-liter Vortec V8, which is one of the most durable engines ever to come out of General Motors — and mine is certainly a testament to that fact, as it’s still running great at 195,000 miles.
Now when I say great, I mean it’s running great-ish. There’s obviously a pretty bad exhaust leak, and I’m not sure if the worn tires are noisy, or if it’s a bad wheel bearing –or a dying differential. The airbag warning light is on, and beyond the usual excessive wear and tear in the interior, the driver’s footwell is drenched with water. Still, these are things you would expect from a $6,200 HUMMER — and considering I bought it sight unseen from a dealer’s auction thousands of miles away, I’m surprised it wasn’t much worse.
Even with all the problems, I’m still smiling when I drive this ridiculous thing around town. SUVs of today all sort of look the same, partially for aerodynamics, which my H2 obviously lacks — but I also feel like there’s a lack of creativity. The new Kia Telluride has made such a big splash because it harkens back to an era when SUVs looked brawny — and other than the Jeep Wrangler and the Toyota 4Runner, it’s the only affordable SUV that still looks good. If this HUMMER were to make a comeback with similar styling, but with the quality of GM’s modern offerings, I feel like it would be way more successful than the original.
Obviously that will never happen, so all we have is the memory of the HUMMER brand — as well as the dwindling number of vehicles still on the road. Much like the Jeep Grand Wagoneer was a worthless dinosaur of a used car at one point, only to become expensive collector cars in recent years, I think the HUMMER H2 will eventually follow suit. It’s safe to say that nobody will ever make an SUV this ridiculous looking ever again — and given its pop culture status, decent capability and funny idiosyncrasies, it’s not hard to picture millennials coveting these beasts in the future.
My cheap H2 will certainly never be anywhere near collector quality ever again — but I’m still going to try my best to get my Tonka truck up to snuff. My mechanic, the Car Wizard, still hasn’t given it a thorough look it over yet — but I’m not too worried, since parts are still cheap and plentiful for HUMMERs. After sorting it out, we’ll see if the nostalgia and hilarity wears off once I start driving it regularly — but I know for a fact that I will never feel embarrassed to own a HUMMER H2. Not for a second … Find a Hummer H2 for sale