Take a second and picture the United States military at work.
You might imagine members of the Army in uniform or pop-up bases with canvas tents and buildings. Maybe your mind jumps to a computer control room with military leaders intently watching the actions of their personnel unfolding on screens in front of them.
Regardless of the situation your brain created, there’s probably one element you included without even thinking about it – a Humvee.
Considered one of the most iconic visual representations of the U.S. military, the Humvee has been around for over 25 years. Today we’re sharing a brief history of the Humvee, followed by a conversation on how civilians came to be involved in ownership of these military treasures and what it takes to make one street legal.
In the early 1980s the U.S. Army needed to replace their old fleet of transport jeeps. So they put out a call for companies to design their next ideal vehicle. The task presented was intense. They wanted a vehicle that was:
- Efficient driving both on- and off-road
- Capable of carrying large payloads
- Able to survive indirect fire
- Clearing 16″ from the ground (double most existing SUVs)
- Able to climb a 60% incline and traverse a 40% slope
- Designed to cross 5′ of water, with electronics waterproof up to 2.5′
- Home to a high-mounted radiator and a forward hinged-hood
Only three companies built models based on the Army’s proposals. After early tests, in late March 1983, AM General Corporation was given a government contract worth over $1-billion. They were tasked with developing 55,000 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV). These rugged vehicles, created to transport both troops and cargo, earned the nickname “Humvee.”
The Humvee fits all of the government’s requests. It hosts full-time 4-wheel drive and independent suspension. It can travel with exceptional speed, mobility, and agility across all terrains.
Humvees became known outside of the military through their use during the invasion of Panama and the Persian Gulf War. They are currently used by the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy across the U.S. and around the world.
With the growing popularity of the Humvee in the early 1990s, AM General began production of the Humvee, nicknamed Hummer, for civilian use. It was claimed to be the most serious 4×4 available worldwide. Many people were drawn to its toughness and mobility.
However, for many, the civilian Hummer wasn’t enough. They wanted the real thing.
At the end of 2014, the U.S. Department of Defense began to make used Humvees available to the public. With 4,000 sent to auction in the first round of releases, this was the first time military vehicles were made available for civilians to own. The idea was to sell the old vehicles for off-road use to save money and repurpose them. In the first round, starting bids were set at $10,000, with most sales averaging closer to $30,000.
Making a Humvee street legal
People lucky enough to score a retired Humvee had to jump through many hoops to drive them on the roads legally. While a complicated, drawn-out process, it’s not impossible.
The most complicated part of making your Humvee street legal is obtaining the right title. If you purchase your rig from a government auction site, you’ll be able to pay and receive both a bill of sale and form SF97. The form SF97 reassures the government that the vehicle is for your own use and not being shipped to enemies overseas.
With the bill of sale and completed SF97, you can usually take everything to your local DMV and receive a clean title after a few more months of waiting. However, be prepared for the DMV staff to be unsure how to proceed with your registration. Military vehicle VINs are a different length than other cars. Some states will require inspections or emissions testing, some will give you a pass. Some won’t register a military vehicle ever, no matter what, others make it easy with a historical vehicle bypass.
Take the time to know what needs to happen in your state and situation. If you show up to the DMV prepared, they’re often more willing to help you through the process.
Dreamed of owning a Humvee?
The history of the Humvee is unmatched by most military collector items available today. Knowing you own something that has moved tons of gear, thousands of soldiers, and, most likely, saved countless lives is powerful. Keeping the memory alive is important.
However, the process of making a Humvee street legal and maintaining it is not for the faint of heart. Months of paperwork, more money, and a potentially long wait stand between the original purchase and cruising around in your new-to-you vehicle.
We want to know, do you think it’s worth it? Would you purchase a used Humvee? Share your thoughts – or pics of your Humvee with us.