Hummer is mostly dead, but last summer, we took two H3s and joined the Hummer Club on an expedition to Michigan's Drummond Island. One local woman grabbed my ass, but for the most part, the fun happened behind the wheel.
Last summer, we hit Drummond with man-about-Hummer PR guy Nick Richards and a couple of press-fleet H3s. We originally intended to run this story whenever Tengzhong and GM came to a sale agreement — sort of a "here's what the Chinese have gotten with their purchase" story — but then the deal was delayed. And delayed again. And delayed again. Now it's completely off, and GM claims that it's going to close Hummer down. Naturally, we discovered today that it still might return to peddling the brand to the highest bidder.
Considering that we just ran Hummer's obituary, we figured now was as good a time as any to get on with describing how wheeling SUVs on a remote island is fun as hell.
Drummond Island is a seriously nowhere piece of earth, a rock located off the tip of Michigan's Upper Peninsula in the waters of Lake Huron. Since nature decided to have ice-age glaciers leave Drummond as a rough-edged outcrop, it has become a popular spot with the region's rockcrawling and off-roading enthusiasts. It offers an astounding and seemingly endless variety of terrain, from muddy cedar bogs to deep deciduous forests, rocky shelf routes, and high-speed trails. It's an excellent way to test the off-road prowess of anything on wheels.
We drove the six-and-a-half hours from GM's Milford Proving Ground to the Drummond Island Resort in a 2010 Hummer H3T Alpha that started the trip with 56 miles on the clock. We joined the Hummer PR team, who brought along a 2010 H3 Alpha and a sort of skunk-works H3 with a suspension kit.
It's easy to paint H3 owner with the broad brushstrokes of waste and limited off-road utility that apply to the H2 — after all, they look the same, right? Still, there's more under the surface. Once you leave the asphalt,
the difference between the H3 and its older brothers becomes markedly clear. Where the H2 and H1 are off-road sledgehammers, the H3 is more of a pick-axe. It'll take you almost anywhere you want to go without much drama. It'll fit down tree-lined paths designed for Jeep Wranglers where bigger trucks mash vegetation and bend fenders. Thankfully, some of Drummond's trails are off-limits to the big boys; this blessing allowed us time to feel out the locking front differential and practice our spotting.
We also had the good fortune to hit Drummond during a rainy spell. The low-lying island was flooded in places, and some of the two-track trails had turned into highly satisfying, rocky-bottomed bogs. Road-mode four-wheel-high with the traction control on was good enough for the cross-country trails we encountered, but four-low made the slippery stuff passable. The locking diff and four low is reserved for situations where things get vertical; get the system set right and air down the tires, and you can climb over darn near anything. Feel free to drag the thing over a rocky outcrop, too — it's got full underbody armor which handles the protection racket quite nicely. (We tested it. A lot.) You just have to be sure to close the sunroof when bombing through the deep puddles. (Not that we would know anything about that.)
Those same rains that provided us with entertaining mud also ensured hanging out around the campfire at night wasn't very fun. When you've got a bunch of folks doing manly stuff like off-roading, you need a place to go and tell lies at the end of the day. Given the weather, we ended up at the Northwood bar, a loud and boisterous joint with a great jukebox and cheap libations.
This is where it got weird. As the night wore on and the lies got bigger, I eventually had to rid myself of some rented beer. On my return from the restroom, I passed a table full of local ladies having a grand old time. In full view of everyone I was with, one of them reached out and grabbed a handful of my ass. Puzzled, I kept walking without looking back. The entire table erupted into laughter, and discussions of Hummer's future were killed for the rest of the evening.
No matter what anyone says, we're at the end of Hummer's days. Even if the brand gets purchased and saved from the axe, it will never again be the big, burly, GM-backed leviathan it once was. During its brief stint in history, it pretty much played a game of grab-ass with image and ego, and that's what eventually sunk the ship. I walked away from my homely suitor that evening, and it seems that America will soon be doing the same for Hummer. Still, while it lasted, it was entertaining.