Doomsday Overlander Anyone? The Ultimate HMMWV Restomod
Aside from the Jeep Wrangler, possibly the next most easily recognizable vehicle on the planet is the HMMWV. Short for High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle, the HMMWV was originally designed for the U.S. Military in 1979. The idea was to create an off-road capable troop carrier that could be configured in multiple ways to carry high payloads and various battle-ready setups. It wouldn’t be until the early '90s that a civilian version would be offered to the public.
Part of what creates the HMMWV’s iconic look is the completely independent front and rear suspension. Thanks to geared hubs at each wheel end, the HMMWV boasts an impressive 16 inches of ground clearance. While the civilian version has been out of production for over a decade, the market for used military surplus HMMWVs seems to be as strong as ever. Part of the draw of the military HMMWV is that they are extremely bare bones, many without doors or a top.
While something so stripped down may scare many away, for others, it’s the perfect blank canvas to create something beyond your run-of-the-mill wheeling machine. For Joey Osborne, his ’92 HMMWV was just that. Though he could have started off with a newer civilian version, the allure of a more custom vehicle had him hooked. Of course, the road leading to a custom vehicle is never a short one. However, this journey would be well worth the wait.
The purpose of this build was to have a jack-of-all-trades HMMWV with modern touches added in for reliability. While Predator Motorsports was tapped to install the modern Duramax powerplant and assortment of bolt-on upgrades, it was Vice Unlimited who resurrected this HMMWV into what you see here today. This resurrection process included the body and chassis being completely dissembled and every nut, bolt and moving part replaced or refreshed in some way.
We caught up with Osborne at one of our favorite wheeling destinations, the Flats Offroad Park in Marion, North Carolina. There, we were able to get an up close look at this incredible machine.
The 6.2L diesel that came standard in 1992 was pretty underwhelming in the power department. This is why Osborne had Predator Motorsports swap out the old V8 and replace it with a much newer 6.6L Duramax diesel engine. Pumping out 650hp and 900 lb-ft of torque, the tuned-up turbocharged GM transplant is more than enough to make the HMMWV extremely powerful, without sacrificing reliability. Backing the diesel transplant is a built Allison 1000 transmission that gets cooling help thanks to an ATS deep pan and Derale cooler.
Resting at each wheel end is a geared hub fit with a 1.92:1 drive ratio. When combined with the AMC 20 differentials, you get a final drive ratio of 5.24:1. That’s a pretty serious gear reduction, even for a 40-inch-tall tire such as the ones this HMMWV is running. If everything looks new under this vehicle, it’s because it is.
The Right Tire
Speaking of tires, there was little confusion over what was the perfect choice for this build. With the added clearance the 3-inch body lift provided, Osborne had room to fit a 40x13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler. While the 40-inch Trail Grappler is known as one of the most dominant tires in Ultra4 racing, it also has made a great name for itself as a very smooth riding and well-performing on-road tire. The radial mud terrains were paired with 17-inch Eduro series beadlocks from KMC wheels. With six inches of backspacing, the tires stay well tucked within the wheelwells.
This HMMWV, like many others, didn’t come with a top or doors. To close out the cab, a roof kit from Vice Unlimited was used. This kit is comprised of .188-inch aluminum, so it doesn’t add a tremendous amount of weight. Since Osborne wanted a place to secure camping gear and haul anything extra, he had Vice build a custom exo-cage. Comprised of 1.75-inch, 0.120-wall DOM tubing, the cage works not only as a roof rack, but a secure rollover device incase things go unplanned off-road.
This cage setup ties in with the Vice Unlimited rocker guards, which span not only the outer lip of the rocker, but run all the way to the framerails. Capping off the new enclosed cabin is the Vice aluminum door kit. These, along with the rest of the rig, are coated with a two-stage Line-X in a Toyota color called Desert Tan.
Up front, a Predator front bumper and Warn winch serve as protection and recovery gear. While an assortment of aftermarket LED lights give Osborne plenty of candle power when it gets dark.
The interior has been updated significantly, starting with the dash. Sitting behind the Momo steering wheel are AutoMeter gauges, which handle a fair share of the information relay. Just off to the right you’ll see an iPad, which is what actually starts the vehicle. The other displays include a Bluetooth-enabled Restomod Air HVAC system, a custom backup camera display and a JL audio sound system.
The coated-aluminum center console is handmade by Tim Odell of Vice Unlimited and has the same level of detail and craftsmanship that runs throughout this rig. It rests between four leather-cover bucket seats and is surround by marine-grade carpet.
The amount of work that has gone into this HMMWV is incredible. The fact that it was completely stripped down and rebuilt is a feat in itself. We got to see the truck fresh off the build, but what’s not shown is the matching military trailer setup on 40-inch Trail Grapplers as well. There’s currently talk of removing the original AMC differentials and replacing them with a much stronger set of custom Dynatrac center sections. Hopefully, we can sync back up with the owner once the next round of modifications are complete.