Mil-Spec Hummer M1-R Review: Apocalypse-Ready

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Consider this the anti-Hummer EV.

"One of the biggest questions I get is 'can it go underwater?' People love that question," said Ian Broekman, President and co-founder of Mil-Spec Automotive in Auburn Hills, Michigan. "And in theory, you could. But we put all this nice leather in the interior, so please don't. You can get up to about here safely (Broekman points to the fender of Mil-Spec's new second-generation Hummer M1-R, about 45-50 inches above the ground). I've had a truck to here (points to about 55 inches) and I wouldn't recommend it."

The well-heeled customers that come to Mil-Spec for a vehicle are looking for something unique, capable and powerful. And there aren't many to go around. The company's unassuming 40,000-square foot facility produces 3-4 vehicles per year, at a cost of around $300,000. The M1-R Hummer has them at capacity at the moment. But on its website, you can also see the Mil-Spec F-150 that it previously built, which is like a Ford Raptor made for Blackwater security forces.

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Exterior: Impressive and Intimidating

This particular M1-R was already bought by a customer who somehow daily drives and parks it in Manhattan. It's covered in a Rhino-liner-type, but not actually Rhino liner covering, "because it doesn't take color as well," Broekman told us. It's rough to the touch, but not sandpaper-rough like some of these liners. This is a pickup truck variant, but Mil-Spec will also do slantbacks and full SUV-style H1s. Broekman did note that the turnkey price might be going up a little, as the used car market exploded, but if you bring the company your own H1, they knock about $30K off the price, but it's not what the company would prefer.

"H1 Hummers used to cost us about $40,000, now they're up to $50 or $60K," Broekman said. "We'd rather source them ourselves, because we know what to look for."

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The front of the car is dominated by its black brush bar, off-road lights, and a heavy-duty winch. It looks like it could just drive over any car that parked it in at a concert. The hood is held down by two massive straps, while the pushbar is locked down with pins. The side accents, cloth top roof, and wheel arches are in black here, but obviously, everything can be customized. The top of the hood features a huge vent, and we'll get to the reason why in a minute.

The finished product, as seen here, takes about 8 months to build. "This one took a little longer because it was a new generation. We already had a prototype built off the military truck," said Broekman, "but we had to swap everything over and do final verification on this truck. All in, it took about eight months. We say usually 7-9 months but try to come in early."

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Mechanical: Impervious and Unstoppable

The M1-R has 18 inches of ground clearance, meaning you could get under it easily without using a floor jack. In fact, if you get this vehicle, you'll need a serious jack setup to lift it. It rides on 20-inch wheels with 38-inch Nitto Ridge Grappler off-road tires. Those make it good for an approach angle of 57 degrees, a departure of 47 degrees, and a breakover angle of 29 degrees. It can also stick to a 40 percent angled gradient to either side and has seven inches of wheel travel. It's literally only limited by the size of trail.

"Typically, they're more restrained in terms of color and performance, but this truck has 850 hp, 1,350 lb-ft and a fully selectable boost system from its 6.6-liter Duramax diesel," said Broekman.

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It's built by a company called HPS Diesel, which starts with a 2008 Duramax diesel block, and strengthens from there. It has bigger turbos and with the selectable boost, can drop to about 500 hp for just cruising around town. Of course, we turned up the wick to full power, which made the M1-R roll coal like a redneck rally. To be honest, we felt a little self-conscious when flooring it. A six-speed Allision 1000 transmission allows it to tow 10,000 pounds.

"Cooling is the biggest issue, the biggest concern for H1 drivers," said Broekman. "We beefed it up; it has transmission coolers, a bigger intercooler, a bigger radiator and electronic fans. The reason it's an issue for the H1 is the packaging, but also the way the hood is setup, air tends to go over it and not into the radiator. A lot of guys in desert racing, Rod Hall specifically, put two massive electronic fans that pull air through, so we do that. And we also found that if you use a smaller diameter clutch fan it pulls is more air."

Hence the massive vent in the hood, covering two giant radiator fans.

Mil-Spec Automotive
Mil-Spec Automotive
Mil-Spec Automotive
Mil-Spec Automotive

The brakes are bigger too, and the suspension is more robust. Desert racer Rod Hall's son Chad has a business selling upgraded Hummer H1 suspensions, so that's what they use here. It's one of the few things Mil-Spec doesn't do in-house.

"We don't do paint, we don't do engine building, we wanted to make the facility client-focused," said Broekman. "They're buying the craftsmanship. Paint is dirty, it's really better to have someone that does it full time. We tried wiring off-site too, but it's such a bespoke program, clients always want custom accessories. Upholstery and electronics in-house keep the price down."

The M1-R has selectable four-wheel drive (the old H1s were permanent AWD), but it does sport an onboard compressor like those army trucks. "But they aren't responsible for keeping the wheels full like the old ones," owner and CEO Adam Mitchell told us. It can be hooked up to air tools though, which is a cool bonus when out in the wild.

Mil-Spec Automotive
Mil-Spec Automotive
Mil-Spec Automotive

Moving inside the truck, it's as yellow as the outside, with a little more black leather thrown in for good measure. The seats are diamond-stitched and comfortable, and everything is now metal on the second-generation vehicle.

"The first-gen M1-R had a lot more plastic, we were just figuring out the packaging. We had a set budget, so the second time around our whole mission was to eliminate all plastic," said Broekman. "Everything you see or touch in the interior, except the transfer case-control, is now billet metal."

That includes the custom Mil-Spec steering wheel with leather on the front, a red 12 o'clock marker, and billet metal backing. The key looks like something you'd use to launch nuclear missiles and the toggles on the impossibly wide center console feel like a space shuttle. There's an aftermarket touchscreen audio setup that can connect via USB or Bluetooth. Nine speakers bring sound to the cabin.

The sun visors are sourced from a Learjet and made from darkened Lexan. Mil-Spec says this second generation "has a little more of a 21st-century experience to it: a push-button shifter, electronic parking brake, and an electronic differential controller." Thankfully, it also has a backup camera.

Mil-Spec Automotive
Mil-Spec Automotive
Mil-Spec Automotive

Driving Impressions

Putting the pedal down in this monster will bring up two things. One, it's loud. Very loud. From the engine to the exhaust to wind and road noise, you'll have to speak up to have your passenger hear you. The soft top was by far the biggest culprit. Either taking it off or swapping to a hard shell would probably reduce the interference by 50 percent.

The second thing we thought was "holy sh*t this thing is fast!" Even in its low, 500-hp mode, the M1-R was quick to get going and quick to jump from 65 mph to 90 mph, albeit with a little black smoke from the exhaust. And like we said, when you turn that little dial under the ignition to full-power mode, you could smoke out a line of traffic, which we'd never recommend.

Mil-Spec Automotive
Mil-Spec Automotive

Obviously, it makes waves in traffic. Truck bros pulled up on us to take pictures. A few SUV people slowed down to let us catch up. Unfortunately, we didn't see any standard Hummers on the road to really get a sense for what those original owners would think of it. We did, however, get to drive an original. And it was a dog. With the pedal to the floor, it could only muster about 50 mph.

Back in the M1-R, it felt as wide as a traffic lane, and we kept watch constantly to make sure we weren't crossing the lines. The steering was surprisingly easy for such a big vehicle, and with the knobby tires it drifted around a bit. It has the aerodynamics of a brick, which also contributed to that. The brakes were stiff, but not very sensitive. It took real leg power to slow this sucker down.

What this vehicle pines for is difficult-to-traverse but wide-open spaces. We'd take this in a desert race over almost anything on the market. For a daily driver? You have to be a certain kind of person.

Mil-Spec Automotive
Mil-Spec Automotive
Mil-Spec Automotive

Mil-Spec isn't a new startup anymore, it's been around since 2015. The company has now produced and sold dozens of cars, and during the pandemic, it started breaking into new areas. Its upholstery department has grown and is now doing a private jet project. It's also getting into marine upholstery as a handful of these guys went out of business during the chaos of the past 14 months.

Mil-Spec isn't going away, it has orders, it has space, and no one else is doing what it's doing, at least not to this level. It sells monstrous vehicles to all corners of the planet, and if you're looking for something to drive during the apocalypse, we couldn't imagine anything more useful. Just don't expect to win any climate awards.

Mil-Spec Automotive
Mil-Spec Automotive

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