posted on December 28th, 2018

You thought your truck was big?

High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle. That mouthful is the military designation for AM General’s M998 series, the lightweight utility truck recognizable all over the world as the US military’s workhorse. The High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, shortened to HMMWV and pronounced of course as “Humvee,” first saw combat in in 1989 and has been deployed with American armed forces in every major and minor conflict since.

For 30 years, the Humvee has served as the backbone of the American military both at home and abroad. Because of its rugged, lightweight, maintainable, and highly configurable construction, the Humvee has been able to perform every job imaginable, from the most mundane to the most extreme. This particular 1988 AM General Humvee belongs to Turo host Matt R., and is our car of the month for December 2018!

The Humvee has over 15 common configurations in military use — this one was a troop and cargo mover without added armor or weapons attachments. After serving in Afghanistan or Iraq (Matt assumes based on its olive drab paint), it was overhauled and rebuilt in Maine, then put back into service on a base in Nebraska, and finally introduced to civilian life when Matt bought it at a military auction in California.

After searching around for an interesting vehicle for road trips, Matt purchased Gracie and instantly fell in love. Oh yeah, he named it Gracie. “Gracie is just a soft, sweet, gentle name,” he says. “It goes well with such a rugged truck like this.” These days Gracie tows Matt’s Airstream Globetrotter trailer (named Gjelina) on road trips around Southern California. Because it’s so big and conspicuous, Matt reports constant conversations with observers on the street, whether ex-military or not.

Getting soft in retirement

To make Gracie more livable, Matt had to give the truck a bit of a makeover. But he “didn’t want to do a big shiny build,” but rather preserve the military look and upgrade for comfort and usability where it was needed. “I chose to preserve the desert tan army look because it was in good condition, and also I felt it was much cooler that way,” he says.

The seats were redone and a custom radio unit was installed with a USB port, charger, and cup holders. Matt also added LED headlights and upgraded the battery system to prevent the truck from draining electricity when sitting unused, which would happen without fail before he had the work done.

For the most part, Humvees were not built to tow anything. Matt reconfigured the wiring and had a custom heavy duty tow hitch installed, and now his Airstream trailer follows behind Gracie like a loyal Labrador. At 30 years old, the Humvee has almost no mechanical issues and is as reliable as the sun. Many of its parts were used in GM trucks of the time, which makes servicing a peach for most mechanics familiar with American cars.

In case you couldn’t tell, this thing is big. Gracie’s gross vehicle weight comes in at nearly four tons. It’s seven feet wide. It has the aerodynamic properties of your cousin’s duplex. And with 38-inch tires and dual beadlock wheels, it drives big too. But Matt says that the Humvee is simpler and easier to drive than most would assume. Sure it’s massive, but it fits four people and plenty of cargo. And the canvas roof is removable, so you theoretically have infinite headroom.

Under the hood is a 6.2L diesel V8 that makes something like 150 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, which is enough to lug around Gracie’s considerable bulk, but it’s not beating the Millennium Falcon in any drag races. The three-speed transmission is not ideally suited for highway travel, but it does get up to 75 mph on flat roads. Matt is sure to warn all his guests about the fan, which kicks in at around 60 mph and is “startlingly loud.”

In short, if you’re looking for a cushy cruiser, this ain’t it, chief. What Gracie does provide is a genuinely unique experience, lots of looks, and probably a couple good stories. If that sounds like fun, hit up Matt in Los Angeles and take Gracie for a spin.

Steven is an avid car guy and content specialist at Turo. Between Golden State Warriors games he can be found getting lost somewhere in California.