Maybe you’ve seen them on the road - those broad beasts that look like a cross between a tank and a truck - and wondered what the heck are they? And more important, who the heck drives them?
Well, the Hummer is the latest toy of the moneyed macho set, a status symbol on wheels. Seattle SuperSonics jabbermouth Gary Payton drives one. So do Mariners Jay Buhner and Randy Johnson. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a fleet of them.
The Hummer goes far beyond your basic transportation. It’s a vehicle that gets ogled more than the entire cast of “Baywatch.”
For area Hummer owners, it’s often a case of love at first sight.
“It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time,” said Andy Wood, 50, of Colville, Wash. “I was over in Seattle and drove past the dealer and stopped. I fell in love with it back in the pit.”
The “pit” is where potential buyers test their driving skills in the Hummer. (They have test-drive pits at all Hummer dealerships.) It’s a gritty obstacle course, with felled trees covering parts of the terrain and a pond with steep banks. The Hummer eats it all up, no problem.
Originally built by AM General for military use - that model is called Humvee - the list of off-road accomplishments are enough to make any four-wheeler pop his clutch. It can ford streams, barrel through snow, scale tall buildings in a single bound. No, wait, that’s promotional hype in overdrive. (One brochure claims: “Fast enough to get speeding tickets. Intimidating enough not to get pulled over.”)
Yet what a Hummer does better than any other vehicle on - or off - the road is simply this: attract lots of attention.
Wood says when his wife is in the passenger seat, she’s forever wondering who’s waving and giving them the thumb’s up sign.
“Everyone see us and waves. A lot of times, I don’t know who they are,” he said.
The Hummer can draw a crowd.
“I’ll come out of the grocery store and there will be a bunch of kids looking at it, asking me how much it cost,” said semi-retired Hobart Teneff, former president and CEO of Pegasus Gold.
It’s one of those if-you-have-to-ask-you-can’t-afford-it kind of price tags - between $60,000 and $80,000.
“It cost twice as much as my house,” said Tony Anselmo, who has two Hummers at his disposal.
This 20-something substitute teacher didn’t let a lack of dough stand between him and a Hummer, though.
“I saw one three or four years ago in Spokane and had to stop and look at it,” Anselmo said. “When I came across a Hummer site on the Internet years later, I started thinking about how an average guy could own one of them. That’s when I came up with the idea of using it for marketing and promotion.”
He hooked up with KZZU and outfitted one vehicle with logos from that radio station.
“We take it to concerts and live remotes,” Anselmo said. “The response has been really good.”
He has even set up a Web site for his rig. Find it at www.kzzuhummer.com.
Anselmo is also gearing up to rent the other Hummer as a limo.
Just don’t expect the smooth ride of a stretch. Sure, the sales staff might say the Hummer handles more like a sports car than a truck. But…
“Baloney,” said Teneff, who also owns several sports cars including a Ferrari. “It drives like a truck. It registers every bump on the road.”
Teneff said he’s most likely to pull his Hummer out of the garage when it snows.
“I haven’t used it much this year, but it was great last year,” he said. “I went out and found some 3- and 4-foot drifts and it wiggled its way through those. It’s really made for tough abuse.”
Wood, who lives in the country outside Colville, said there’s nothing like being the only person on the road after a big storm.
“The only problem was I had to stop and clear the snow off the windshield because it was coming up over the hood. But I never got stuck.”
Fred Zanco takes his Hummer off-road near Liberty Lake.
“I love to go up in the hills and show up my buddies,” he said. “It climbs all over fallen trees. That’s fun.”
Zanco, a property manager, has even equipped his Hummer with a computerized gadget called a global positioning system just in case he gets lost in the woods.
“You can call up maps for public parks and logging roads,” he said.
So, is there anything not to like about this can-do hunk of moving metal?
“The biggest drawback is that you can’t go through the drive-up window at banks,” Anselmo said. “And there are only a couple of car washes in town that it will fit in.”
Wanna wash it by hand?
“It takes more than an hour to wash,” he said. “There are a lot of nooks and crannies.”
It’s also expensive to keep it running. Replacing the brakes will run between $300 and $500. It guzzles gas at between eight and 10 miles to the gallon. And buying new tires can mean forking over something like $3,000.
Anselmo mused: “You can change the tires or go to Disneyland.”
But then, who needs the rides at the Magic Kingdom when you have a Hummer?
“My friends ask me how I can drive something so ugly, but I think it’s gorgeous,” Zanco said. “I’ll probably always keep it.”
At least until he gets another toy. Next on his Zanco’s list is a tank with wheels.
It’s called a Ferret.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 7 Photos (6 Color)
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: HUMMER BASICS * Sticker price: $56,000-$72,000. * The V8, 6.5-liter diesel fuel-injection engine will power you from 0-60 in 19.5 seconds. It gets between six and 10 miles to the gallon. * The Hummer tops out at 83 mph. * It can climb a 60 percent grade and maneuver a 40 percent sideslope, but has trouble negotiating drive-through windows. * That’s because the Hummer is 86.5 inches wide, or about 12 inches wider than most sports utility vehicles. * Optional equipment includes a central tire inflation system with dashboard controls, heated windshields, a 12,000 pound winch and a vehicle recovery strap.