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March 22, 1983 is the day the Army awarded a $1.18 billion contract to AM General for production of 54,973 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), better known as Humvees. The procurement sought to combine the previously separate solicitations for either a jeep or a truck. The company beat out fellow developmental contractors Teledyne Technologies and Chrysler Defense (acquired by General Dynamics during the contract) due to the lightness and durability displayed during testing in Aberdeen, Md., and Yuma, Ariz.
The Humvee has been more successful than its civilian counterpart. Photo: Army.
The unit cost of the business/utility cargo vehicle was $20,410, the better-equipped weapons carrier cost $28,352. While the Army received 42,873 Humvees, the Marine Corps received 11,000 and the Air Force acquired 1,100. The vehicles were built in Mishawaka, Ind. and first delivered to the Army in March 1985.
Humvees gained the public imagination through their participation in the London to Peking Motor Challenge in 1990, in which ESPN broadcast the vehicles easily traversing the rough central Soviet Union roads. Later, the public saw their exploits in Operation Desert Storm.
The public’s interest in vehicles that could traverse any terrain, along with a move toward sport utility vehicles and other large car types, led AM General to start selling a civilian version called the Hummer in 1992. The company reached a 1999 deal with General Motors (GM) for assistance in the venture. AM General would manufacture the Hummer as a contractor for GM, which would market and distribute the vehicle to customers. The original Hummer under the arrangement was called the H1 – GM would later design the H2 and H3 versions for AM General to build.
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