Home » The Hummer H3T Was An Epic Off-Road Truck That Would Have Crushed It In 2023: Holy Grails

The Hummer H3T Was An Epic Off-Road Truck That Would Have Crushed It In 2023: Holy Grails

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If you ask an enthusiast about the kind of pickup truck they want, you’ll often find a couple of camps. Some people want their truck to be small and efficient while others want a mid-sizer that can do it all. Off-road trucks are very much in vogue right now and mid-sizers are an alluring proposition. These are trucks that can fit down more trails and still perform a day’s work hauling toys and supporting your bottom line. Sure, you can buy something like a Jeep Gladiator or a GMC Canyon, but the ultimate mid-size truck may have been built between the 2009 and 2010 model years. The Hummer H3T was a muscular pickup available with chunky 33-inch tires, locking differentials, and either a straight five and a manual transmission or a powerful V8.

Last time on Holy Grails, reader David R reminded us that for just a blip of time, you could buy a svelte sporty wagon from Jaguar. Sold from just 2018 to 2020, the Jaguar XF S Sportbrake paired an aluminum 3.0-liter V6 making 380 HP and 332 lb-ft torque with an all-wheel-drive system and some truly incredible visuals. This was one of those wagons that enthusiasts dream about, yet fewer than 250 of those wagons ever found a home before being discontinued. As time marches forward, it seems these wagons are fading into the background.

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Photos Hummer H3 2008 4

Today’s grail is another vehicle that has faded into the pages of automotive history. It came from the tail end of a time when American excess meant colossal SUVs that were lucky to score double-digit fuel economy. We’re talking about the era of old General Motors when such marques like Pontiac and Saturn were still alive. Hummer was still around, too, and was selling variants of the H2 and H3 off-roaders. Today, we’ll be focusing on just one variant and it came and went so fast that you might have missed it.

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Hummer H1 2005 Images 1

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This story takes us back to the year 2005. At this point in Hummer’s history, the company was a brand of General Motors. Back in 1998, General Motors purchased the brand from AM General, which had been producing a civilian version of the HMMWV military vehicle. The latter company would continue to produce the original Hummer at its Mishawaka, Indiana plant while General Motors would use the name and marketing rights to expand the line.

The first new vehicle to come out under GM control was the Hummer H2. This large, 6,400-pound SUV was based on a unique version of the GMT820 platform (a derivative of the GMT800 platform) wearing the front end of a three-quarter-ton K2500 Suburban and the rear end from a Tahoe. According to Motor Trend, some 40 percent of the H2 borrowed bits from the GM parts bin. The H2 was built in a partnership between GM and AM General and the SUV was assembled by AM General at Mishawaka.

Hummer H2 2007 Photos 1

Of course, the H2 also came at a time when Americans were becoming more conscious about the environment. The H2, which averaged about 12 mpg, found itself on the receiving end of scorn. Yet, the SUV sold well. In its first three years of sales, Hummer sold 82,288 H2s. As a response, General Motors wanted to broaden the appeal of the Hummer brand with a smaller, more affordable Hummer.

Launched in 2005 for the 2006 model year, the $29,500 Hummer H3 took the military chic looks of the $52,430 H2 and scaled them down into a more affordable SUV. The H3 was not developed or produced by AM General. Instead, it rode on the GMT345 platform, using its own version of the GMT355 platform that underpinned trucks like the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon.

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Photos Hummer H3 2005 6

The H3 wasn’t just a new body on a current truck; in 2005 it was reported that the H3 shared just 10 percent of its parts with the Colorado and Canyon. The vast majority of those shared parts were the engine and transmission. Another departure was production, as the H3 was assembled at GM’s Shreveport, Louisiana plant alongside the aforementioned trucks.

The H3 itself was a pretty noteworthy vehicle. You could have gotten your 4,700-pound H3 with a 3.5 liter straight-five making 220 HP and 225 lb-ft torque. Later, the engine would be bumped to 3.7-liters, 242 HP, and 242 lb-ft torque. That engine was paired with either an Aisin AR5 five-speed manual or a 4L60-E four-speed automatic. Equipping your H3 with its optional off-road package netted you 33-inch off-road tires, a rear-locking differential, and a high-ratio transfer case. Later H3s were available with front lockers, too! Check out that straight-five:

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In 2008 the Hummer H3 Alpha was released. This locked you into an automatic transmission, but you got a 5.3 liter V8 making 300 HP and 320 lb-ft torque. Also better was the Hummer H3’s fuel economy. In 2008, the straight-five H3s got 18 mpg on the highway and 15 mpg combined. The V8 got 16 mpg and 14 mpg respectively, which was still better than the H2. This is all awesome, but it’s not the grail.

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The Grail

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Today’s grail was technically suggested by two people, David Tracy and reader Tyler P. Both suggested different versions of the same Hummer H3 variant and honestly, I think both of them are winners.

In 2008, Car and Driver reported that sales of Hummer’s heavy-drinking H2 was falling and even the cheaper H3 wasn’t drawing in a ton of buyers. Yet, Hummer was reporting all-time high global sales. The publication reported that Hummer’s staying power during high gas prices was thanks to sales in Africa, Australia, Japan, the Middle East, and the UK. In those regions, fuel was either cheap or the Hummer was still a novelty.

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That year, the Hummer H3 Alpha was joined by two siblings, the Hummer H3T and H3T Alpha. These are two trucks in the same vein as the Jeep Gladiator today, but perhaps too early to be a hit. As Car and Driver notes, the H3T was essentially a H3 with a 22.3-inch wheelbase stretch. That longer wheelbase accommodates a composite bed and a larger second row, featuring a 60/40 folding bench seat and greater legroom.

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The result is a truck that can seemingly do it all. That bed was five-feet-long and it had some real off-road chops. David Tracy once wrote about how great this truck was and I’ll just let him explain:

Wallpapers Hummer H3 2008 2

For one, it came with a 300 horsepower, 320 lb-ft 5.3-liter V8 engine, which is more cylinders than can be found in any mid-size truck today. It also had available front and rear lockers, bigger tires than anything in the segment sans the new Gladiator (which also has 33s), a 4:1 low-range in the transfer case, 4.10:1 axle ratios, and phenomenal approach and departure angles at 38.7 and 30.6, respectively (at a low 20.2, the breakover angle is about the same as the new Gladiator’s). Not to mention, the H3T with the optional 33s had over 10 inches of ground clearance, which bests everything but the new Jeep Gladiator.

The great thing was that the off-road hardware could be had on a number of different variants, including ones with the 242 horsepower, 242 lb-ft 3.7-liter five-cylinder motor. While you may wonder “Why would I opt for anything but the V8,” there is a simple answer: the five-cylinder came with a five-speed manual.

For reader Tyler P, the grail here is the V8:

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I’d like to suggest a vehicle for the next holy grail, a Hummer H3T Alpha. H3Ts were only made for two years. They made around 2,738 and only a small number were Alphas. The Alphas had the 5.3 V8 vs the 3.7 I5 in the non-alpha. Good offroad hardware, not huge-huge, rare, etc.

Tyler P appears to be off on production numbers, but it’s not like this was a common vehicle. It’s been reported that just 5,680 H3Ts were built. It’s unclear how many of those were the Alpha, but one estimate claims 2,448 Alphas were produced. Really, it means that the H3T is rare anywhere.

Images Hummer H3 2008 7

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The Hummer H3T launched for the 2009 model year soldiering on to 2010, just to get killed off with the rest of Hummer in May 2010. That’s just a short sliver of time and barely even long enough to show up on an enthusiast’s radar. They weren’t outrageously expensive new, either. As Consumer Guide notes, in 2009, the Hummer H3T was $30,750, which was actually cheaper than the $33,390 ask for the regular H3. The H3T Alpha commanded $36,015.

This idea had actually been rattling around Hummer for some time. Back in 2004, Hummer rolled into the Los Angeles International Auto Show with the Hummer H3T concept.

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The concept truck was a compact two-door affair with a 113-inch wheelbase. Under the hood was a turbocharged version of the Colorado’s straight five and the bed featured a neat side door. The concept was developed with a collaboration with Nike where the latter designed seats with heating and cooling abilities like the brand’s shoes. Backpacks made up the seatbacks.

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Of course, the neat tricks of the concept truck never made production, but the real deal is pretty faithful to the concept’s design. In the Hummer H3T Alpha, you could even tow 5,900 pounds and toss over 1,000 pounds in its bed. None of those numbers are too impressive, but I like to think about the whole package here. Reviews seem to suggest that the H3T was also pretty good when the going got tough, take this period review from Car and Driver:

Given the two extra feet between the axles and the subsequent reduction in minimum break-over angle from 22 to 19 degrees, we expected to hear a lot more scraping over the sharp rocks. But during each pass, we heard them only about as often as when the shorter, lighter H3 SUVs that Hummer brought traversed the same spots. At times, we appreciated the 320 pound-feet of torque of the H3T Alpha’s V-8 but found the 241 pound-feet of the base five-cylinder to be enough, at least at those speeds. Besides, the five-pot is the only one to be offered with a five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed automatic is optional; it’s standard on the Alpha), and we know many a die-hard off-roader who considers a manual transmission the only worthwhile solution. Thus equipped, the H3Tis actually pretty fun, since the unbelievable crawl ratio provided by the manual makes it remarkably tough to stall, even when traveling less than half-a-mile per hour. Furthermore, hill-start assist, which holds the brakes for two seconds after pedal release, comes standard on every H3T, and even off-road novices can appreciate how handy that feature is over this kind of terrain.

Hummer H3 2008 Photos 7

Really, the Hummer H3T sounds like a truck that would sell like crazy today. Unfortunately, GM’s timing couldn’t have been worse, making the H3T a rare gem. That said, not everything is going to be cheery. Remember, this is a late 2000s GM product, so you can expect the interior to be plastic-fantastic. Fuel economy also wasn’t great. To GM’s credit, turning the H3 into a pickup truck didn’t ruin the aforementioned fuel economy, but you’re still talking about a combined rating of 16 mpg combined for the straight-five and 14 mpg combined for the V8.

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for one of these for sale, you will be disappointed. It’s easy to find them, but you can expect to pay around $30,000 and up. For that price, you’ll probably be better off with a different truck. Still, if you happen to own or buy one of these, you’re getting a rare beast and one that perhaps General Motors could have launched today with some success.

Images Hummer H3 2008 1

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Do you know of or own a car worthy of being called a ‘holy grail’? Send me an email at mercedes@theautopian.com or drop it down in the comments!

(Photos: GM, unless otherwise noted.)

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JDE
JDE
1 year ago

I own an H3 Alpha, 2008. the all aluminum no DFM v8 is pretty good in the little tike, it does have the locker and 4:1 transfer case since it also sports the adventure package. I agree it would really give the Bronco and 4 door wrangle a run for it’s money. just which is had a straight axle up front and at least D44 versions if not straight up D60’s factory.

GhosnInABox
GhosnInABox
1 year ago

And by “crush it” you mean the dog in the driveway that is woefully unaware of the Hummer’s piss-poor visibility?

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 year ago

Can you imagine the MSRP on this today? I don’t think so.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
1 year ago

“Unfortunately, GM’s timing couldn’t have been worse…”

I mean, that’s basically GM’s M.O.
Hell, the company motto is “The wrong product at the wrong time”. It’s engraved in the RenCen floor. It just looks more heroic in Latin.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
1 year ago

I remember the h3 won somebody’s “interior of the year” when it came out. I don’t know why I remember this, but even then I remember thinking “really?”. GMs problem has never hardware

Citrus
Citrus
1 year ago

I have a very specific problem with Hummers: They are really too wide. Since the design of the thing also emphasizes how wide they are too all I can see is them getting stuck in narrow spaces.

Xpumpx
Xpumpx
1 year ago
Reply to  Citrus

A quick google shows them at 74.7″ wide with mirrors folded. It also shows a current Tacoma at 75.2″ with its mirrors folded.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore
1 year ago

I always liked the H3 and it definitely has aged better than it’s larger brethren. The H3T especially. It didn’t look completely out of proportion like the Gladiator does. Probably because it’s just so large to begin with.

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
1 year ago

I always thought of the later Hummers as little more than a Blazer wearing a Hummer costume like a kid at Halloween.

Want to drive a real Hummer? Call 1-800-USA-ARMY.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
1 year ago

Even if the smaller Hummers were more practical and better sorted-out than their earlier, larger cousins, they never really overcame their price tags plus the sometimes dodgy quality and reliability concerns of the regular GM platforms they were built on. I’m not doubting their capabilities — it’s just that they had a crapload of perceived issues (real or imagined) to overcome in the marketplace. The biggest of which was generally, “You want me to pay how much for a “tacticool” Chevy?

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
1 year ago

It’s a little bit alarming to me that you’re correct; this would do well today. Maybe a little too well.

GM wasn’t the only company bringing super expensive, gas guzzling conspicuous consumption mobiles to market in the mid 00’s. But they definitely took it on the chin harder than everyone else when everything went to shit.

History has been known to repeat itself.

V10omous
V10omous
1 year ago

My former neighbor worked at AM General and had one of these (cannot recall if it was an Alpha). It always seemed cooler to me than the bland Colorado/Canyon of the time.

It really is funny how ahead of its time GM was with the Hummer brand. If they had just survived the couple lean years between the bankruptcy and the rise of the Raptor phenom, we might have had a whole line of focused off-roaders instead of the weak sauce we get now from the General.

Steve
Steve
1 year ago
Reply to  V10omous

My thoughts with the Avalanche as well. Seems like it would sell like crazy today. Resale on them is extremely high. Surprised it hasn’t been revived.

V10omous
V10omous
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve

Loved my 2500 Av, would buy a new one today if it was offered.

Xpumpx
Xpumpx
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve

i think the new half-ton BEV is basically just that. midgate and non separate from the cab bed.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
1 year ago

A former coworker had one of these, all scratched and dented at each corner. The coworker wanted a truck, but not something as large as a fullsize due to the city environment of parking garages and tiny on-street parking spots. Apparently, visibility on these is just as bad as the normal H3, but coupled with a longer wheelbase that killed maneuverability – the scratches and dents were the result of the aforementioned parking situation. I still liked the truck quite a bit, but at the time I was a Jeep guy and mocked it mercilessly (which made me glad I didn’t still work with that individual when the crazy wheelbase Gladiator launched).

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
1 year ago

The Volvo 262 was only produced in 1976 and 1977, and in very small quantities, few of which made it to the US. This is the 2-door sedan with the full roof, before the chop-top Bertone 262C/Coupe came out for 1978.

It’s rare, but it’s not a Holy Grail. Why? Because it was objectively awful. The PRV-6 was awful in its early years, and Volvo was having general build quality issues in the early iterations of the 240/260. Please don’t ever feature it in this series. I doubt you will even find one today.

Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
1 year ago

I loved the concept truck. The multi-door pickup like most multi-door pickups is too long. You are just asking to get high centered cresting a dune. 

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago

Curse you for making a compelling case for an ’00s non-H1 Hummer product. Everything about that brand is t-a-c-k-y and its present-day revival is proof that we live in Hell, forever stuck on the worst possible timeline.

This kit on the Colorado the H3 was built alongside would have been actually pretty cool. It’s hard to think of anything with that amount of faux-macho cladding as “cool,” so I’ll stick with “capable.” Congrats, you found the capable smaller-Hummer.

Last edited 1 year ago by Stef Schrader
Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
1 year ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

The H2 and H3 were officially D-Bag cars. I say this as a a guy with a Wrangler and a WRX. Even I would cringe at driving a yellow H2.

CSRoad
CSRoad
1 year ago

I may have been mislead, but weren’t these just Z71 Colorados in a Hummer poser suit to harvest consumer dollars? Arnold for suburbia.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 year ago
Reply to  CSRoad

It’s not a tumor douchebag…/s

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  CSRoad

You were mislead. They were quite distinct from those pickups. They had real off road chops. Back in the mid to late aughts, a four door, mid size pickup with real deal factory off road ability was limited to pretty much just this. All with a pretty reasonable price, distinct styling (love it or hate it) and choice of v8 or I5 with 5MT. As the article states pretty crazy. Also, remember this beat the 4 door wrangler to market, there was no Raptor or TRX, and the Bronco was long gone with no return in sight. I agree with the author, if this was released today it’d probably be crazy popular.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

I love your tagline about its being ahead of its time. I’ve always thought that about the H3 in general…the posturing of the H2 was absolutely of its time, but the H3 seemed to presage the coming interest in actually using these things off road.

Like how now, the active lifestyle SUV thing going on always makes me think the Toyota FJ Cruiser came out waaay too early.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
1 year ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

My rule of thumb is that a trend is on life support if Toyota is entering it. And it’s at it’s peak if they are abandoning it. The fj is perfect proof of concept. Brought to market at the wrong time, pulled from market at the wrong time.

Last edited 1 year ago by Pat Rich
Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 year ago

Hummers have always been capable of crushing most anything, literally.

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