Why the H2 should have been a classic

Doug gave a great writeup on why the H2 isn't a classic and as much as I like to argue with him, he's right; The H2 makes you look like a douche. Thing is, my full time 4wd DD gets about the same mileage (maybe a little better) and is as annoying to the Greenpeace as any H2, but its pretty well loved or ignored by the bulk of people. Why? Well without going into it too much I'm going to say just this one thing: GM doesn't know how to design cars.

They can engineer a great car, and they are actually quite good trucks, performance cars and finally passenger cars but in terms of design, they haven't had a real winner for many many years (with rare exceptions). The main problem with the Hummer line was that it was "styled" to look like a real beast, instead of letting the best style itself as the original HMMWV did, and Jeep, and Toyota FJ for that matter; which just goes to show it can happen to anyone.

Why the H2 should have been a classic

Here is a truth I’m going to lay down right now, if you want your 4x4 to be a classic, or even last on the market for a decade, please put function first and make it so we can see out of it please.

Anyway, I don't want to dwell on the poor styling of the H2, the social problems it’s been saddled with or any of that, I want to talk about the part that interests me; the engineering.

GM was actually pretty on the ball in terms of what they needed to make a great off road vehicle. First, lets start with a list of what makes a great off-roader, generously provided by David Tracey

The truncated list goes something like this:

1. Ground clearance
2. Protection
3. Angles
4. Articulation
5. Low end Torque
6. Gearing/torque multiplication
7. Tires
8. Locking differentials
9. Intelligent accessory/intake placement
10. Robustness
11. Visibility
12. Trailability (track to length)
13. Tow points/recovery
14. A robust frame

GM knew that it wasn’t going to be able to recreate the H1 to meet customer demands for comfort and cost and so it had to start where it could, using an existing platform, which isn’t such a bad thing; the excellent GMT800 platform is a great jumping off point. So lets start there:

Why the H2 should have been a classic

The H2 had a fully welded 3 piece frame, the front and rear of which were hydrofromed for strength, the trans cross member became flat to reduce chance of hangup, and all the components are either flush with or inside the frame rails to allow the vehicle to slide on its rails without damage. I’m going to let it stand that the GM hydroformed frames are pretty well established as solid, long lasting and durable.

Why the H2 should have been a classic

In addition, There are 5 skid plates, a 4mm thick aluminum sump guard, a ladder and tube type transmission guard that was designed to support the vehicles weight in the even it got hung up, a steel cantilever transfer case guard, frame mounted rock sliders strong enough to support the vehicle to protect the body and a thick plastic gas tank guard with composite tank.

The frame was designed specially with angles in mind a max approach angle of 39.7 degrees, a departure angle max of 43.6 and a breakover of 25.8. Nearly as good or better than a 2014 Wrangler Rubicon (44.3 A, 40.4 D, 25.3 BO) this is exceptional with a 122 inch wheelbase, which allows for a smoother and more stable ride.

The chassis was also designed for large wheel travel, and articulation. And while the RTI (ramp travel index) was only ~400 stock, it was better than the H1 and fairly competitive among vehicle with IFS. In addition to rock crawling and overlanding, the designers pictured the H2 as a sort of raptor of its day, giving it long travel, large diameter shocks with secondary bump stops built into the shocks to make bottom out events smoother and less damaging. Also optional was a self leveling right height adjustable rear air suspension which not only provided better ride, but could raise the rear of the vehicle 2 inches, load up the suspension to compensate for weight, or lower the vehicle at highway speeds.

Why the H2 should have been a classic

Low end torque? Well GM knew they were never going to sell this with a diesel engine, for one it wouldn’t fit and two they didn’t think their customers would trade the lack of power for the durability and torque of a diesel, but the gas engines did fine in the power department (from 360 ft-lbs to 415 ft-lbs) at the expense of fuel economy, which wasn’t really an issue.

The first models used a GM 4L65E 4 speed with a low 3.06 1st and a 4.10 final, combined with a 2.64 transfer case reduction gave it a 33:1 crawl ratio. Given the amount of torque on tap, it was plenty of gearing to get the job done.

To get it all to the ground it came stock with 315/70R17 BF Goodrich AT tires, 34.5 inches in diameter these were big, wide and got the job done. I’m trying to think of any vehicle that had bigger AT tires fitter from the factory…

Also available was an eaton eLocker with LSD capability for added traction pretty much exactly what you get from a modern Range Rover.

And if that still didn’t work there were built in tow hooks rated for 9000 lbs front and back, and a 2 inch integrated frame mounted receiver on the front and back of the vehicle that was designed to accommodate a 9000 lb winch, no additional bracing necessary. If you opted for the off road package you also got an air compressor for the air suspension that had outputs for tire inflation as well as rims specially designed for extended periods of low tire pressure without de-beeding.

Alas, we come to the crux of it all, the visibility. The H2 was a pillbox, and that by design, which made it impossible to see out of, gave it strange proportions and a design that did not age well.

A lot of this applies to the equally well thought out but similarly flawed H3, which was also doomed.

Lets be honest, we don’t like the H2; its ugly, its slow its guzzles fuel and it makes you look like this dude.

But it wasn’t the engineers fault, all they wanted was a great off road vehicle using the best of what they had to work, can we really fault them for that?

Info and pictures from here