Military-Space

The mid-1980s Dodge HMMWV (“Humvee”) proposal

When the Army put out bids for a replacement for new highly mobile military wheeled vehicles (HMMWV, or “Humvees”), Chrysler was one of the bidders. Starting in the 1940s, Chrysler President K.T. Keller had devoted enormous resources to defense and other government projects; the company had a major role in the moon rockets and other postwar military projects.

Chrysler HMMV

Chrysler’s highly regarded defense and space divisions, however, had largely been dismantled by 1980, their last hurrah being the M-1 Abrams tank; and while there was still a truck engineering group, it was not as strong as it had been. The D-100 had been launched in 1961 and was now nearly two decades old.

This set the stage for Chrysler’s mid-1980s HMMWV “Humvee” proposal. Despite the company’s experience in military work and past all-terrain work, the new prototype was not competitive; too much had been lost with the experienced engineers who had retired or been re-assigned.

Ram-I

Their prototype was built on the Dodge D-series pickup chassis; it had an aluminum body, and was powered by an air-cooled Duetz V-8 diesel. The bodywork is made from flat panels with hard edges, to reduce tooling and production costs; front and rear overhangs were short to improve ground clearance.

The Chrysler vehicle lost the contest because the transmission overheated during the Baker Grade Test, and the lighting was not packaged as specified. In 1985, Pete Gruich was hired as part of a small team to re-engineer the prototype, fixing the problems that were the cause of the rejection by the government doing so in such a way that no dies would be required to form the parts for the body (so General Dynamics could sell them to Thailand’s army).

Detroit Arsenal

Pete wrote:

I solved the overheating problem by redesigning the hood and adding side vents to it to exhaust the air from the engine cooler, instead of venting out the transmission tunnel as originally designed. I also reconfigured the front lighting to meet requirements. That was a tough job.

The picture of the drafting room is a a promotional photo taken around 1961. My father, Peter, is standing at the board with the scale in his hand. They were designing the orange 155mm Howitzer shown below, under his direction. He had started working at the arsenal in 1958.

155mm howitzer

We used to go to the McDonald’s that is still on Van Dyke and order a bunch of burgers and watch the tanks drive around the test track. When the M1 tank was due to be tested, they put a wall around the track so that it couldn’t be seen.

My father used to take me over to the engineering offices on Saturday and now and then check out a M113 and take me out on the track. Too bad they converted it and stopped using it for what it was meant to be. My father passed away in 1994 so he didn’t have to watch its demise.

When they brought over the first HMMWV prototype, my father happened to stroll in to see where I was working, having just retired a few months earlier. He was dressed casually, was growing a beard, and not looking too professional. The vehicle was sitting there running with the hood up and it was surrounded by engineers obviously looking at something that was not good.

My father and I walked up to see as they turned the steering wheel to full lock either way, the frame was twisting where the steering gear box was attached. One of the engineers said “That’s no problem, we will just box the frame at the steering gear box.”

dodge HMMWV

My dad looked at him and said, “Son, you can box that frame in from the front to the rear and it ain’t gonna stop the twist. You guys did not take into account how much these combat wheels and tires weigh compared to the production pickup tires and wheels. This is a show stopper.” I heard the guy start asking “who is that and what does he know”... a couple of hours later, the owner of the company came over and said that he had heard that the problem was a show stopper and what does your dad know...

The next week the program was cancelled.

Not to brag, but my father was written up in the Macomb Daily in 1967 and called “the Einstein of Warren, Michigan” after writing his book, Magnetism and the Atom. He invented the metal composition used for the armor on the M1 and developed a secret process for work hardening metals used for armor and submarine hulls. He also developed the torsion bar system used on all torsion bar suspension tracked military vehicles.

Pete Gruich had, in 1983, worked with AM General on their HMMWV proposal.

Additional Chrysler HMMWV feedback

Tom Bladow wrote, “It was my understanding that there were nine test vehicles made for this program — three from AM General, three from Teledyne, and three from Chrysler Defense. Through the years of searching for information on the Chrysler HMMWV I have never found much information on the subject — this looks like it might have been the second or third of the three test vehicles.

Dodge HMMWV

I belive that I own Chrysler’s test vehicle #1; the door tag on mine says EMT PRO PV1, and the best I can figure is that it reads Experimental Military Transport Prototype Prototype Vehicle # 1. Mine looks somewhat different then the one pictured in the other photos, although some of the small details such as the rear swing arms and front coil springs let me know that this is the real deal. [Martin Laetsch wrote that this is “an earlier Chrysler Defense revised version of the Expanded Mobility Vehicle.”]

As far as I know, mine was based on a one ton frame and has a 360 V8 under the aluminum hood. I was told it was built in 1979, by Chrysler Defense in California. I saw a photo of the other one that looks like mine and it had Washington plates on it.

The General Dynamics HMMWV

Jason Elliott found a General Dynamics prototype HMMWV in the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles, where a sign proclaimed that AM General, Chrysler Defense, Teledyne Continental, and FMC Corporation had responded to the call for new trucks. Built in 1982, with a body by Sheller-Globe Truck, the General Dynamics prototype below has a turbo 610-F81 engine with just seven hours of running time on it.

general dynamics prototype HMMWV

Martin Laetsch wrote that he has General Dynamics prototype XM-966 HMMWV serial #8 and that three of the eleven prototypes survived.

HMMWV underbody

Chrysler HeritageHistory by YearChrysler People and BiosCorporate Facts and History

This page is in-image-ad-free, 50% of the time. Support Allpar by using our Amazon link

We make no guarantees regarding validity, accuracy, or applicability of information, predictions, or advice. Please read the terms of use and privacy policy. Copyright © 1994-2000, David Zatz; copyright © 2001-2016, Allpar LLC (except as noted, and press/publicity materials); all rights reserved. Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, Ram, and Mopar are trademarks of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.


Americans in Paris
Belvidere's Millionth
What’s the end-game for musical factories?

Jeep: behind the Cat Stevens ads
race-pickup
Supercharged Rebel TRX: 100+ mph, offroad (video)

All Mopar Car and Truck News


Supercharged Hemi Ram TRX  •  Rally ’Cat  •  2018 Jeep Compass  •  2016 Allpar show-meet  •  2007-10 Jeep Wranglers


Neon SRT4 Killing the buzzes Dodge pickup trucks, 1961-71