The Hummer H1 Alpha Duramax

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Alpha Badge AM General officially released their new version of the Hummer H1 called the H1 Alpha on October 27, 2004 at the Anaheim Car show. AMG skipped the 2005 model year and actually released the Alpha to the public for the 2006 model year. AMG announced on May 12th, 2006 that it would stop civilian production of the H1. Unfortunately, 2006 is the last year any H1 will be produced.

AMG produced 729 Alphas. The first 448 are called "Gen 1" or "Wave 1" produced from Jan 2005 to May 2005. The last 281 are "Gen 2" or trucks. The gen 2 or "Wave 2" trucks were produced starting September 2005 and have an all black interior. The first 2006-2 model was VIN 6E226861.

AMG invited a number of people to product evaluations at the plant in South Bend IN. during the week. I luckily was one of the people chosen. We drove in city and highway traffic and then made a stop at the AMG test track where we had a chance to put the truck through it's paces on a number of the infield obstacles.

Base price of an open-top will be $128,374.00
Base price of a wagon will be $139,771.00
Destination Charge $1,025.00

12,000 lb. Winch
17" 2 pc Aluminum Wheels GSA Tires
Front and Rear E-Lockers
Total Option Off Road Package
MTR Tires (Requires above Package)

H1 Alpha Photos - AMG Presentation



Walking up to the new Alpha you really don't notice any change in the external appearance. AMG has strived to keep the truck authentic and true to the 'hmmwv' look. At closer inspection you will see the air 'mushroom' intake has been replaced with a square cap that looks like it came from the H2. I was told that this was changed so that there would be at least one easily seen trait to differentiate the new Alpha from the existing H1's. The brush guard has been changed. The bar that used to run on top has been removed to allow better air flow through the cooling stack. Next you'll notice the Duramax badge on the front of the hood. While you're staring at the front you'll see that the hood is only hinged at the bottom center instead of at the 2 places on either side. This is a final fix to keep the hood from cracking when the truck flexes. If you have a really sharp eye you'll see that the side hood hold down's have been completely redesigned probably to work with the new center hinged hood flex. The wheels are the same 2 piece aluminum now in a 2 tone (black and aluminum) scheme. Moving around to the rear of the truck you will notice a thick black horizontal strip along the top of the rear bumper. This is a block off panel that hides the space created when the truck was lifted 2" to fit the Duramax diesel engine.

Just about everything under the truck is new. According to AMG the only parts that are the same as a 2004 are the control arms. The suspension uses all the components from the 12,100 GVW upgrade which includes larger disk brakes, heavier half shafts, springs and sway bars. The whole steering system has been redesigned using a heftier Sheppard steering gear box, stronger components and changes in geometry. The whole drive train is different due to the addition of the Duramax diesel and Allison transmission. Because this combination of engine/ transmission is longer, the transfercase is pushed further towards the rear. This necessitates a longer front drive shaft which is a new design using double cardon U joints. In order to meet DOT requirements the shape of the fuel tanks had to be changed. When the tanks were redesigned, engineers at AMG took advantage of the extra 2" space that resulted from the lifted body to increase the total fuel capacity to 51 gallons. The transfercase is the same NP 242 which was strengthened to take the increased torque from the new engine. The geared hubs now have helical cut gears to reduce noise. View the AMG slides to get the scoop on what was changed underneath.

On one hand I was dieing to get behind the wheel of this new truck. On the other I was really worried that it would be so much better that I would have to sacrifice my first born or maybe just his college education to get one. I had driven my 98 to South Bend the same morning so I had my trucks' performance freshly in mind. I was anticipating a rocket ship. Something that would really give me a kick in the seat of the pants and make me feel really bad about still having my 98 6.5. I hopped in the truck and started her up. I noticed that the glow plug cycle was bit shorter. When the engine fired up it was much quieter without the clatter of the 6.5. You could talk to the 3 other people in the truck in a normal tone of voice. Reaching down to the shifter I noticed that the transfercase lever and the shifter lever are now reversed, shaped differently and very close together. We were told that the original configuration of the shifter levers was an Army requirement that wasn't necessary on the Alpha. The shift release button is on the side of the lever which I liked better then the top mounted button. The truck shifted into drive smoother then my 98 due to the fact that the shift linkage on the Alpha is all cable controlled. This eliminates rattles and hard shifts especially with the transfercase.

The moment had finally arrived. The truck was in gear, I just had to wait for the guys in front of me to pull out of the way. I depressed the throttle and pulled out into traffic. The truck was really smooth but didn't have any of the seat of the pants kick I was expecting. The truck seems sluggish in first gear compared to my 98. When I pull out from a dead stop in my 98 I get a torque feeling that moves in an authoritative stump pulling manner. The new Alpha didn't do this, it was kind of flat off the line. I was expecting a kick ass tree stump puller all the way up to highway speeds. As I accelerated into traffic I put my foot into it a little more to find the power. Where my 98 goes flat after 20 the Alpha kept on coming. As long as I had my foot down the truck smoothly accelerated. The guys at AMG told us that they programmed the Duramax to stay calm off the line to reduce the shock load on the drive train. My guess it's the transfercase that can't take the increased load from a dead stop. I've seen my share of Hummer cases shattered by a 6.5 turbo diesel let alone what a 300 hp Duramax would do to one. The truck drove like a dream around town. The suspension felt firm and had little sway. The brakes stopped the beast with little effort and in a straight line due to the abs. There much less rocking when you stop due to the newly designed geared hubs. One thing I did notice was that the steering was faster. I had a tendency to oversteer in the turns. This must be a result of the new steering box which I heard was replaced because Saganaw discontinued the model that's presently in all Hummers that they have been making since the 50's. This is a good thing because it looks to be stronger.

We moved onto the highway where the truck ran very smooth and quiet. The truck has enough power to normally pass a car on the highway. With my 98 I usually pull out into the left lane and slowly overtake a car and pull back in once I've passed. With the Alpha I floored the accelerator, and was able to whip around a couple of cars and cut back in without cutting off the guys I was passing. The Allison transmission has a towing mode that reprograms the shift patterns so they occur at higher rpms. It also does something with the torque convertor lock. This keeps the engine from bogging down between shifts while pulling a heavy load.

While it was fairly cool out I got the impression that this truck wouldn't over heat in the hot weather due to the completely redesigned cooling system. The truck now has a transmission temp gauge. The cooling system has a newly designed efficient direct drive cooling fan assembly that sits at an angle that's perpendicular to the slanted cooling stack that is dead quiet. I couldn't hear the fan cut in at all. It draws air directly through the radiators blowing it out under the truck which is the path of least resistance. The most visible part of the new cooling system is the big bright aluminum intercooler radiator joined to the turbo with bright blue silicone hoses. While I'm talking about the intercooler I want to mention that there is a fuel cooler which ensures that denser fuel enters the engine. The Duramax doesn't need an engine oil cooler so that's eliminated from the stack. The Alpha uses an up to date radiator with plastic ends. While I was poking around under the hood I noticed a small black plastic pump nestled behind the battery tray with a bunch of heater hoses going to it. I was told that this pump circulates coolant after the engine has shut down to prevent heat soak on the all aluminum Duramax. There is also a new transfercase cooling system that I believe ties into a cooler in the radiator.

Ok, so how does this puppy do off the road. Since all of my off road driving is definitely under 20 mph the power and torque available in the Duramax is probably going to be way too much for me. I'm sure this engine will be a major preformer in the kind of high speed off road racing that Rod Hall does. The smoothness and silence of the engine does give you a calmer experience allowing you to concentrate on driving. We ran through the rollers to test the TT4 which is tight and well tuned. I did notice that the throttle was a bit different than what I was used to. AMG said that the electronic throttle control was new for the Duramax. We ran up a couple of vertical walls and did the moguls which is a straight section with deep rutted holes dug out of the left and right track. As you traverse alternate wheels go airborne. This tests the suspension and the traction control. I ran through it once with the TT4 and again with the new Eaton electric lockers. It's was almost too easy with the lockers. Once the lockers are engaged all you have to do is point the truck straight and it smoothly ran the course. The 2" lift insured that the body never came into contact with the ground. Doing this in my 98 would require constant use of Brake throttle modulation.

Next we went to the high speed test where we started from a dead stop and floored the truck. The true speed of the new Alpha was apparent on this acceleration speed test. We drove from a standing start at full throttle where a set of cones was setup to mark the point where the Alpha hits 60 mph. Another set of cones was setup further down the track where the 2004 6.5 achieves 60. This test really highlighted the difference in the Alpha. The Duramax really hauled. I had the opportunity to take a 2004 6.5 optimizer truck through this same test and remember looking at the speedometer when I passed the 60 mph Duramax marker barely going 50.

The end of the test was a simple run on the concrete slant and paved hill assent / descent. We shifted into low lock and easily drove the slant and the up hill section. When you do the steep down hill run you keep your foot off the brake and let the truck hold you back. Moving down hill in the Alpha felt like you were glued to the road. There was no reason to even consider using the brake. When you drove down in the 2004 6.5 your descent was a faster controlled roll with the feeling that you might want to be prepared to feather the brake. The difference is the lower first gear in the Allison transmission which gives you a much better crawl ratio.

The interior is the same as the 2004. Since comments about this are subjective because they involve color and comfort I'll let you make up your own mind.

There's no doubt that this truck is the answer to everything that needed improving on the H1 and is the culmination of the last few years of significant engineering advancements for AMG. The truck is still being improved and I'm sure AMG will be tuning the final product with input gained from the product evaluation. The truck is due at the dealers sometime early next year (2005) as a 2006 model. I just want to say 'Hat's off to the engineering team'!

I almost forgot. One last innovation: I think the 'Horn button in the middle of the steering wheel' thing is gonna catch on!

In retrospect there were only 2 problems owners experienced with the Alpha. One was the cooling fan drive which was redesigned and the other is the front drive shaft. The front drive shaft is longer then the one on the H1 and has another U joint. Evidently, the design of the U joint caused problems that took out the center bearing. The shaft is being redesigned (Sept 2006).

Fuel Economy? Here is one owners comments. "I got only 11.5 with air on and a pretty good head wind, but was traveling about 75 to 78 mph. On the way back I got about 12.5. – no wind same speeds.  I checked the Lynch Duramax conversion truck on the way out and he got only about 12 mpg traveling along with me."

Front End? "Yes the Alpha front end is in fact much different, but the weaknesses are much the same.  At least I know what to expect on a regular basis.  The steering box itself is much less likely to fail, but pitman, idler and ball joints remain the weak links. The Alpha half shafts of course are much heavier and much less likely to break. "