An Unexpected Experience:
AM General's
H1 Driving Academy

By Shawn Pagan

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On the third day we spent a lot more time driving around the course. We learned how and when to use the throttle and when to use the brakes to lock up the Torsen limited slip in the front end (the 2003 models we used had the Eaton ELocker in the back).

Winding thru the trees
A few muddy climbs
Water crossings
Woodsy tracks
Test areas for learning throttle modulation
Rocky climbs

This is where I discovered that the staff has a great sense of humor as my instructor told me to take a certain line through a pit on a trail and I immediately plowed the front end under and into a mud hole that sucked the Hummer down like the Titanic. As I looked around and witnessed the grins on all the instructors’ faces I realized that I was setup and simply had nothing else to do but laugh along with them!

There was no way out without winching, so we uncoiled the cable and got to it. The instructors offered suggestions and kept an ever-watchful eye to make sure that everyone did the rights things – the experienced and the inexperienced.

Should have read the sign!
Getting the winch ready
Pulling cable with a little help
Securing the tree strap

After we got off the muddy trails we headed over to the mini-Rubicon course. Driving over slabs of rock, I felt at home. In addition to working with each person as a driver, the instructors took time to work with each person on their spotting technique. From the earlier classroom lessons, we were now putting what was taught to the test.

The Rock Garden - Mini Rubicon
Spotter giving instructions
The length of the course
37" tires
Cresting the rocks
Sliders doing their job

While many of you reading this may think these rocks are pretty small, imagine what the Hummer owner who has never been off-road must be feeling as they crested the top of that boulder for the first time or heard the metal of skid plates gnashing against the rock and not really knowing what it was. Do you remember what it felt like? This is what keeps people coming back to our sport - the feelings that these people are feeling, in many cases, for the first time.

Tentative line
Dropping in
Instructing the spotter
Bringing it home

Once the field work was done for the day we gathered in the training room for lunch and a class on off-road preparation. This class covered many details including how to prepare your vehicle, proper gear to pack and how to prepare yourself for the trail.

The class also discussed organized and recreational 4-wheeling and the benefits of joining local clubs and national organizations like Tread Lightly!, the Blue Ribbon Coalition and United Four Wheel Drive Association.

After the class we left the Driving Facility and returned to the Hummer Technical Center where we were handed over to one of the Technical Instructors. He took us back to the classroom that had the cut-away Hummer. He spent a lot of time showing us how the different components under the skin worked with one another. After this short review we exited to a shop bay where a Hummer was up on a rack.

Cut-away Chassis Rear View
Understanding the underside components
Notice the steel skeleton
Solid protection

Using mostly hand tools (with the exception of the rack) the students proceeded in taking apart a half-shaft and removing various skid plates from under the vehicle. At each stop the instructor made sure the entire class had hands-on the repairs. He showed us the easy ways and the hard ways to do things and spent a lot of time talking about what someone might actually see on the trail. He walked us through quick fixes and extended issues alike.

Explaining what's next
Removing the tire
The idler arm assembly
Pulling a half shaft

After the technical stuff was over the staff took us all out for some local food and we returned to the hotel exhausted from the day’s events but looking forward to Thursday.

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