How The Hummer H1 Went To China (Without A License)

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
how the hummer h1 went to china without a license

Editor’s note: Car News China has some pictures of the Dongfeng EQ250 in police livery, accompanied by the nearly-unbelievable tale of the HMMWV’s Sinification, which we have excerpted here. Do surf over and check out one of the better Chinese car blogs out there.

AM General tried to sell the HMMWV to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the late 1980′s.

The PLA however had no interest in the vehicle by that time, they thought it too big and heavy. AM General left one HMMWV in China, hoping the Chinese would change their mind. They did after the first Gulf War in 1991 when the HMMWV was on every TV screen in the world, seen as a winning vehicle that could cross every desert.

The HMMWV that was rotting away somewhere in China was cleaned up and taken apart to the last bit. In the mid ’90′s, Chinese oil companies bought several civilian HMMWV’s, officially for oil exploration but the vehicles actually ended up in PLA’s laboratories and were taken apart as well.

The PLA now wanted a HMMWV, and in the early 2000′s, two Chinese companies bid for the order. Each made its own HMMWV prototype based on knowledge gained by reverse engineering the American HMMWV’s. One company was Dongfeng, the other one the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC). Dongfeng won the order and the EQ2050 was born. I’ll get back on SAC’s prototype in a later article.

Now things get a bit murky. Dongfeng had to deliver, but it didn’t have parts to mass produce. AM General had plenty. So Dongfeng bought the parts from AM General and started production at around 2004. The first 100 or so EQ2050 were made with the American parts. In the meantime, Dongfeng set up their own parts operation and soon it was able to make the EQ2050 without American parts, and so it still does.

Except for one vital thing: the engine. It is a Cummins diesel made by Dongfeng in China under license from Cummins USA. Dongfeng also imports a GM V8 diesel, but that engine is only used in the civilian version of the Dongfeng EQ2050 which nobody can buy. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

Some other reports say that AM General licensed the HMMWV’s design to Dongfeng. This is not true. AM General was happy to sell parts to Dongfeng, the very company that copied their own car. Its all bout the money indeed. The only thing licensed is the engine, licensed by Cummins.

Back now to the civilian version. There is an arms embargo against China since 1989 when a student party on Tiananmen Square got messy. The US takes part in this embargo. That means US companies are not allowed to sell military goods to China. This is not only about finished military goods, like a tank, but also for everything that can be used to make a tank, like the gun, the armor – or the engine.

This was a problem for both AM General and Cummins. The HMMWV was clearly a military vehicle and so was the Dongfeng EQ2050. There is however an exception in the embargo. When something can be used both in a military and civilian way, it can be sold to China. Let’s say binoculars. They can be used by the army but also by civilians spotting birds. These goods are called ‘dual use goods’.

The American companies and Dongfeng talked things trough and arrived at a simple answer: Dongfeng was to make a civilian version of the EQ2050, right next the the military version. Dongfeng promised to do so, and the Americans started selling parts and engines, approved by the American government. Dongfeng showed a civilian EQ2050 on several autoshows but nobody can actually buy it and nobody ever will.

Today it doesn’t really matter anymore anyway, Dongfeng can make the parts from AM General by itself and the Cummins engines are now also used in very civilian trucks. But it was a nice trick – most likely with the full knowledge of all involved. Plausible deniability is everything!

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  • Bryce Chessum Bryce Chessum on May 15, 2011

    Using these Humvee in Afganistan has proved how useless these are too wide heavy slow The Japanese civillian HILUX makes a much better military vehicle Letr the Chinese have it no one else wanted it

  • Azmtbkr81 Azmtbkr81 on May 16, 2011

    Around ’87 or ’88 my dad was stationed at Ft. Polk, Louisiana. We were on our way to a tee ball game and all of the old WWII style jeeps on post were being driven to a giant parking lot to be traded in for shiny new Hmmwvs. As a 7 year old a million thoughts raced my head…wow those Hmmwvs are HUGE, tough, and really, really cool! I asked my dad if he thought the Army would let us take one of the old jeeps home since they clearly didn’t need them any longer. I’m guessing he would have said yes but when I told him I though an old Army jeep would be much cooler than his boring Plymouth Colt he said no way! The Hmmwv is a very good vehicle if used in the proper application. When battle lines are clearly drawn, as anticipated in the 70s and 80s, roadside bombs and “civilians” with RPGs aren’t as much of a concern. The Hmmwv is great for transporting men and supplies in friendly territory or in a fast moving land battle protected by tanks and APCs. The Hmmwv has been misused and may well be obsolete in the context of modern warfare (ie occupying hostile foreign lands for a long, long time) but that does not mean that does a poor job in its intended role. If we were ever to go to war with the Chinese (god forbid) or any other conventional force for that matter, the Hmmwv would be a useful vehicle to have. If we aren’t annihilated by ICBMs a land war with the Chinese would look a lot like a land war with the Soviets – a war the old Hmmwv was designed to fight.

    • Bill Wade Bill Wade on May 16, 2011

      If we aren’t annihilated by ICBMs a land war with the Chinese would look a lot like a land war with the Soviets – a war the old Hmmwv was designed to fight. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Of course the designers forgot about the lowly Soviet designed RPG everybody in the world except us is using that's killing them off left and right............

  • GrumpyOldMan "A manual transmission is offered, as is a single-clutch auto. "What is a single clutch auto?
  • ToolGuy It is raining super-hard outside right now.
  • Analoggrotto It's getting awful hard to tell these Mercedes apart from one another.
  • Analoggrotto Ah the Fisher Price car for the uncoolest of uncool dad-bods.
  • FreedMike If it were a GLI, it’d be a decent project car. But at the end of the day you have a base Jetta, and those weren’t all that great. Speaking of project VWs - when I was living at my old house a few years ago, one of my neighbors had an OG 1983 GTI sitting on his lawn. Lord, did I want to take that car home.