By on June 24, 2019

What would you call a car designed in France out of parts from a Jeep, then built in Portugal by a company which previously ceased to exist?


The story of the UMM started out with a French company called Cournil. Founded by Bernard Cournil early in the twentieth century, the company initially made its business altering American Jeeps in post-WWII France. The military left many Jeeps behind, and Cournil modified them for agricultural usage.

Cournil’s lot improved in the late forties, via a stroke of luck. Struggling French luxury car manufacturer Hotchkiss started building licensed Jeeps in France, and Cournil became a regional distributor for the utility vehicles. After a few years, he inked a deal with Willys Jeep and began his own manufacture.

What started out as a shoestring assembly lead to improvements, as it seemed Cournil was a tinkerer. As he listened to customer concerns over the Jeeps he produced, he made edits. A revised transmission here, a different engine there. Eventually Cournil determined the Jeep chassis was not suitable for the agricultural work of his customers, and dumped it. His creation was first known locally as the Tracteur Cournil, and was used in mining and agricultural applications.

In 1960, the Cournil became its own vehicle. The company introduced their own chassis on the Cournil Tracteur JA1. The next year, the design was changed to look more Cournil and less Jeep. The Tracteur stayed in production throughout the early Seventies, but trouble brewed at the bank.

Bernard’s son Alain took over the organization after a bankruptcy in 1970, and produced very few Tracteurs between 1971 and 1977. At that point, the family behind the name split the operation in two. The French part went to French armaments manufacturer Gevarm, while a new Portugese part was sold to UMM of Portugal.

União Metalo-Mecânica was founded in 1977, with the intent of manufacturing four-wheel drive utility vehicles for industrial and agricultural uses. In total, UMM built six different versions of the Cournil, which remained in production from 1977 through 1996. UMMs had success in heavy use applications, and even ran in the Paris-Dakar rally.

Between 1986 and 1994, UMM built the Alter II, seen here. Advancements over its predecessor (the Alter) included a new four-speed manual, transfer case, and suspension. Engines used were mostly of 2.5 liters in displacement, with either four or six cylinders, and in standard and turbodiesel formats. A safe assumption is around 75 to 100 horsepower.

The Alter II ceased production in 1994, at which time UMM discontinued civilian vehicle offerings. It continued to take large orders from military and utility customers through around 1996. Shortly afterward, UMM intended to introduce a new model called the Alter 2000, but had no funds to invest in its development. Today UMM exists as a metalwork company.

The lime green three-door that is today’s Rare Ride is located at a dealer in Florida. A 1990 model with a shocking 455 miles, the UMM asks $26,900. Worth it?

[Images: seller]

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13 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1990 UMM Alter II, Lots of Lime...”

  • avatar

    This looks straight out of a movie where the European SWAT team rushes to the scene with that two-tone Gestapo siren blaring. An interesting vehicle and certainly one I’ve never heard of

    Whether it’s any good or worth the money is anyone’s guess

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I am sure my local PepBoys stocks all the maintenance parts, no problem!

  • avatar

    “What would you call a car designed in France out of parts from a Jeep, then built in Portugal by a company which previously ceased to exist?”

    A nightmare project consisting of Imperial and metric measurements, different languages, duties and customs red tape, engineered by engineers in a country known for (ahem) eccentric vehicles and built in a country that doesn’t have a long history of auto building using old Jeep parts. What could go wrong???

    And is that really only 759km on the odometer?

    I kid…because of all of that, that is one bad ass looking Mad Max on holiday truck! I’d take one in a millisecond, especially if the (Le) Turbo sticker on the side adds massive turbo horsepower!!!

    • 0 avatar

      By the time the Portuguese company was formed, the Jeep chassis had been dumped, and the English units of measure with it. All the Jeep parts were long gone. Portugal was part of the Common Market early on, so duties/standards had been sorted out. Portugal produced over a quarter million cars and trucks last year, mostly Volkswagen, Toyota, and Peugeot, for export, so it’s not like UMM was a tiny operation without expertise available.

  • avatar

    In other news, another (non-) Tesla burns to the ground!!! We demand immediate recall and stock price drop!

  • avatar

    This has a 2.5 l Peugeot turbo diesel with 110 PS.
    Not sure about the mileage on the odometer (Peugeot also sourced much of the switchgear).

    The side decals mark it as an ´88 to ´91 car. The final series had a different design without “turbo”.
    That green color is definitely not original.

    There were competition versions using the PRV V6 engine, but those weren´t sold for road use.
    During the 1991 visit of Pope John Paul II an UMM was used as a Popemobile.

    These were quite good offroaders and the turbo version wasn´t too slow (surely not worse than contemporary Land Rovers, Land Cruisers or Monteros).
    But they were noisy and uncomfortable due to the leaf springs.

    UMM didn´t have the funds to keep improving it and missed the shift towards luxury offroaders in the early 90s.

    Although rarely, a few can still be seen on duty in some rural fire departments in Portugal. Not so sure about the police or the military as the sellers writes.

  • avatar

    I can only recommend to stay clear from this vehicle.
    Engine, gearbox and axles come from the Peugeot 505. Spare parts? No longer available, not even in Africa or South America.
    We got stuck with about 50 of these (our government sold a few hundred trucks to Portugal and we got UMM’s in return). In four years time we spent 75% of the cars price when new on maintenance.

  • avatar

    Cool lookin’ thing. I guess my dad’s riff on rural French farmers wanting a single vehicle to serve both as tractor and family car wasn’t an exaggeration.

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