Mil-Spec 003 First Drive Review

We’re in something of a golden age for automotive restomodding, and into a heady mix that includes Singer’s reimagined 911s, Icon’s fancy off-roaders, and lots of updated Land Rovers. The latest company with ambitions to become a top-tier custom car brand is Mil-Spec, which aims to do what the aforementioned companies do, but with the big, brash, blunt Hummer H1.

It started life as a 1995 Hummer H1, and as with all of Mil-Spec’s vehicles, it was completely disassembled, and the body and frame media-blasted down to metal. The frame and related components are then powder-coated with a black gloss finish.

Mil-Spec’s insulated interior does an admirable job keeping the cabin quiet. The only real noise intrusions are some occasional rattles from the body, wind noise (because this is one of the least aerodynamic cars in history), and the mud-terrain tires. All you hear from the powertrain is sweet turbo whistle and some V8 rumble. And as we mentioned, Mil-Spec did a very nice job redesigning the interior, and especially in putting it together.

Besides simply being a well-executed machine, the Mil-Spec 003 also has serious presence, like an exotic sports car. It’s just as unmissable, with massive tires, Etch-A-Sketch styling, and apartment building size. It helps that this thing has real off-road cred, since it’s the H1, not the glitzy showboat H2. And with metro Detroit probably the largest buyer of V8 Mopars, nobody is too worried about it being a fuel guzzler. Of course, the mood of your onlookers may vary if, say, you’re driving through downtown San Francisco.

That’s partly because the 003 and Mil-Spec’s other off-road vehicles mostly resort to bolt-on parts that don’t look or feel special to the company. They’re the same kinds of off-the-shelf bits we’ve seen on oodles of Jeeps and pickups at SEMA the last few years: bolt-on flares, off-the-shelf wheels, LED lights and tubular sport bars and tire racks.

But even if it doesn’t feel quite as unique and special as something from Singer or Icon, it has a saving grace. Stock Hummer H1 Alphas, the version Mil-Spec is benchmarking, go for between $150,000 and $220,000. That makes the Mil-spec, with its restored frame, way nicer interior, much more powerful engine and lots of add-ons that add up, seem like a good value at $239,000. As such, it’s all right that the Mil-Spec isn’t the unique reimagining of its base that Singers and Icons are, because what the company is really doing, marketing hype aside, is creating the best Hummer H1s around at a reasonable price.