Tuesday, September 11, 2007

AMC Hammer

Photos from Pbase account of Otep Rivera

Source: 01 July 2003 review by mbt as posted in Tsikot

AMC Hammer
Power, prestige, and style without the premium price tag.

by: Otep Rivera

In a posh village along Katipunan Avenue, a passing Ford Expedition stops beside the yellow AMC Hammer we are sitting in. The Expedition’s impressed driver rolls down his window and asks, “Is that for real?” We merely smile.

Those four words could well be the best compliment you can give to the AMC Hammer. It looks so close to the real-deal (and five times more expensive) AM General Hummer that most people can’t even tell which is which by simply eyeballing the exterior. That can’t be said of the other locally-manufactured Hummer replicas whose quality and proportions are truly comical even when compared to the locally-produced AMC Hammer.

Alana Motors Corporation has been in the vehicle assembly business for three generations now. They manufacture everything from Mini Cruisers to AUV’s. And now, the latest addition to their product line up is the Hammer. AMC may be a cottage industry manufacturer but they are a premium cottage industry manufacturer in the tradition of those small sports car firms in Europe.

An AMC Hammer is not a mish-mash of various parts from different manufacturers. Almost all Hammers are built on a Nissan Patrol chassis, including the frame, suspension, brakes, and other components, using the proper Nissan Patrol drivetrain (engine, transmission, transfer case) for that chassis. Leaf-sprung models use the SD33 3.3L inline-six turbodiesel engine while the more expensive coil-sprung models use the TD42 4.2L normally-aspirated inline-six engine. Most of the donor drivetrains and chassis come from ex-JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) Patrols but you can provide your own donor drivetrain and chassis (as long as they match) to AMC and they will build a Hammer around it.

Externally, the Hammer shares almost every styling element with the Hummer. Everything seems to have been designed by someone with only a ruler and a pencil to work with. Everything looks and feels robust. The doors slam with authority and don’t rattle on the road. The engine cover (which tilts forward just like in the authentic Hummer) is heavy and substantial (the steel grille on the engine cover does lift up for routine maintenance). The tow loops on the engine cover, although not rated by AMC, are mounted directly to the chassis frame rails and are more than cosmetic add-ons. They will take some load if the huge front and rear tow loops are still not enough. Unlike the Hummer which uses fiberglass on some key components, the Hammer is all steel (gauge 18 and 21). Other visual clues that what you are looking at is a Hammer are the six-slot grille (instead of the trademark seven), generic marker lamps and Ssangyong Korando taillamps. The Hammer is also a bit narrower (by around 8 inches) than the Hummer, but you would never know that unless you took a tape measure to both.

The TD42 engine of the Hammer we tested is rated at a measly 115hp at 4,000 rpm. A Honda Civic has more power than that. Unlike the Honda, however, the Hammer’s engine will have all of its 195 lb-ft (264 Nm) of torque available at just 2,000 rpm. This thing will pull like a freight train from a standing start and will let you keep up with traffic easily. This engine is more akin to a Mack truck’s than to your average AUV or pickup truck. It has two oil filters, a timing chain system, and a water separator for the fuel system. And just like in the original Hummer, this engine draws air via a snorkel at the base of the windshield. AMC upgrades this engine with a larger-capacity five-row radiator and an additional electric cooling fan to cope with the increased loads and harsher conditions Hammers are designed to withstand.

Steering is via a recirculating-ball system with standard power assist which provides decent feel. Its seven turns lock-to-lock is slow (perhaps a touch too slow for paved roads) and is perfect for trail work. The standard five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed automatic is optional) drives decently enough but can become balky and stubborn during gearchanges. Part of the blame could be the fabricated linkages AMC uses. Running changes are being done at the factory regarding this matter. The Hammer uses four wheel ventilated disc brakes on all four wheels with no ABS or other electronic assistance. It does a pretty admirable job of stopping the two-ton beast even from extralegal speeds. Pedal feel is good enough and there is not much fade even after repeated stops.

The Hammer uses solid axles suspended by coil springs on both ends. The rigid front axle is located by three links and the rear, by five links. Stabilizer bars are standard equipment. The settings are quite soft allowing for a good deal of body roll when the Hammer is driven hard. But then again, the Hammer is no Miata and the soft calibration really helps give it a good ride both on and off pavement. Standard tires are 33X12.5R15’s mounted on painted steel rims. However, 35X12.5R15 tires on chrome rims are the most popular option. 38” tires can also be fitted (these are even larger than the Hummer’s standard 37” tires).

Inside, a huge center console neatly splits the interior into four distinct compartments, as in the genuine Hummer. Each compartment sports a single captain’s chair, which means that the total passenger capacity is just four. A miraculous-capacity CR-V the Hammer is not, although an optional rear bench seat is available in case you want to bring four friends along for a drive. The dashboard and center console are constructed out of metal and is painted in a low gloss finish, giving them a tough, business-like look. The door panels are finished in vinyl and cloth and have a quality feel to them. The fuzzy carpeting used on the floors and ceilings are even better looking than the ‘mouse fur’ upholstery used on most modern cars today. There are separate air-conditioning ducts for rear passengers, and all seats are fitted with three-point ELR safety belts as standard equipment as well as map lamps and grab handles. The plastics are still not up to Japanese-level but they look good enough. The interior of the Hammer can be customized to the owner’s desires (and budget) but the standard interior is not quite bare. About the only things missing are a sound system and power windows (both are options).

Driving the Hammer takes some getting used to. The sheer size of the machine will limit where you can go and where you can park. But this handicap is not exclusive to the Hammer and you will get over it after some time. What you will really need some getting used to is the instant celebrity status you acquire while behind the wheel of this behemoth. Be prepared for the stares, waves, and thumbs-up from complete strangers as you drive by. Even the police will give you preferential treatment if you are in a Hammer.

Off-road is where the Hammer really shines. The Nissan Patrol four-wheel drive system uses a hybrid front hub lock system which can be shifted on-the-fly or manually locked (using the tire wrench) for extended four-wheeling. The approach and departure angles are superb and the ground clearance is more than adequate for anything you can throw at it. And just as in the Patrol, the transmission and engine are located high up between the frame rails for protection. The 95-liter fuel tank is also located high and is protected by a dedicated steel skidplate. The Hammer does not have locking differentials (there are aftermarket ones available) on both ends but the aggressive mud tires usually have enough traction for the job. An optional matte-paint finish (think spray on bedliner) ensures that your Hammer will never get scratched while you enjoy it on the trail.

Prices for the Hammer start at P648,000.00 for a leaf-sprung pickup model with an SD33 engine, to P788,000.00 for a wagon using a coil-sprung chassis with a TD42 engine. Various options (roof racks, roof lamps, fancy sound systems, etc.) can easily inflate the price, but you will still never go near the P5 million price tag of the Hummer.

If you’re the extroverted type of person who loves the outdoors and enjoys big toys, the AMC Hammer is for you. Granted that the vehicle still has some minor flaws to be worked out, three generations of vehicle assembly has really done the Alana family a lot of good in terms of the final product. This is the best locally-assembled Hummer replica to date. Just ask the Expedition driver.


D' mOon said...

Hi! Any info about the 4-door pickup type? My family is interested in it. Some details on the interior would also help.


Peter said...

May i suggest a design for the dashboard that looks like this: