Just as the AM General Hummer was quickly embraced by luminaries and folks with way too much spare cash lying around, the HummBug will surely be the darling of the pizza-and-beer crowd. That’s us. The beauty of the new HummBug is that it’s truly affordable, comparatively easy to put together, and really a blast to drive. It may even be the Meyers Manx of the 21st century. In its own humble way, it appears ready to revive and transform at least one segment of the kit car business.
Comparisons of the HummBug to the Hummer are inevitable, but it's ludicrous to think, even from the outward appearance, the VW-powered vehicle could be mistaken for the AMG truck, except perhaps for the similar grille treatment. After all, the HummBug is only about two-thirds the height and half the length of the big guy, and it's powered by a rear engine mouth-breather.
What the HummBug is is a fun cruiser or boony-basher that doesn't cost a whole lot of money to build or own. The basic HummBug body kit retails for $3,950 and includes the body, hood, windshield frame, and inner steel subchassis. For an additional $900, you get bumpers, a brushguard, a spare tire rack, and a front skidplate. And for an additional $1,000, the top support, soft top, and soft doors arrive, too.
Unlike a lot of cars based on VW platforms, the HummBug kit doesn't require altering the pan. You use its full length and full width, and the body's integral steel subchassis bolts to the stock Beetle's body mounting locations. The engine, drivetrain, and front suspension also stay intact.
The car you see here is the first nonfactory-built HummBug, put together by Bill Orr and crew at Mitsuoka Motors America (MMA). It's also the first to wear a shiny paint job; the factory mules were painted camouflage flat. Since MMA's cars will be exported and sold through one of its Huntington Beach, California, auto dealerships as turnkey vehicles, the finish and build-level requirements were perhaps a little higher than what would be expected on a good homebuilt kit car.
The first order of business was to contract Vintage Speedsters to supply refurbished chassis, wiring, and engines. Vintage Speedsters and AutoSpeed will be building individual turnkey HummBugs for the factory. While the body was getting several coats of paint, Orr sent out all the metal body components to the powdercoater for a baked-on layer of glossy black. The rollbar, grille, bumpers, skidplate, headlight screens, tire rack, and miscellaneous components all received powdercoat for a tough finish and a great look. In keeping with the blacked-out look, a pair of Vanagon mirrors, a black-wrapped steering wheel, a black shifter, a single black-face gauge, a black grab handle, and black wiper motors and blades were added.
The interior is very simple. Any VW stock or aftermarket seat will fit on the donor seat tracks. MMA chose a set of comfortable, black-fabric FloFit buckets and had the company make a two-piece rear bench to match. The carpet kit comes from HummBug, and the rails of the rollbar were covered with zippered, vinyl-covered pads.
The HummBug has an aggressive stance thanks to desert-style rubber mounted on painted steel wheels. The swing-away spare tire rack provides access to the engine, and a stock gas tank mounts in the front compartment, with a little room left over for storing small items.
Just as the Hummer is used for practically everything, from hunting pheasant in the bogs to hitting Beverly Hills eateries, the HummBug will see the same kind of duty but with a less upscale flavor. It'll probably be more like zooming the dunes at a clambake and taking the gang out to Round Table Pizza after the T-ball game.