Bummer A Low-Priced Humvee Clone

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"Is it a Ford? Is it a Chevy? No, it's a Bummer!"

For a couple of months now, that sign on the South Beeline has everyone in town wondering if it's some sort of joke.

Everyone, that is, except those who are now the proud owners of a Bummer a fiberglass car kit that can turn almost any 1973 to 1987 Ford, Chrysler and GM truck chassis into a near visual clone of the popular and pricey Hummer Humvee.

And right there you have the reason for the Bummer's existence, Mark Frantzke, owner of the Bummer of Arizona dealership, said.

The real Hummers start at about $50,000 and can go up into the $100,000s with all the bells and whistles. The price of a Bummer, conversely, ranges from $5,495 for a basic do-it-yourself kit to $12,995 for the fully-loaded kit that includes everything you need to be street-legal.

"If we take your old truck and tear it down, it's another $1,000," Frantzke said. "If we mount the body for you, and the steering column and brakes and everything, it's another $3,700, roughly. And if we were to do a full turn-key unit with everything, depending on options, it could run anywhere from $20,000 or $25,000."

The do-it-yourself conversion, however, "is not a difficult task," he said. "No transmission, engine or driveline modifications are required. It's just a matter of pulling your old body off and putting our body on."

The average completion time, Frantzke said, is 100 to 120 hours, "depending on how particular a person you are and what you want to do."

The bodies themselves, called "fiberglass tubs," are made by Bummer's parent company, Gamut Design, in Salt Lake City.

"They do the molding, and we do everything else right here: we make the doors, put on the bumpers and support bars, get the (canvas) top sewn up," he said.

While the easiest chassis to work with are 1973 to 1987 GM or Chevy regular-cab longbed pickups, Frantzke said, other models are adaptable.

"The newest conversion we've done was on a 1998 Suburban that somebody had rolled but there's really too much electronics involved (in newer cars), too many sensors, and they're packed so tightly. Older trucks are wide open, easy to work on, and parts are relatively inexpensive, which is why we recommend going with them."

According to the Bummer sales pitch, the finished product "gives new life to old, reliable vehicles" while adding "the bold and rugged appearance of a military vehicle, but with more capacity for seating, ... At a fraction of the cost of buying a new vehicle, Bummer provides a practical, affordable and fun option for extending the life of your vehicle."

Furthermore, Frantzke said, Bummers boast features which make them even more desirable than Hummers:

"Our units can seat eight people comfortably instead of four; the interior is a lot more wide open; they're really easy to work on, and for parts you can go to Auto Zone or Checker or NAPA; our vehicles are a lot lighter, and our acceleration and braking is enhanced just from the loss of weight. So we've got them beat in a lot of ways."

Bummer of Arizona's target customers, Frantzke said, are "outdoor men and women: campers, hunters, hikers. There's a lot of that traffic going through Payson, so we decided that, if we could find a spot right on the Beeline, we'd move up. Well, the first time we looked, we found this place."

It has proven to be a smart move. Since Frantzke moved the business from Mesa to Payson in late July, he said, Bummer of Arizona has pedaled more Bummers in the past two months than the company sold in the previous six months in the Valley.

How much longer that sales boom will continue is anyone's guess.

General Motors, which manufactures the Hummer Humvee, has been putting pressure on those who produce replicas of their product. At least one such firm located in Vancouver, Washington, has discontinued the use of its name Hummbug and redesigned its car kits due to what the company's Internet website calls "trademark and tradedress conflicts."

"We're under the same pressure," Frantzke said. "Basically, the head company has been involved in a lawsuit with GM for some time now. They would like us to change our body style, which will probably happen here at some point. The bottom line is that their pockets are deeper than ours.

"But we're already a couple of steps ahead of that," he said. "We have three new body designs in the works. One will be slightly different from this body style, and the other two will be completely our own concepts.

"We've found that a lot of people like the fact that they can take their old pickup truck, and install a new body with this kind of look and interior space.

"So we're going to stick to those same parameters, no matter what."

Bummer of Arizona is located at 604 S. Beeline Highway in Payson. For more information, call 468-8697.

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