robb pritchard tests the coolest car in the czech republic
A couple of years ago the stunning Bureko Hummer concept from the Czech Republic appeared on the scene but when I saw the first shots of the new 6x6 I couldn't believe it was real so zoomed in on one of the photos looking for evidence of Photoshopping… that's how outrageous it is! And as I was passing through Prague recently it would have been rude not to pop into the workshop to catch up with the guys who are responsible for this mad creation... especially seeing as their new design is one of the coolest off-road vehicles I've ever seen!
As cool as it looks
First though, a little back story to this unique tale… Creator Francis Janes Hummer obsession began back in 2007 when in a H2 he followed a Czech team on the Dakar, back when it was still run in Africa. He liked how it handled on the remote desert tracks, but more importantly, how it felt to drive something so big and that commanded such a road presence. For a seller of swimming pool covers in a small town in the Czech Republic having a Hummer as a road car was nothing more than a pipe dream but in the 2008 Geneva car show he saw the HX concept and was smitten. His children would have to find another family to look after them and he'd have to live in the car, but he wanted it… Unfortunately though Hummer didn't survive the financial crisis and the HX concept remained just a concept… which is where most people's mental wonderings would have ended. Not Francis' though. With no applicable mechanical engineering or design skills he still decided to make his own… And with enough hard work and dedication in his spare time he designed, developed and built the first iteration of the car, the H2X… until he got enough pre-sales that he quit the swimming pool cover job and took on the Bureko project full time. In the three years since he's sold an impressive 20 vehicles, mainly to Russia and Dubai, which is probably why you've never seen one on the road.
Hummer concept body on a 6x6 Land Rover chassis
But Bureko though, where does the name come from? (I am writing this in Croatia where it means breakfast sandwich.) Starting a new company in the Czech Republic is a laborious process and so to save months of pointless paperwork he took the much simpler route of buying one from the bank that was already set up. Burekone is the company he came away with. The front grille only has six slats though so Bureko it was. Simple.
The first version was definitely worthy of a story but how do you top such a radical design while keeping it both jaw-droppingly outrageous and usable at the same time? Francis Janes had an idea. Paying attention to the huge response the 6-wheeled AMG G63 G-Wagen created in the international motoring press it seemed only right to take the design somewhere even the original Hummer never went. But apart from the extra axle there is another big difference in this new build. It's not a Hummer-based concept any more, the donor vehicle is a Land Rover, as the chassis and entire drive-train is from a current Discovery 4! If there's a box of ideas for building cars Francis is definitely thinking out of it!
Buy why use a Land Rover as a base for what is unequivocally a Hummer concept? Again, it was all about practicality. With Hummer production ceasing some eight years ago parts to make vehicles from are getting harder and harder to source as well as starting to become obsolete. “We needed an EU6 engine,” Francis explains. “We approached a few manufacturers but the only one interested in working with us was Land Rover CZ so we made a deal with them to take three new D4s, strip them down to the chassis and sell back all the things we don't need, like body panels...”
I didn't just come for a cup of coffee and a chat though… this is a car that almost begs you to get in behind the wheel… or the hell out of the way if you are another road user! The boxy, angular styling outside is visually all Hummer, it cannot can be confused with anything else, but open the doors and inside the full leather seats, dash and dials are all out of the D4. It's a strange sensation. The Land Rover logo even comes up on the LCD display when you turn the key. But behind the familiar steering wheel you look forward through the famously thin, almost vertical windscreen... Cognitive dissonance, I believe it's called.
Checking the mirrors to make sure I miss the gate posts it feels massive. It's not SUV proportions any more, this is mini bus territory. It's over 5m long so the turning circle is understandably rather large and it feels more like the H1 to drive than the H3. Out on the open road though and a smile creeps over my face. There are several wow-factors all reaching my consciousness at once. The intent is clear. This is a vehicle for people who want to stand out from the crowd and have the means to do so. It's pure luxury. It's a full-on Gumball car, one that rich Arabs will cover in gold. It's a statement car, but it's much more of a presence that something like a mere Ferrari or Lamborgini has… Road and engine noises are kept to a minimum thanks to the same (but reshaped) soundproofing from the D4, although sitting on half a dozen 35 inch off-road tyres there is a noticable drone. It sits on six airbags so its on-road ride is stiff and assured… good for a three ton vehicle, and I'm sure its on-road performance is comparable to other luxury SUV brands. But I don't care too much about that. I am an off-roader and so I'm taking it to a local motorcross track!
A WOW car!
Passed a few startled tractor drivers we crossed the railways tracks and headed out to the course that would be impossible for many normal 4x4s.
The first thing that caught my eye was a big man-made ridge with a steep ramp that would send dirt bikes high into the air and cause an issue with break-over angles for many lesser 4x4s. The front and rear axles are engaged while driving but a flick of the switch puts drive to the forward of the rear mounted axles and then the tank like off-road capabilities kick in. The Bureko inches up. The 3 litre Land Rover SDV6 only gives 188bhp which isn't too much to write about but pushes out a massive 600lbs of torque and we go up easily.
The middle diff is powered via an ingenious looking transfer box. One propshaft goes in from the front and two come out of the back. The one to the rear is constantly engaged while the shorter one to the centre axle works by a simple air locker system. Well, I suppose simple for a creative mechanical mind like Francis'. The 'box was designed in-house and is made by a specialist local engineering company.
This will be a familiar view for modern Land Rover owners
With a top of the range Land Rover as its organ donor the 6x6 boasts some pretty serious electronic wizardry including the full driver-assist spectrum. ABS, TCS, DSE, HTC, HSA, GAC, ESP.* But there is a lot more to make this 6x6 than just putting a new body on a stretched chassis. To demonstrate what an insanely complicated job it is to put a car into production back in the workshop Francis showed me a binder full of papers. The homologation requirements for the rear seat belts are 75 pages long. The one for mounting the front seats is over 250! The full book has some 2000 so Francis draws the initial design of a single component and takes it to a professional design engineer to make sure it complies to everything stipulated in the regulations. Every component. That's a lot of work, and is why the new car is the end result of three years of development. And despite sitting on a production Land Rover chassis and running gear the car also needs to be crash tested. A sad thought.
But it's not just Land Rover interested in being a part of this project. AM Mobility contacted Francis with interest in working together. The name may not mean to much but it might mean more if I tell you that they own the HUMVEE and Hummer trademarks. There will be more news of this possible partnership soon. But for this humble Hummer fan it seems that a starstruck gaze in the Geneva motor show has come full circle. Not bad for someone who once thought that selling swimming pool covers was a good job!
*ABS Anti-lock brake system
TCS Traction Control System
DSE Dynamic Stability Control
HTC Hill Decent Control System
HSA Hill Start Assistant
GAC Gradient Acceleration Control
ESP Electronic Stability System
Length- 5150 MM
Width - 2170 MM
Height - 1850 MM
Wheelbase - 1-2 Axles 2700 MM, 2-3 Axle (1020), 1-3 Axle (3720)
Gauge - 2130 MM - 2170 MM
Approach angle - 45 degrees
Departure angle- 60 degrees
Engine - DIESEL 3, 0 SDV6 a Petrol 3, 0 SCV6
In the future we may also use GM and CUMMINS engines
Transmission: Automatic 8-speed
Drive: 4WD, 4X4 and by switch to 6X6
Depth of water crossing - 700 MM
Price: BUREKO 6X6 from 140.000, - EUR without VAT in CZECH REPUBLIC.