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Hummer, symbol of machismo, may be headed to graveyard

By Wayne Drash, CNN
  • Hummer came to define machismo in America
  • "You should be very ashamed of yourself," sticky note left on Hummer said
  • Hummer owners rally behind their beloved behemoths

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- Love it or hate it, the Hummer came to symbolize American might over the years -- tires the size of Texas, a chrome grill that looked primed to eat up wimpy cars in its path, and its drivers with egos to match their mammoth-mobiles.

But the iconic vehicle -- a symbol for macho men like Arnold Schwarzenegger and ridiculed worldwide by environmentalists -- is headed toward the auto graveyard.

General Motors last week announced the likely end of the Hummer after a deal with a Chinese automaker fell through. The news thrilled many who have protested the guzzler for years: Good riddance!

But for Hummer owners, the reaction remains mixed. Most mourn the impending death of their beloved behemoths but celebrate the fact that the Hummer won't be outsourced to China: Whose harebrained idea was that anyway?! Ain't no Hummer meant to be made in China!

Owners are hoping for a last-minute buyer to emerge before the Hummer joins the maligned Pinto in the scrapyard. GM has said it is trying to salvage the Hummer, setting May 1 as a deadline for other possible deals to be made.

Video: Hasta la vista, Hummer

A single sticky note, left on Russ Builta's 2005 Hummer, sums up the emotion stirred by the super-sized SUVs. "You are polluting our air and abusing our national resources," the unsigned note said. "And all because of greed and selfishness. You should be very ashamed of yourself."

Builta, who served in the Marine Corps, still gets mad: "It was not even on recycled paper!"

Builta installed a supercharger that gave his Hummer a whopping 600 horsepower. When he really mashed the pedal, it got 1 mile per gallon. "It would just move," he told CNN iReport.

Check out Builta's mega-ride

After the HMMWV rolled off the AM General assembly line in Indiana on January 2, 1985, it represented a new breed of American military might and toughness.

In 1992, production of the civilian Hummer began, instantly creating a fraternity among owners of the SUV-on-growth hormone. They exchange photos of their trucks, chat over the Internet and plan for their next muddin' sessions.

They laugh at tree huggers who give them the finger as they cruise down the road.

"I hate to see it die," says iReporter Michael Tawdy of Tennessee, who owns a 2006 H3. "You can go anywhere you want."

Hummer: What might have been

It's my yin and yang.
--Raymond Winbush, owner of a Hummer and a Prius

The Hummer even shares its name with a sexual term. How many cars can stake that claim? And the vehicle became fodder for late-night comedians and Internet jokes.

"You might be driving a Hummer," says one joke on a Web site devoted to the vehicle, "if you can't reach far enough to slap the person sitting in the passenger seat."

The grass-roots social justice group CodePink created an anti-Hummer campaign during the height of the Bush administration, including a Top Ten Reasons Not To Buy A Hummer. At the top of the list: "The Gas Mileage Alone Will Kill You."

Billy Paniaha of North Carolina gets speechless when talking about his chrome-and-gray-mobile. "I love my Hummer," he told iReport.

In one photo, he's leaning against his mud-caked Hummer, which looks like it just wallowed in a pigpen. "Trust me, these tree huggers in their Priuses. ... If a Prius hits me, I won't get hurt. They will."

Paniaha hot-dogs in mud

Raymond Winbush isn't your ordinary Hummer owner. A lover of his giant SUV, he also owns -- are you ready for this? -- a Toyota Prius.

"People think I'm kidding when I say I have both cars, but I do," said Winbush, an author and the director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University.

"If you combine my carbon footprint ... I don't feel real guilty about it."

A resident of Baltimore, Maryland, he uses the Hummer to get through the East Coast's brutal winters. During last month's storm, which left the region under a couple of feet of snow, he helped get doctors and nurses to and from a hospital, thanks to his Hummer.

When winter ends, his machismo-meter goes down. He grabs his man purse and hops into his Prius. "My son calls it the nerd-mobile," he said. "I've had more people razz me about the Prius than I have the Hummer."

"It's my yin and yang. I think they balance each other out."

Winbush: Why I own a Hummer and Prius

Candi Angotti of Texas is just the opposite. She wouldn't be caught dead in a Prius.

The president of the Texas chapter of Club Hummer Offroad, she's been driving her solar-flare metallic orange Hummer for three years.

"I use it what it was built for -- off-roading and adventures -- and it has never let me down," she said. "I have met a great group of guys and girls, and we're like a big family."

See Texas woman catch air in Hummer

The owners now have one more thing in common: They're sporting a likely collector's item. But Builta's the exception. He got rid of his Hummer. And he still misses it.

CNN's Christina Zdanowicz contributed to this report.