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Badass Off-Roader: All About the UMM (União Metalo-Mecânica) 4×4 Personal Utility Vehicle

Add another truck to my list of favorite 4x4s.

Sure, there are Land Rovers, Landcruisers, Broncos, G-Wagens, Scouts. Even the original Hummer. But every now and then I stumble across something that I hadn’t seen before, something that makes my eyes widen and makes my feet want to step on some pedals. Case in point: my recent trip abroad, where I discovered the Portuguese 4×4 UMM. A French-designed truck that was manufactured from the late-70s until mid-90s (attempts to bring it back in the 2000s were unsucessful), it looks like an awesome mix between an early LR Defender and the VW Thing, with a French-70’s-retro-futurism slant. Leaf-sprung front and back, with a fully selectable transmission setup and body geometry that allows for steep approach and departure angles. Available in 100″ and 120″ wheelbases, and with petrol, diesel, or turbodiesel engines. There aren’t many of them, but it seems most have a utilitarian function, much like the Land Rovers in the UK.

My favorite UMM sighting occurred the morning after a stormy night in Baleal, a still-rural beach area north of Lisbon that is very popular with surfers (not far from Peniche and the world famous Supertubos beach). Watching the churning ocean while waiting for the bus to take me to my next destination, I jealously watched as a UMM pulled into the parking lot, scouted the surf conditions, then whizzed off. Something so romantic and ideal about that scene — rugged 4×4, relaxed Euro-surf lifestyle, energetic waves — I’m trying to figure out how to switch places with the guy driving that truck.

Here’s some UMM info from a fan site about these trucks (click the British flag in the top left corner for English translation). The downloadable manuals have some great diagrams for you guys who get excited about schematics (like me). Also, another fan page full of UMM pics (including the UMM Popemobile).

And below are the pics and video I took of a few of the trucks I encountered.