It is virtually impossible to flip on a TV set these days without seeing one. Its the new workhorse of the ground trooper nicknamed the Hummer.

The Hummer has, as any good GI knows, an official name and number. Hummers are High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles, or series M998. The Hummers have replaced the old General Purpose Vehicle (G-P) or Jeep.The Hummer nickname comes not so much from the initials (HMMWV) as from the manufacturer AM General.

AM General decided it wanted to pick a name rather than let it just happen. Some GIs do call it the HummVee, but Hummer has become so well established it will most likely prevail.

AM General, the prime contractor building Hummers, was formerly best known as a bus builder. While bits and pieces of the Hummer come from Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, the so-called big three passed on the contract for the vehicle.

Hummers are designed to be a vehicle that will do just about everything. With up to 30 different body configurations, it certainly comes close. Hummers can be passenger carriers, pickup trucks, ambulances and there are even lightly armored fighting versions that carry TOW missiles or machine guns.

A base Hummer lists for about $26,000, and an ambulance, complete with stretchers and filtration system, rolls out the door for a bit over $40,000.

So far the United States has purchased some 80,000 Hummers for use mainly by the Army and Marine Corps. Another 4,000 have wound up in the inventories of friendly nations.

Hummers have a payload of 1.25 tons. They have four-wheel drive, a three-speed automatic transmission with a two-speed transfer case. A Hummer can climb just about anything except a tree.

Hummers are powered by a 6.2 liter V-8 diesel engine built by General Motors. It is rated at 150 horsepower, with a recommended top speed of 65 miles an hour. AM General says under emergency conditions Hummers can reach 80.

There is already plenty of interest in Hummers from buyers who would like to convert them into off-road recreation vehicles. But the Hummers can't be sold in their present form to civilians.