Pucker factor - that's what Craig Smith's '03 Hummer H2 has going for it. Granted, such a description is a mixed bag, since pucker factor isn't as graphic a description as, say, "off-road rock-whomper," but it works. While a good custom flame job is certainly a positive and creative asset for a project vehicle, it hardly elicits a gut response. Woodys don't excite onlookers to do much more than sigh nostalgically for the good-old days of pulling the boat to the lake with the station wagon, Dad smoking his pipe, and Mom baking brownies for the neighborhood kids.

However, when you combine wood with fire, what you get is a fire hazard. Granted, it's an illusory danger in the case of our featured vehicle, but try telling that to the primitive part of our brain that takes notice of all fears, real or imagined, and sees what it thinks is a huge H2 rolling down the road with burning wood panels bolted onto its sides. It is a convincing effect. Hence, the pucker factor.

Smith is the owner of Infinity Products, maker of dash kits, radar detectors, and other accessories. He wanted his company to stand out at the 2003 SEMA Show and had already modified his share of the requisite Suburbans and Excursions. His friend, Larry Hason, suggested that whatever be done, it be done to an H2. When Smith pitched the project to the boys at Deano's Custom Painting in Tempe, Arizona, they tossed back to him the flaming woody H2 concept. Deano's mainly works on motorcycles but is edging into four-wheeled vehicles - and a good thing, too.

Deano's rendered all the colors with House of Kolor paints. The flames are painted with such detail that the pattern resembles an out-of-control engine fire blazing over the hood and under the faux-wood paneling as if igniting the petroleum-black base color of the body. These aren't cartoon flames, either. They curl, twist, and smoke just like the real thing - particularly where the flames begin to burn through the wood paneling. Smith accurately and succinctly describes the quality of the flame job as, "Cool, way cool!" Expanding on that in a more dignified manner, Smith says, "It was definitely worth having Deano's do the concept and the paint."

In fact, Deano's idea inspired Infinity to create a white-dash overlay for the project that Deano's painted with the same wood grain on the exterior of the vehicle - a color scheme that Deano's also applied to the video monitors hanging from the ceiling (more on these later). But flames do not make a truck project - not in this case, anyway. Deano's did more than set fire to this project. The team handled some of the more mundane body upgrades as well, such as the Dee Zee grilleguard and tube steps. Bud's Service in Mesa, Arizona, upgraded the H2's powerplant with a Vortech supercharger, an intercooler, and swapped the factory headers and exhaust for Borla products, giving the H2 an estimated horsepower of 475 ponies. Infinity mounted 38x13-inch Open Country M/T tires from Toyo onto 18x9-inch Whiskey rims made by Colorado Custom.

Apparently, Audiovox used the vehicle to demo its video products, which is why the mobile electronics maker sprinkled 17 monitors throughout the interior of the vehicle. Included are three flip-down 15-inch screens in the ceiling, 12 7-inch screens, and two headrest monitors. An Audiovox GPS unit supplements the driver's navigation skills, and, interestingly, a rear-mounted camera feeds video to a small monitor in the rearview mirror (both also from Audiovox). In addition, Dynamat sound-damping keeps road noise and other unwanted vibration to a minimum. The remainder of this vehicle is fairly stock - not that it matters, since Infinity accomplished what it wanted with this vehicle.

According to Smith, the H2 woody drew quite a crowd during SEMA, with hundreds of snapshots being taken of the Hummer by passersby who probably came to the same conclusion about the project as Smith had when he first saw the work that was done on it - Cool, way cool!