All hail the mighty Unimog!
Paul Fisher | 7 July 2019
The Unimog has been a source of fascination ever since I had a Corgi Toy version back in the 1970s. That in itself was a mini-engineering marvel with real suspension that sprung two separate drive axles, rubber tyres and a working tipper. Perfect for delivering sugar lumps across the tea table.
The real thing has been in production by Mercedes-Benz since the 1950s. And what a thing it is. It has just been voted the off-roader of the year by OffRoad in the Special Vehicles category for the fifteenth time in a row.
History of the Mog
- 1945: The former head of Aeroengine Design gets an idea.
- From 1951: production begins Daimler-Benz in Gaggenau
- From 1974: addition of heavy-duty Unimog versions
- From 1992: introduction of the 408/418 series for municipal work
- From 2000: new U 300 – U 500 models
Like other classic off-road vehicles, the Unimog is loved not just because it’s an extremely capable machine but also because of its rugged styling, which has remained largely intact since the first design draft by one Albert Friedrich.
The Unimog kinda looks like a giant toy, maybe that’s the appeal.
Friedrich was head of aero engine design at Daimler-Benz and he put together a team of engineers to turn his sketches into reality.
Large-scale production began in 1948 at the Boehringer factory in Schwäbisch Gmünd, later transferring to Daimlers Gaganau plant in 1951.
From 1953 the Mog officially became a Mercedes-Benz truck and got a shiny star on its grille.
Two years later, the Unimog S was lunched and became popular among armed forces and, later on, also among civilian users, particularly among globetrotters and explorers. Produced until 1980, it became the bestseller in Unimog history.
As requirements became more demanding and diversified, Daimler-Benz expanded the Unimog range by the larger 406 series from 1963 – the one on which the Corgi model was based.
In 1972, Daimler-Benz resumed the original idea of an agricultural vehicle – and for many years, the Unimog was joined by the MB-trac agricultural tractor.
Two years later, the first units from the 425 series – heavy-duty Unimogs for particularly demanding tractor work – came off the assembly lines.
From 1985, Daimler-Benz replaced the entire Unimog range in several steps. A few years later, the top-of-the-range Unimog U 2450 L 6×6 was launched, a three-axle vehicle with an impressive engine output of 177 kW (240 hp).
From 1992, the company offered the new lightweight and medium-duty 408 and 419 series, which were particularly suitable for municipal work.
Shortly afterwards, the special edition Funmog arrived which is the closest the Mog ever came to being a car.
According to Mercedes, the Unimog had been discovered being used as a mobile disco in Japan. “The old battle horse with its advanced engineering, a died-in-the-wool commercial vehicle, was all of a sudden a big hit among youngsters,” says the official history.
Daimler-Benz reacted by launching two Funmogs. One was a pitch-black Mog from the heavy-duty series and, the other a red-metallic unit from the new medium-duty series pictured above).
Both featured plenty of chrome trim and became a sought after cult vehicle for the automotive in-crowd. It was was the blinged up G-Wagen of its day. You will be lucky to find one today, however.
Back to commercial use and the small UX 100, a compact implement carrier, predominantly designed to appeal to municipal authorities was launched in 1996.
The new U 300 – U 500 series
The new Unimog U 300, U 400 und U 500 have been available since 2000 are also tailored to municipal work.
The vehicles combine spectacular looks with a practical as well as attractively designed cab made of fibre composite materials, a driver’s workplace called VarioPilot that can be moved from left to right and back again within seconds, a new VarioPower high-performance hydraulic system and engines with output ratings up to 205 kW (280 hp).
The combination with fixed or interchangeable implements and bodies creates a system that offers exceptional variety, flexibility and productivity.