Mercedes-Benz Unimog – the all-rounder.

Whether it's in the bone-dry Gobi desert or the tundra and taiga of Siberia: There is barely a challenge which the Mercedes-Benz Unimog would not be capable of taking on.

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Unimog – The sports vehicle among the workhorses.

It is something of a paradox. When you think of a sports car, the first thing that comes to mind is long straight roads. Freedom accompanied by the sound of a roaring engine. But in reality, freedom comes to an end at the edge of the road and the exclusive vehicle becomes a status symbol. Anyone who wants to enjoy true freedom should better trust in the Unimog. Loads, inclines, mud, water and rocky terrain are the playground for the Unimog and its drivers. Asking why a van platform was writing about the Unimog is a legitimate question. But seriously: who cares about categories? The Unimog definitely doesn’t. Although originally a tractor unit with the power of a truck, it also shares the versatility of a van. Reason enough to pay tribute to this working hero.

A Unimog Type S on a steep mountain slope on a test track.

The Unimog Type S was designed for extreme situations and is the vehicle of choice for the military and use in conflict areas.

You know the Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles. But do you know this dream vehicle?

From an all-purpose tractor to the universal motor platform.

The history of the Unimog stretches back 70 years into the past and begins in 1945. After the Second World War, Germany is an agricultural nation. The majority of the population lives from agriculture. Albert Friedrich, an engineer for aircraft engines at Daimler-Benz AG, is looking for a way to make heavy manual labor easier and eliminate the need for beasts of burden. His idea is as simple as it is brilliant: an all-purpose tractor with a track width of two rows of potatoes. This principle remains part of today’s Unimog: four equally large wheels, all-wheel drive, portal axles, ladder frame and coil springs along with differential locks on both axes have long been an integral part of the successful design.

With the help of his friends, Hans Zabel and Heinrich Rössler, Friedrich continues to refine his drafts. The trio finally finds the first partner with Erhard & Söhne. A curious alliance given that the company is actually a jewelry maker and door handle manufacturer for exclusive Daimler vehicles. That is why it is even more remarkable that the first prototype of the Unimog is revealed to the world at the beginning of 1946. Mass production finally begins in 1948

The Böhringer Unimog parked in front of a rural backdrop

Ox head instead of the star. The 25 hp Böhringer Unimog with a Daimler engine.

From ox head to the Mercedes star.

Four years later, in 1949, the Unimog demands more. Erhard & Söhne has reached the limits of its capacity and the production of the Unimog is relocated from Boehringer to Göppingen. The Daimler-Benz AG supplier produces the Unimog until autumn 1950, including Daimler engines until the financial demands ultimately threaten to become excessive. Then the Unimog finally finds its true home at the Daimler-Benz truck plant in Gaggenau.

Unimog 401 on the track through a field

The Unimog U401 with a closed driver’s cabin and “frog eyes”.

Yet the Unimog still does not quite look like a Mercedes-Benz. Its front bears the ox head icon with U-shaped horns designed by Hans Zabel. Nor does it have a roof. A folding cover is all that protects the driver. This changes in 1953 and the Unimog ultimately becomes a Mercedes-Benz vehicle. In addition to the star on the radiator grille, the Unimog is also equipped with a closed driver’s cabin from Westfalia with the design that will shape the face of all subsequent Unimog generations up until today.

Lasting popularity and diversity.

In subsequent years, the Unimog rapidly gains popularity and becomes one of the most important commercial vehicles in the young Federal Republic of Germany. After 1955, its popularity gains new heights with the founding of the German Federal Armed Forces. In 1960, the Unimog even conquers the rails as a powerful multi-modal vehicle. To date, around 400,000 units from 30 different series have been sold. Covering every single series would be an extremely time-consuming project and the nomenclature of the series and models is rather confusing. However, we have compiled a list of the most influential Unimog models in the info box for everyone who does not have time to visit the Unimog Museum in Gaggenau.

History of the Unimog.

History of the Unimog

Unimog (1949 – 1951)

Naturally, the very first Unimog series from Boehringer is essential. With 25 hp and the Ox symbol on the hood, it is the original Unimog.

Unimog U 401 & U 402 (1953 – 1957)

It is easy to see how the first Unimog with the Mercedes star on the radiator grille resembles today’s models. It was also the first Unimog with a steel driver’s cabin. It earned itself the nickname frog eye because of its headlight design.

Unimog U 404 Type S (1955 – 1975)

The first highly mobile all-terrain Unimog with a gasoline engine made the agricultural machine an appealing option for the military. The German military and foreign armies numbered among the largest customers. Here it serves as a tank mock-up. It is the most-produced Unimog series of all time. In 1975, the best-seller was replaced by the U435. However, the Unimog’s sales declined sharply after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

ATF Dingo (from 1990)

Strictly speaking, this is not a Unimog. However, the German military’s armored transport vehicles still rely on the Unimog’s robust chassis and demonstrate the uniqueness and popularity of the Unimog platform.

Unimog U 300 & U 3000 (from 2002)

These two models represent a new era in Unimog production. In 2002, the production was relocated to Wörth am Rhein. From this time onward, the series are divided into implement carriers (U 300, etc.) and highly off-roadable Unimog (U 3000, etc.). Optimized production processes manufacture the Unimog as we know it today.

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A Unimog drive through a shallow pond in a forest

With the Unimog, there is no need to spend long fishing in troubled waters. The series 437.4 was presented at the IAA 2002 and includes the highly off-roadable models U3000, U4000 and U5000.

A Hollywood success story of the Unimog.

The three auxiliary drives (also known as power take-off shafts) are another clever aspect of the Unimog concept. The power take-off shafts at the front, in the middle and at the rear can drive additional equipment such as mowers and pumps. This system combined with the Unimog’s high payload makes it a unique multi-talent. The image gallery shows just how versatile and diverse the Unimog’s uses are.

Even today the Universal Motor Platform has a unique place within the Mercedes-Benz company. The classic vehicle has been assembled by hand with a passion at the plant in Wörth since 2002. Only certified Unimog specialists are allowed to work on the assembly line because the robust chassis demands special skills. Mercedes-Benz continues the long-standing tradition of collaboration with numerous body and equipment manufacturers and “lends” the Unimog chassis to specialists from a variety of different fields.

Unimog near a high-voltage power cable in the mountains

The Unimog enables highly specific vehicle variants. One example is a lifting platform for working on high-voltage power cables in the mountains.

An all-terrain Unimog on the set of Jurassic World

The Unimog stole the show from the escaped dinosaurs on the set of the blockbuster film Jurassic World.

Unimog fire-fighting vehicle on a hill

The Unimog serves as a reliable companion, working as a fire service vehicle in mountainous regions where there is a high risk of forest fires.

Unimog with two mower arms drives along a road

Like a giant spider, the Unimog special vehicle rapidly mows the greenery along the highway and automatically moves around the delineators.

Unimog hangs from a cable car

A U25 from the construction company STUAG is transported high up into the Alps via cable car. In ski regions, the cable car is a popular means of transporting the Unimog waste disposal vehicles to the workplace.

Funmog parked outside an opera house

Off to the opera with the Unimog? Like we said: the Unimog can do anything. The “Funmog” variant from 1994 was a concept vehicle presenting the Unimog as a leisure vehicle.

Unimog Black Edition on the road

There is nothing it can’t do. The Unimog Black Edition from Brabus presents the Unimog as a luxury vehicle, complete with leather upholstery.


The new Unimog.

There is no doubt that the Unimog’s target group has become smaller over the decades. Higher purchasing costs and the need for a truck license are some of the reasons. Nevertheless, the Unimog pays off as a durable investment in the future. In 2013, the Unimog was completely revised and the design modernized. Thanks to the efficient engine generation with exhaust-gas after-treatment, the Unimog is a clean solution in comparison to most tractors and also fulfils the Euro 6 emission standard. The Unimog is available in numerous variants. As an implement carrier and also as a highly off-roadable vehicle.

Unimog U218 parked on a test track

The U 218 implement carrier is especially agile and compact, thanks to its smaller tyres and small turning circle.

Side shot of a U423

The U423 combines the off-road characteristics of the highly off-roadable series with the flexibility and towing power of the implement carriers.

Interior shot of the cockpit of the Unimog implement carrier

The steering wheel and the pedals can be moved to the opposite side of the driver’s cabin.

The Unimog implement carrier.

The implement carrier is especially versatile. It is capable of being equipped for up to 1000 applications. The large driver’s cabin with excellent visibility and comfortable interior distinguishes the Unimog from its predecessors. In addition to the Unimog’s typical connection options and all-wheel drive advantages, the implement carrier also features a camera system at the front. This significantly simplifies working with external devices. Smaller tyres are possible for many models such as the U 218. In comparison, the U 423 is more adventurous. In addition, the Unimogs are also available with small wheelbases beginning with 2,800 mm. The benefit: a smaller turning circle. The movable steering wheel represents the pinnacle of the Unimog’s variability. In a matter of moments, the steering wheel and pedals can be shifted from one side of the vehicle to the other. However, the implement carrier is first and foremost a powerhouse. Its powerful engines deliver up to 220 kW and 299 hp. On the road, the Unimog has a top speed of 90 km/h. On rails, as a multimodal vehicle from ZAGRO, the Unimog can even move an incredible towing load of 1,000 tonnes.

Unimog’s tyre pressure control system in use

The tyre pressure control system enables the vehicle to distribute the pressure over a greater surface. This is advantageous in the agricultural industry as it leaves shallower tracks on the ground.

The highly off-roadable Unimog.

The mountain climber leaves any truck and van behind. Thanks to its typical portal axles, the Unimog has a ground clearance of half a meter. The Unimog also has no fear of water thanks to its wading depth of 1.20 meters. It proves its climbing talent thanks to its large spring travel with axle articulation of up to 30° and a climbing capability of up to 110% (approximately 45°). It can also handle steep driving slopes of up to 50° (depending on the equipment) thanks to its short chassis overhang.

Its last update not only added an optional double cabin to the all-terrain version but also featured a slightly modified engine layout. The positioning slightly further to the front lowers the vehicle’s center of gravity, an additional advantage when driving off-road while fully loaded. The Unimog is available in two variants, the U4023 and U5023. The two models primarily differ with regard to the frame and axle design. This results in a 4.5 tonne higher payload for the U5023, bringing the total payload to 14.5 tonnes.

The Unimog on a twist test track.

The Unimog’s welded frame can withstand twists of up to half a meter.

The Unimog on an incline on a test track.

The Unimog can handle inclines of up to 110% (slightly more than 45°).

The highly off-roadable Unimog drives through a water obstacle.

No fear of the depths. The Unimog effortlessly handles wading depths of up to 1.20 meters. At this depth, a Mercedes-AMG GT would be almost completely under water.


Far from finished.

We could continue forever. Simply sitting in a Unimog while it tackles an off-road obstacle course is an incredible amount of fun. The Unimog is truly fascinating in every situation. That is probably because in this vehicle, nothing seems impossible. The Unimog’s history is just as exciting as its present because these exceptionally talented vehicles enjoy enduring popularity and even the oldest of them can still handle the roads and rough terrain. Which sports car can claim that?

Technical data – implement carrier and highly off-roadable Unimog in comparison.

Implement carrier

Engine

Straight four-cyclinder

Power output (kW/hp)

115/156 – 220/299

Gearbox

Permanent all-wheel drive

Top speed

89 km/h

Driving slope angle

25° – 35° (front)

Wheelbase

2,800 – 3,900 mm

Permitted gross vehicle weight

10 t – 16.5 t

Turning circle

12.6 – 16.9 m

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Highly off-roadable Unimog

Engine

Straight four-cyclinder

Power output (kW /hp)

170/231

Gearbox

Activatable all-wheel drive

Top speed

89 km/h

Driving slope angle

42°/46° – 46°/50° (front – rear)

Wheelbase

3,850 mm

Permitted gross vehicle weight

10.3 t – 15 t

Turning circle

16.3 m

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Photos: Mercedes Benz

Sprinter

Regardless of what job you have to tackle – the Sprinter will make your day-to-day tasks easier. And even if those tasks are weighty ones, together, you’ll move mountains. Thanks to a host of different variants and over 600 optional features, the Sprinter can meet a wide variety of requirements.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
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