10 Weird Facts About The Mercedes-Benz Unimog
Ask most car enthusiasts to name the ultimate off-road Mercedes and they’d probably say a G-Class. After all, the G Wagon was a European farmer’s favorite long before it became a hit with the population of Beverly Hills. While they’re not entirely wrong, there’s another Mercedes product that trumps the G Class in every way: it’s the Unimog.
The giant, lumbering off-road beast is a rare sight in most places, as these trucks are designed for use in remote areas and so almost never get seen on the road. RELATED: These Custom Mercedes-Benz Unimogs Are Ready For Anything Still, they’re surprisingly common around the world, with Mercedes-Benz estimating to have sold over 400,000 of them over the years.
The concept for the Mog came from the collective minds of three engineers, Albert Friedrich, Hans Zabel and Heinrich Rossler. In post-war Germany, they turned their attention to making the most versatile tractor ever, and the resulting design formed the blueprint for one of history’s most enduring off-road automobiles. Let’s take a look at ten weird things most people won’t know about the Unimog and its backstory.
10 It’s Been Made The Same Way Since 1951
The Unimog’s unique formula is exactly the same as it was when the first truck was sold in 1951.
It uses four equally-sized wheels, all-wheel drive, diff locks, and power outlets for all manner of different setups and uses.
It took until 1957 for the first Unimog to be made with an enclosed driver’s cab, but since then the truck has been largely unchanged in its basic construction. Today, it’s even more versatile than it was in the ’50s, but that’s largely thanks to improvements in technology rather than any fundamental changes in the vehicle’s design.
9 There’s Almost Nothing It Can’t Do
The main commercial appeal of the Unimog is simply how versatile it is, as it can be rigged up to become almost anything. It can carry water supplies to workers in remote mines thanks to its relentless off-road capability, or it can be set up as a fire truck to combat forest fires.
Via Atkinson Vos
Its configurable power output means that attachments can be ‘plugged in’ too, so it can easily become a 4×4 camper van with all the mod cons of a luxury motor home. Buying a Mog will be a costly endeavor, but it’s arguably the most versatile vehicle on the planet.
8 It Can Be Dropped From A Plane
Via Wikimedia Commons
Its rugged all-terrain capabilities made it a hit with armies around the world, including with the US Army. In the ’50s, Unimogs were transported via planes and helicopters and then dropped off those planes to land them at their destinations.
Pictures of this process are rare but do exist, although they can’t be embedded here for copyright reasons.
Via Wikimedia Commons
The sight of a parachuting Unimog might be a weird one, but it’s a good reminder of just how tough these vehicles are. There aren’t many other trucks that could survive being dropped thousands of feet through the air and still be usable when they hit the ground, parachute or no parachute.
7 It’s Also A Train
As well as being a truck, the Unimog is also a fully functional train. As illogical as that might seem, it doesn’t actually take that much to turn a Mog into a railway-ready cargo hauler.
In fact, it just requires attachments that fit underneath the truck and make it suitable for running on rails.
Unimogs are used all over the world as road-rail hybrids, as they can drive on public roads to a broken or faulty piece of track and then drive along the track to fix it. With more powerful engines optioned in, they’re also capable of pulling stranded train carriages back to safety.
6 The Funmog Was An S-Class Style Unimog
They might be unbelievably useful in all manner of industrial and commercial situations, but that hasn’t stopped Mercedes from toying with the idea of turning the Mog into a huge luxury vehicle. In 1994, the Funmog was debuted, which took a Unimog and added in a number of the luxuries and tech features out of the executive S Class Sedan.
Only a few were ever built as test vehicles and the Funmog never actually reached production, but it did win an industry design award for its unique take on the big luxury vehicle.
It would certainly have been cool to see Funmogs on the road, but the novelty might quickly wear off for the owner when they’d struggle to park it outside their luxury hotels and residences.
5 It Has A Built-In Brake… In Its Engine
Most people wouldn’t look at a Mog and think of it as being particularly efficient, but in fact, it has several features to make it as efficient and hard-wearing as possible. It uses an engine brake when the throttle is released to help slow down heavy loads and provide a smoother drive in start-stop conditions.
It also helps reduce wear on the brakes, which will mean longer intervals before the truck has to have its pads replaced.
There are two engine brake speeds available so it can be either used in normal road conditions or when towing a heavy load.
4 They Make Great Racing Vehicles
Another surprising fact about the Unimog is that it’s a proven competition race winner that’s, among other things, won the Dakar Rally twice. With its modular construction and tough-but-simple setup, it’s easy to convert a truck into a racing vehicle, with a more powerful engine and a more forgiving suspension setup. RELATED: These Are The Most-Winning Dakar Rally Drivers Of All Time
Unimogs have competed in countless rally raid events around the world, and recently won the Breslau Rally in dramatic style.
Thick mud, ruts, or even rivers won’t slow the truck down, which makes it a fearsome competitor and one of the most capable competition trucks out there.
3 It Can Hit Up To 68 MPH
They might be huge and have all the aerodynamics of a seven-bed mansion, but Unimogs can keep up with traffic on highways if they need to. Non-European trucks can cruise up to 110 kph (68 mph), whereas Euro models are limited to 80 kph (50 mph).
This will depend on the exact specification, of course: Top Gear estimates there are over 1,000 different ways to spec a new Unimog today, with a range of engines that will greatly affect overall power and top speed. But, for those that need it, this is a truck that could overtake some semis if it needed to.
2 Only A Few Hundred Were Officially Sold In The US
Via Bring a Trailer
Despite their global popularity, buying a Unimog in the US is a difficult prospect.
They don’t often come up for sale, and when they do, they’re often very expensive. This is mainly due to their rarity. Thanks to contracts with the US Army and some commercial importers, there are a few classic Unimogs floating about, but it’s not known how many.
Via Bring a Trailer
There are also about 200 modern trucks from a limited run that Mercedes officially imported over in the mid-’00s, but after that, the supply dries up.
Hopefully, Mercedes will decide to begin importing new Mogs again soon, but until then Americans will have to either settle for a classic example or outbid the competition when a newer example comes up for sale.
1 There’s An Official Unimog Museum
Anyone who wants to find out even more about Unimogs and their history should take a trip to the Unimog museum that’s just outside the truck’s original factory in Gaggenau, Germany. It houses a collection of trucks from over the decades, including many rare variants.
Visitors can also experience the Unimog first-hand as a passenger through one of its guided experiences. It may be an unusual truck, but there’s no doubt that the Unimog is one of the most capable vehicles ever built, and fingers crossed there’s plenty of life left yet for this weird and wonderful machine.
The Mercedes-Benz S600 is one of the most opulent luxury cars money can buy.
Related TopicsAbout The AuthorMark Cowley (268 Articles Published)
Mark covers a variety of topics for HotCars, from the latest pickup trucks to obscure Japanese sedans.
A regular fixture at car shows around the UK and Europe, if there’s a weird model or obscure manufacturer, he probably knows about it.
Having previously worked as a radio presenter, he knows a thing or two about Top 10 lists, and enjoys writing them as much as presenting them.
Mark is a graduate of the University of Sheffield’s English department and is currently based out of Birmingham, UK.
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