What can be said about the Unimog that hasn’t already been crushed into the earth under its huge skinny tires? Back when Dr. Ferdinand Unimog had his original idea for a short-wheelbase cabover 4×4 after WWII, it was already unstoppable. After being absorbed by Mercedes-Benz the ‘mog proliferated into basically the most ultimate agricultural / military / utility / offroad vehicle on the planet. There have been infinity versions of the Unimog (seriously, scroll down through the Wikipedia article); it can seemingly be made in any configuration, to be used for any imaginable task. That’s a lot of superlatives in one paragraph, but the Ultimate Universal-Motor-Gerat deserves them all (and ok, there was no such guy as Dr. Ferdinand Unimog). Find this 1962 Mercedes-Benz Unimog U404 S for sale by MotoExotica in St. Louis on ebay, with bidding near $5k and reserve not met.
Mercedes-Benz may as well just change the lineup’s name to Ubermog and complete their plan for world domination. When the electromagnetic pulses kill all the Priuses and pansy AWD crossovers, cockroaches will take up arms and attempt to kill you. Best to be prepared for the apocalypse and crush their exoskeletons with ease from atop your perch in the Unimog. This particular ‘mog is a U404 S model, likely the most common despite all the “RARE!” claims you can find in craigslist ads for them.
From the cabin of a Unimog visibility is excellent, since you are way out at the front of the vehicle and any roll-over protection is basically nonexistent. That’s because Unimogs don’t roll over. It’s physically and mogtrinsically umpossible. So go ahead and fold back the flimsy canvas top for an even better view. To see some sweet ‘moggin action for yourself, check out this history video and this Russian river-fording compilation on youtube.
Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking this vehicle was diesel powered; I mean, c’mon, aren’t they all? Well, no – it turns out that the U404 S was gasoline powered by one of several stalwart Mercedes inline sixes. See, there’s the distributor cap and spark plugs to prove it, as seen through the tiny slot known as the engine compartment which greets you upon lifting the stubby little hood (if you can reach it). The dealer doesn’t specify but this is likely the M130 engine, a 2.8 liter workhorse making about 110 hp in all its mechanical glory. The ‘mog won’t feel as slow as it sounds though, not with the 8-speed manual transmission. OK, it will feel slow. But you will be so occupied with clutching and shifting every 10 seconds that you won’t notice, or care.
Behold: the portal axle. See how the axle’s centerline is above the center of the wheels? That is one of the best ways to get more ground clearance with a live (solid) axle design, since it moves the spinny bits up into the chassis without the need for even larger tires. Each hub has a gear reduction box that transfers power downwards to the spindle. This multiplies torque but represents more stuff to keep serviced and lubricated. Overall though, the Unimog is an ox and will treat its master well with a minimum of fuss. Oh yeah, there’s another solid portal axle at the other end, giving maximum “flex” or articulation over large obstacles on uneven terrain.
There were awesome ambulance and radio truck Unimogs with boxes on the back, and many owners convert these trucks into expedition campers for extended off-road adventures. If you’re into self sufficiency and going off the grid, check out this cargo box for sale in Portland, Oregon for $4500 which the seller suggests that you should “Mount this thing on a Unimog or some other bad ass machine.” Great idea – build your own camper! Although the wheel wells are in the wrong spot for this ‘mog chassis with the rear axle pushed so far back. Regardless, a small family could survive a lot of nuclear winters in a rig like that.
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This post is part of Daily Turismo’s 2nd Birthday Celebration — DT’s ABCs.
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