From food to mo­bil­ity; the Un­i­mog

Motor Equipment News - - DIESEL INDUSTRY NEWS -

Just over 70 years ago, on Oc­to­ber 9, 1946, the Un­i­mog Pro­to­type 1 com­pleted its first test drive. Chief de­signer Hein­rich Rösler him­self was at the wheel, and he tested the pro­to­type, which had no bon­net and was fully laden with wood, on rough for­est roads.

The rea­son he de­vel­oped it was sim­ple: in 1945 and 1946, there was a dire lack of food in Ger­many, and it was this sit­u­a­tion that gave Al­bert Friedrich, who for many years was head of air­craft engine development at Daim­ler-Benz, his idea of an agri­cul­tural mo­torised ve­hi­cle which should help to in­crease agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Not only did it mark the end of World War II, but 1945 was an el­e­men­tal year for the Un­i­mog idea and its re­al­i­sa­tion. Al­bert Friedrich re­turned to StuttgartUn­tertürkheim in June 1945.

He wanted to help with the re­con­struc­tion of Daim­ler-Benz, and at the same time con­trib­ute his idea of an agri­cul­tural mo­torised ma­chine. On Au­gust 4 of that year, an en­gi­neer for Daim­ler-Benz, un­der the lead­er­ship of Friedrich, drew up the first blue­print for such a ve­hi­cle.

This blue­print was re­vised, and on Septem­ber 7 1945 it was pre­sented to the board of com­pany di­rec­tors – and it went down like a lead bal­loon; they showed lit­tle in­ter­est in the project.

But the team re­fused to give up, and in­stead took the project blue­print on Oc­to­ber 9 1945 to the Production Con­trol Com­mis­sion of the re­spon­si­ble Amer­i­can mil­i­tary au­thor­ity, with an ap­pli­ca­tion for per­mis­sion to man­u­fac­ture 10 test ve­hi­cles. This ap­proval was granted on Novem­ber 20 1945 by the re­spon­si­ble Food and Agri­cul­tural Group of the Bri­tish and Amer­i­can oc­cu­pied zone.

By then, Friedrich had in­creased his contacts with the met­al­work com­pany Erhard and Söhne in nearby Sch­wäbisch Gmünd, so that in De­cem­ber 1945 the “L” department (for Land­wirtschaft, i.e. agri­cul­ture) was able to make the project re­al­ity.

Friedrich passed the lead­er­ship of the project on to his for­mer sub­or­di­nate, de­signer Hein­rich Rösler, who took up the post on Jan­uary 2 1946.

In only a few weeks, a new over­all plan was de­vel­oped, with the engine and gear­box po­si­tioned di­rectly to the right of the mid­dle line of the ve­hi­cle. This meant that the torque tubes – which pro­tect the drive shafts – could be at right an­gles to the axles. As a re­sult, only four drive joints were needed for the chas­sis. This was a bril­liant de­sign which, 70 years later, is still used for the Un­i­mog of the highly mo­bile U 4023/U 5023 se­ries.

Be­tween Jan­uary and March 1946, the def­i­ni­tion of the “en­ginedriven multi-pur­pose ma­chine” was also fi­nalised: Top speed of 50 km/h (a trac­tor was only half as fast). Sprung and damped axles. All-wheel drive and dif­fer­en­tial locks at the front and rear. Brakes on the front and rear axles. Frame de­sign sim­i­lar to cars and trucks. Two-seater cab with a closed cover and up­hol­stered seats. Aux­il­iary load area over the rear axle with 1.0 ton load-bear­ing ca­pac­ity. Static weight dis­tri­bu­tion: 2/3 on the front axle, 1/3 on the rear axle. Im­ple­ments at­tach­able on the front, mid­dle, sides and rear. Power take-off shafts at the front, mid­dle and rear. Power take-off for im­ple­ments. In March 1946, Hans Za­bel, from Gagge­nau, who had been part of the project from the be­gin­ning, coined the term Un­i­mog (Uni­ver­sal-Mo­torGerät, i.e. uni­ver­sally ap­pli­ca­ble mo­torised ma­chine).

By 1954, the “uni­ver­sally ap­pli­ca­ble mo­torised ma­chine for agri­cul­ture” had be­come a ve­hi­cle that could be equipped with 66 dif­fer­ent agri­cul­tural ap­pli­ances. Change and tech­ni­cal progress were con­stant com­pan­ions in the course of the Un­i­mog his­tory.

To date, there have been 30 dif­fer­ent model se­ries and al­most 400,000 ve­hi­cles sold. No other com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle in the world can func­tion as a trac­tor, tow­ing ve­hi­cle, truck, fire fight­ing and ex­plo­ration ve­hi­cle, bus and work­ing ma­chine.

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