Un­i­mog driv­ers want to see X-Class do 45°

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - ALWYN VILJOEN

WHEN I told a group of Un­i­mog own­ers about the new MercedesBenz bakkie that had its in­ter­na­tional launch in Cape Town last week, they asked “why?”

That Daim­ler pre­dicts huge growth in de­mand for dou­ble cabs in the next decade and wants to ride this wave with the world’s first pre­mium bakkie did not wash with this crowd.

That a team of 25 de­sign­ers spent over a year to en­sure the X-Class is the first truly pre­mium bakkie didn’t im­press them ei­ther, nor did the hard work by the sus­pen­sion en­gi­neers that made the track of the X-Class seven cen­time­tres wider than that of the new Navara so that the plush Merc dou­ble cab ba­si­cally only shares a chas­sis and a fuel tank with the Nis­san.

What did man­age to raise an eye­brow was the claim that the X-Class can climb a 100% gra­di­ent. In the wild, this trans­lates into a 45° slope, which is steep even for moun­tain goats and Un­i­mog driv­ers.

“I would like to see that done,” said one of the mem­bers of the Un­i­mog Fre­unde Club of South Africa, who will be cel­e­brat­ing the 71st an­niver­sary of this Swiss Army knife of trucks at Pretoria’s Cars in the Park on Au­gust 6.

The mem­ber had just watched a new U4000 climb the 45° slope at Gerotek, (in­set) a feat that no one else at­tempted.

“Been there done that, be­sides, too many things will fall out,” was the ex­pla­na­tion.

Club pres­i­dent Ste­fan Coet­zee said be­tween 30 to 35 of these camp­ing Un­i­mogs will gather to cel­e­brate Un­i­mog’s 71st.

“It will be quite an oc­ca­sion for us and we will have a very rep­re­sen­ta­tive turnout of the Un­i­mog’s en­tire his­tory. We are ex­pect­ing to have mod­els dat­ing back as far as 1951 and 1952, while we are hop­ing to have the lat­est 2017 model here as well,” he said.

Un­like the X-Class, which uses a choice of one Nis­san-based or three Mercedes-Benz en­gines, to­day’s Un­i­mog uses the OM 904 LA turbo diesel en­gine from the Axor truck that does not mind SA’s dirty diesel.

Its wheel track still spans 1,27 me­tres, as did the orig­i­nal Un­i­mogs which were num­bered from 401, and were used as nim­ble, four-wheel drive trac­tors here to do forestry work and trans­port rail­way work­ers, trav­el­ling on the rails.

To­day’s U4000 and U5000 vari­ants are much larger but still de­signed to de­liver the best in off-road and on-road ef­fi­ciency, whether it is to fight fires in woods or fix rail­ways.

In fact, one of the two 2017 “Hochgelän­degängig”, or highly mo­bile cross coun­try Un­i­mogs in SA, is used to shunt the Gau­train.

Mario Alve­los, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager at MercedesBenz, said the Un­i­mog’s se­cret sauce is in its hub re­duc­tion, but the truck’s other su­per pow­ers, like a 1,2 ford­ing depth and a quick re­verse but­ton to rock the ’mog out of a jam all help this ve­hi­cle to be­come “sev­eral trucks in one”, from a fire fighter car­ry­ing 10 tons to a sta­ble cherry picker un­der high volt­age wires. Alve­los said SA had the big­gest recre­ational Un­i­mog club in the world.

But due to their start­ing price of some R1,7 mil­lion, few fam­i­lies can af­ford a new Un­i­mog.

Which fi­nally an­swers that “why?” The X-Class prom­ises to be a dou­ble cab at least as ca­pa­ble as Merc’s G-Wagon, more com­fort­able than the ’mog and cheaper than both.

PHOTOS: ALWYN VILJOEN

A ‘Baby Mog’ has pride of place in front of 13 of the finest vet­eran Un­i­mog campers and bakkies in South Africa. The own­ers re­cently con­verged at the Gerotek test­ing grounds in Pretoria and will cel­e­brate 71 years of Un­i­mog at Pretoria’s Cars in the Park on Au­gust 6.

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