Unimog drivers want to see X-Class do 45°
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.
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.