‘All have build quality that would shame a nuclear bunker’
It’s not often that the Shah of Iran and Pope John Paul II get mentioned within the pages of CCW, but each has a connection to this rugged off-roader. The former is reputed to have first suggested the idea to Mercedes-Benz in the early 1970s, and latter received a G-Wagen in the form of a Popemobile.
The ‘Geländewagen’, originally intended for military use, was developed by Mercedes and SteyrPuch of Austria. The civilian version arrived in 1979 offering buyers a choice of short- or longwheelbases and a now-rare soft-top variant. Powered by a range of petrol and diesel motors all versions were extremely capable off-road and boasted build quality that would have shamed a nuclear bunker, which certainly explains why so many survive today. It also explains the robust values, with even ropey ones fetching upwards of £5000. Mercedes soon embarked on a programme of development that saw the addition of more kit and luxury, but by the first decade of the 21st century, the model – by this point renamed G-class – had attracted the cool and hip, mostly thanks to the attentions of tuning expert, AMG, which shoved immensely powerful V8 engines beneath the imposing bonnet (the 2006 G55 managed a useful 493hp) and added a healthy dose of bling. But it’s the earlier models we’re interested in here, and if you need to head into the muddy stuff then you’ll discover just how capable these cars are. They feel unstoppable and the solid engineering has you convinced that it will last forever. The cabins are a bit austere, and the performance of some variants is glacial and fuel economy is a worry on others, but its abilities onroad or off makes it easy to see why the ‘G’ has such a loyal following today.