Buy­ing Guide

Mercedes G-Wa­gen

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - WORDS Chris Ran­dall PHOTOGRAPHY Magic Car Pics/ CCW ar­chive

‘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.

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