The Unimog, the most versatile product in the Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle range, amply demonstrates the creative prescience of the automobile engineers at Daimler AG.
The very first design draft for the Unimog dating from September 1945 already features installation spaces for mowing equipment, a plough, a load platform and a fitting for trailer operation. Today Unimog vehicle technology has reached a level unrivalled anywhere in the world, with three model series for municipal and construction operations, the energy industry, fire protection and the emergency services, combined road/rail applications, agricultural maintenance work and the transport sector, and/or as a carrier for an extraordinary variety of working implements. The universality of this vehicle series, which was clearly intended right from its inception, is still clearly demonstrated by the two oldtimers – the U 2010 from the very first Mercedes-Benz Unimog model series and the U 30 Pullman from the 411 series (produced at the Gaggenau plant from 1956 – 1974). These two oldtimers have a venerable combined age of more than 100 Unimog years!
Operating life increased by limiting engine output – the oldest Unimog in commercial operation
20 years ago, the construction company Hans Kammerdiener GmbH & Co. KG in the small town of Gersfeld in der Rhön purchased the U 2010 third-hand for use on its construction sites. The previous owner had used the old Unimog to carry timber and as a hunting vehicle. Christof Kammerdiener, the owner of the 130-strong company, has a weakness for classic vehicles and has so far only had to invest in new tyres and essential paintwork repairs. Nowadays the company only uses the U 2010 with its front-mounted sweeper to keep the roadways on its construction sites clear. This is very probably the oldest Unimog still in commercial use.
This veteran probably left the Gaggenau production line in 1952, just under one and a half years after Mercedes-Benz commenced Unimog production. Its first owner, who operated a trout farm in Altenfeld/Rhön, registered the vehicle on 7 January 1953. It was powered by the 1.7-litre Mercedes-Benz four-cylinder diesel engine from the passenger car range. This engine was only installed in the U 2010 in downrated form, developing 25 hp. Limiting the output by around 50 percent significantly increased the engine’s operating life, and the effect is felt to this day: still equipped with its original engine, which was approved for a maximum speed of 50 km/h at the time, the 56 year-old Unimog (now registered as a working machine with a max. speed of 6 km/h) still clocks up 200 to 300 operating hours each year.
Involved in the construction of the Felbertauernstraße scenic road
The dream of creating a convenient, non-dangerous Alpine crossing from the Salzburg region and North Tirol to East Tirol, Kärnten and northern Italy that would meet growing transport requirements already took shape a good 80 years ago. 1961 saw the formation of the Felbertauernstraße AG company, which was charged with planning and building the now 36 km long road connection between Mittersill (Salzburg region) and Matrei in East Tirol, as well as the 30 km of service roads needed to maintain this well-known and heavily used north-south Alpine axis. The company has also been one of Austria’s most loyal Unimog customers since 1963.
The Unimog U 30 Pullman from the 411 series, equipped with a large Westfalia “Pullmann” cab (chassis number 411.120-024397) and a 32 hp engine (OM 636) was registered to Felbertauernstraße AG in Mittersill on 5 September 1963. Other technical details of the U 30 to be found in the Austrian “type approval certificate” issued on first registration include: “Two-axle tractor unit with closed cab, 1 driver’s seat, 1 co-driver’s seat, load platform with folding walls, compressed air system for operation of lifting implements, kerb weight 1900 kg, permissible load 1340 kg, permissible gross vehicle weight 3290 kg and payload 1200 kg. Manual transmission with 6 forward and 2 reverse gears.” Felbertauernstraße AG used its first Unimog for seven years before selling it to a trading company in Vienna. But the company remained loyal to the Mercedes-Benz Unimog. “Since 1967 we have always had two Unimog as implement carriers for a wide variety of requirements”, says Michael Köll, the head of operations at Felbertauernstraßen AG. For Köll, the universal applicability of these vehicles with their hydrostatic and hydraulic power systems is a compelling reason for including the Unimog in the vehicle fleet. At present a Unimog U 300 and a U 400 with a mowing door are in operation as implement carriers for crash barrier and tunnel cleaning, winter service and the extensive mowing work required along the almost 70 kilometres of roads.
This oldtimer is now in outstanding condition, having been thoroughly overhauled and restored using original replacement parts by the Austrian Unimog enthusiast Erwin Tuller from St. Kathrein (Steiermark) in 490 working hours extending over two years and seven months. Its reappearance on the Felbertauernstraße scenic road after 46 years was a real highlight for its dedicated owner and the employees of Felbertauernstraße AG. On other occasions Erwin Tuller takes part in classic vehicle rallies with his U 30.
The Gaggenau plant as the cradle of a worldwide success
The very latest production methods were also used for the Unimog when the Mercedes-Benz plant in Gaggenau took up production on 3 June 1951. A total of more than 320,000 units were produced in Gaggenau over a period of 50 years. When Unimog production was relocated to the Mercedes-Benz truck assembly plant in Wörth am Rhein in August 2002, the Unimog departed from its traditional home, however its incorporation into the world’s largest truck plant ensured that it remains rooted in the company’s commercial vehicle business. 25 model series with countless model variants have been produced to date. The never-ending innovative potential of the Unimog is demonstrated by the current off-road implement carriers U 300 to U 500, the all-terrain transport vehicles U 3000 to U 5000 and the U 20 introduced in 2008 as the third Unimog series. As a compact implement carrier in the weight class up to 8.5 t, the latter has the same sophisticated systems as its bigger brothers.
Source: Daimler AG