The Biggest Benz, Minus The Bling
Long before the Jeep Rubicon ever crushed its first grain of dirt, Mercedes-Benz built an unparalleled vehicle equipped with factory selectable lockers, massive tires, and portal axles that most kids can pedal a big wheel under. Part farm tractor, part people-mover, and all business, the Universal-Motorgert-or Unimog, as it's often referred to-is one of the original do-it-all wheelers. For most of us, having a GM pickup as a daily driver and an International Scout as a trail rig might sound like everything we need, but for Frank Navratil it was time for a change. With a strong admiration for the Unimog and looking for a more spacious wheeler, Frank sold both his rigs and imported the massive 416-series Unimog direct from Germany. Equipped with 46-inch tires, a naturally aspirated 5.7L diesel, and a unique torque-tube suspension, Frank's adventures crawling over the rocky-mountain terrain in Big Bear, California, were going to get a lot easier.
When we first caught up with this rare four-door on the trail, we were amazed at how easily the heavy Benz climbed hills. Though we cringed a bit when we learned of its 62-mph top speed and are still amazed at the sheer size of Frank's new daily driver, we can't stop thinking how badly we really don't need-but must have-one of these German monsters!
The Unimog's suspension works by connecting torque tubes from the transfer case to the differentials, which also protects and encases the driveshafts. Assisted by front and rear track bars to keep side-to-side movement in check, this setup is designed to prevent the suspension from binding under articulation and uses coil springs at each corner to allow the axles to travel. And since the 416s are something of a workhorse, two air-assisted calipers are on each front wheel to stop the rig and whatever its heavy cargo may be.
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1979 Mercedes-Benz Unimog (416)
Engine: 5.7L six-cylinder
Transmission: UG 2/27 six-speed manual (six forward, two reverse)
Transfer case: Hi, Low, two- and four-wheel drive
Front Axle: Factory MB Portals with selectable air lockers, air-assist dual calipers, 6.52 end ratio
Rear Axle: Factory MB Portals with selectable air lockers, 6.52 end ratio
Springs & Such: Torque tube with coils
Tires & Wheels: 395/85 R20 Michelin XMLs (46-inch-tall) on factory steel 20x11
Other Stuff: Snorkel, Onboard air, air horns