Avatar photo

June 8, 2011 Vol. 7, No. 12

One of my all-time favorite trucks is a tough little bugger that doesn’t even haul freight and isn’t totally at home on the road. Mind you, it does a zillion other things.

The Unimog.

I even like its name, which is an abbreviation of ‘universal-motor-gerät’, the latter German word meaning ‘tool’ or in this context ‘vehicle’.

Daimler folks have been building the thing for 60 years now and to celebrate its longevity they just had a bit of a celebration at the company’s plant in Wörth, Germany, where all Unimogs have been built since 2002. For the previous 51 years the truck came from its traditional home plant in Gaggenau. The concept vehicle pictured here was built especially for this event, based on the Unimog U 5000 off-road chassis.

In fact, the Mercedes-Benz Unimog didn’t start with the German giant at all, rather with its former head of aircraft engine design, Albert Friedrich, who found himself unemployed after Word War Two. But with an idea.

The little truck was launched in the immediate post-war period, conceived as a farm workhorse that would be superior to conventional farm tractors — but not just as a tractor, also an equipment carrier and general transport vehicle with a road speed of up to 50 km/h (30 mph). Friedrich got his first roadworthy prototype together in 1946 but didn’t have one ready for public introduction until an agricultural trade fair in 1948. It was a hit at the show, and some 150 orders were taken there and then.

Avatar photo

Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.