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    Hot trends

     Four-Wheel Drive Fascination
    Transportation: Things that go
    I have a fascination with four-wheel drive vehicles since early childhood. The freedom to drive where there are no roads is appealing. From a very early age, I have been aware of the advantages of owning a 4 wheel X 4 powered truck. You can get out of snow and icy spots during the winter. Two wheel drive pickup trucks are notoriously light in the rear end and spin even on dry pavement. There is a backlash now with gas prices being high. Sport Utility vehicles seem to be a status symbol of the upper middle class and conspicuous consumption.

    Dodge Power Wagon Town Wagon
    My dad parted with his precious 1964 Pontiac GTO in 1967 to buy a slightly used 1966 Dodge Power Wagon Town Wagon. This was our family’s only vehicle from 1967-1972. Privately owned four-wheel drive vehicles were a rarity in the early 1970’s, even in Minnesota. Most were Jeep vehicles that had special purposes as farm or plowing trucks. The Town wagon was a special looking truck. It rode high. It had snow tires on all four wheels. It did not have hubcaps. The front windshield was a wrap-around style on a hood and fenders carried over from the late 50’s Dodge pickup trucks. The regular pickups were the flat "Sweptline" series. Also the Town Wagon looked different from the WM300 military style Power wagon sometimes seen as a plow or wrecker truck. The Town wagon did not have many amenities, being a basic heater with keys vehicle. The transmission was a 3 speed on the floor, with locking hubs on the front wheels and an always-on transfer case. It had a heavy truck Orscheln lever-style parking brake. The seat belts were the kind still found on commercial airliners today. The Town Wagon (along with the GMC Suburban carryall) was the predecessor to the more modern SUV.

    Ford Camper Special

    The Town Wagon eventually gave way to a 1972 Mercury Monterey wagon with air conditioning. But I never forgot how cool it was to ride in that big truck. In the late 1970’s, two family friends had Ford Camper Special pickup trucks equipped with the 7.5 liter 460 ci V8 engine. One of them was a Super Camper Special, with a long wheelbase and a special fender side compartment for the spare tire. The Ford Camper Special was cool both because of its power, but also because of the notion that the truck was specifically meant to haul a pickup camper to remote areas that a regular RV could not go. I had a chance to drive these trucks, and the power was unbelievable. The modern Ford Super-Duty camper package is still available with the stronger springs, heavier alternator, and rear stabilizer bar. New pickup campers are a rarity now, with most people spending the money for a trailer or self-propelled recreational vehicle.

    Mercedes Unimog

    One vehicle rarely seen in North America is the Unimog. Many might know the blue Unimog “mud puddle truck” Matchbox toy. The Unimog (from the German "UNIversal-MOtor-Gerät", meaning "universal motor appliance") is a truck from Daimler-Benz designed shortly after WWII, originally to be used as a farm tractor for harvesting potatoes and turnips.

    The Unimog trucks are tough; there is not really an American equivalent. Unimogs have very high ground clearance made possible by portal gears that allow the axles and transmission to be higher than the tires' centers. Unimogs also feature a flexible frame that allows the tires a wide range of vertical movement to allow the truck to comfortably drive over extremely uneven terrain.

    Unimogs are equipped with front and rear tool mounting brackets and hydraulic connections to allow bucket loaders and hydraulic arms to be used. They have a power takeoff (PTO) connection to operate rotary equipment such as snow brooms, snow blowers, brush mowers, or stationary conveyor belts.

    The Unimog is very expensive. Many of the same duties are performed by Caterpillar or John Deere machinery in the United States in a comparatively priced traditional tractor configuration.

    While in Germany and Austria, I had a chance to see these trucks in action. They make sense, because quite often the workers have to bring their equipment from the storage garage. In this way they are not left at a job site. I did not see many in use in farms. In the Burgenland area of Austria, for example, the farmers live in town. But they drive their tractors like passenger cars out to the fields and in town. Most districts have Unimog snow plows and ditch mowers.


    The original Jeep, produced as a general-purpose vehicle during World War Two, is interesting in its own way. It has a distinctive design, still carried on today. I have always liked the original civilian jeeps. I have driven the Wrangler. It feels modern, yet tough. But it does not feel nostalgic.

    My 4x4 today

    I currently own a 2001 GMC Sierra 4x4. It has the nicer riding Z85 package, which was the final deciding factor. I really do not get the hype with the Z71, as most four-wheel drive trucks in the 21st Century never leave the blacktop. The Ford Super Duty rides hard, as does the Dodge. The Ford 1-50 had not yet been redesigned, and I was not thrilled with the rounded 1997 total re-tooling. The latest F-150, which mimics the Super Duty, is more to my liking. But the Super Duty F-250/F-350 is a cooler shape. The Sierra is so much more luxurious than the Town Wagon. Over 35 years many improvements have been made for four-wheel drive trucks. Here are some of the big ones:

    • Automatic chokes, fuel injection, and electronic ignition
    • Automatic two speed transfer case with automatic locking hubs
    • Comfortable cloth bucket seats with shoulder seat belts and provisions for child seats
    • Safety padding instead of a steel dashboard, with airbags
    • Air conditioning
    • AM/FM stereo CD player
    • Automatic overdrive transmission
    • Power windows and door locks
    • Automatic headlights and daylight running lights


    Mercedes Benz Unimogs
    Unimog Trucks ( in North America The official Mercedes Benz/Daimler Chrysler/Freightliner site
    Mercedes Benz official Unimog site in Germany ( - German language site
    Mercedes Benz official Unimog site in Britain (
    Unimog Network International (
    Unimog Club Austria ( - German language site
    Unimog-Magazine (
    UnimogUSA ( A unimog dealer in Arizona
    The Unimog WherehausA Unimog reseller in Oregon with a nice identification guide to Unimogs
    Westfield 4x4 A Web Site with good documentation on the Unimog concept and model differences.
    Unimog Sales ( with lots of technical data the German Police car site - German language site, Lots of pictures including German police Unimogs
    Brutus's Unimog site with many links
    Unimog-S 404 FAQ with many Unimog links

    Jeep.comThe official Daimler/Chrysler Jeep site
    The CJ-3B home pageLots of pictures of Jeep CJ-3Bs

    GMC Trucks (

    Ford trucks
    Ford Motor Company Ford Trucks (
    Ford Trucks siteLots of images and a forum
    fordification.comThe 1967-1972 Ford Pickup Resource

    Dodge trucks, Power Wagons and Town Wagons
    Dodge Trucks (
    Classic Dodge Sweptline trucks
    Dodge Town WagonSpecifically the Town Wagon version of the power wagon
    Dodgepowerwagon.comBig photo gallery of power wagons and specs
    Johnny Burrito uses power wagons for promotional purposes and has a lot of old pictures
    Posted on Friday, April 28, 2006 @ 10:37:26 UTC by BB
    "Four-Wheel Drive Fascination" | Login/Create an Account | 3 comments
    The comments are owned by the poster. We aren't responsible for their content.

    No Comments Allowed for Anonymous, please register

    Bavarian Unimog Friends (Score: 1)
    by BB on Friday, April 28, 2006 @ 10:40:59 UTC
    (User Info ) []

    Lots of pictures and info (In German) about Unimogs

    RG-31 and Mamba superior to the Humvee (Score: 1)
    by BB on Thursday, May 04, 2006 @ 07:39:08 UTC
    (User Info )
    A cousin stationed in Iraq mentions that the Unimog is not seen in theater for "obvious reasons". I am not sure if those are political or practical. Nevertheless, he mentioned the RG-31 built by BAE Systems in South Africa. The BAE Mamba is based upon a Unimog driveline. The RG-31 is based upon the Mamba, so might be somewhat related. []

    This cousin is involved in up-armoring the Humvees for protection from anti-personal devices. However he says the Mamba and RG-31 are superior, having been designed with V-shape underbodies specifically to deflect land mine blasts.

    Other Unimog links (Score: 1)
    by BB on Thursday, October 05, 2006 @ 07:25:11 UTC
    (User Info )
    Check out these other Unimog links:
    UNIMOG: Universal-Motor-Gerät - Universal Motorized Implement

    Unimog models sorted by Baumuster or model number []

    All wheel drive sales Australia []
    Check out their local authority or municipal application unimogs: []

    Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG - Overview of the UNIMOG models made during the 1953-1962 period []

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