Success models and performance plus.

1956–1965 | The complete Unimog model range is created.

For 75 years now the Unimog has stood for efficiency, flexibility and legendary off-road capabilities like no other vehicle. In the second part of our chronicle, we show you the famous series which defined the Unimog in the second decade of its existence – and provided the basis for the wide product range which characterises the all-rounder from Mercedes-Benz to this day.

The Unimog 411 series adds extra performance.

At the 1956 DLG (German Agricultural Society) exhibition in Hanover, Daimler-Benz presented the Unimog series 411, the successor to the 401/402 series. Its important characteristic was greater performance. Its 30 horsepower provided that crucial extra to serve higher agricultural requirements. But comfort was not neglected either: in addition to improved seats, reinforced shock absorbers were fitted to the 411 series.

As with the previous model, a short and a long wheelbase version were available ex-works. The long wheelbase model was extremely popular, because from 1957 it could be equipped with a newly developed cab. The all-steel cab provided much more space than before, and the equipment features specific to Daimler and a design with rounded edges were impressive at the time, setting standards in the commercial vehicle segment.

Thanks to its agility, its relatively high speed and its excellent off-road performance, the Unimog was used increasingly for transportation. The power take-off shafts available at the front and rear provided users with the best possible conditions for the flexible use of saws, pumps, cable winches and other equipment.

Off-road service.

From the middle of the 1950s there was increased military interest in the Unimog thanks to its outstanding off-road properties for which approach and departure angles of 45 degrees at the front and rear presented no problem. With the Unimog S (model series 404) a vehicle was created which fulfilled the high military requirements. The Unimog S had a large load area which could be used as a platform or a box-body. Unlike the Unimog in civilian use at the time, high-horsepower petrol engines were used.

The numerous versions of the Unimog S were produced in Gaggenau until 1980 – with 64,242 vehicles, this model series is the most successful to date. The 404 model series was highly popular with fire brigades.

The history of the Unimog firefighting vehicles

Non-stop technical progress.

Further development of the Unimog continued over the years with steady improvements to the vehicle and its components – following the motto "Evolution instead of revolution". At the end of the 1950s stronger compressed-air brakes were added, the steering was improved and a hydraulic power lift was introduced. In 1959 there was a real premiere in the commercial vehicle sector: the fully synchronised 6-speed transmission which had been fitted to the Unimog 411 since 1957 as special equipment then became standard. It made gear changes not only more comfortable than before but also much more efficient. A multi-stage crawler transmission was also available for the Unimog if desired.

A traction head version of the Unimog 411 series with front cable winch and drive-on lift truck body from Ruthmann was popular on construction sites.
As a flexible freight expert, this Unimog U 30 from the 411 model series, with a front-attached compressor and low-loader, transported a construction machine to where it was needed.
Pickaback on a big brother: Unimog 406 series as a traction head version transporting a 411 series Unimog with a front loader.
A broad selection was shown on this exhibition stand with different Unimog from the 401 and 411 series in the Netherlands.
At demonstrations with agricultural implements, the Unimog always showed its mettle.
At an off-road demonstration on the Sauberg near Gaggenau, the Unimog 411 showed it really had no fear of water.
Thanks to its track width, the Unimog could drive directly between the rows of potatoes.
Unimog 411 series with a front-mounted mowing boom maintained grass verges.
Powerful off-road: the design advantages of the Unimog with all-wheel drive, differential lock and portal axles were kept for all model series.
At work in the vineyards: Unimog 411 series with Binger cable winch.
The design drawing of a 411 series Unimog put efficiency down on paper in detail.
The 406 series was developed among other things for increased transport requirements in agriculture.
Thanks to its high pulling power, the Unimog 406 series can also be used as a road-rail vehicle on railway tracks.
A traction head version of the Unimog 411 series with front cable winch and drive-on lift truck body from Ruthmann was popular on construction sites.
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Big brother: the Unimog 406 model series.

At the 1962 DLG exhibition, Daimler-Benz celebrated yet another Unimog premiere. The Unimog 406 – the "heavy-duty model series" – was introduced with a wider track and a longer wheelbase, to meet the need for larger and more powerful agricultural machines. The throttled diesel engine could generate 65 hp and was designed to produce this output when fully loaded and in long use. Later, more powerful engines with up to 110 hp followed.

With a top speed of 65 km/h the Unimog 406 series was perfect for operation as a road-based towing vehicle. On the other hand, in the crawler gear it could be as slow as 0.03 km/h. The range left little to be desired.

In the cab too, the comfort of the 406 series was improved. For the first time there were upholstered adjustable driver seats. The ergonomics of the cab were also extremely comfortable, even for operation on long working days. That made the versions with all-steel cabs particularly popular members of municipal works fleets. However the heavy-duty Unimog series soon established itself as a favourite for construction and industrial companies too.

Still in use today.

With the model series which were developed and produced in Gaggenau from the mid-1950s, the Unimog was able to position itself on the market as a true bestseller. When the heavy-duty model series was introduced, the product range of the Unimog developed to a truly complete selection. Thanks to its high flexibility and efficiency, it was useful not only in its original segment, agriculture, but also in many other lines of business.

The secret of its success was a convincing vehicle concept which was consistently retained, with clever technical improvements constantly being added. Evidence for the high quality of the series which were produced for many decades is the fact that many of the vehicles are still in operation today.

A story worth continuing?

Further chapters of the Unimog vehicle’s eventful success story will be published in the coming months. Don’t miss any articles – get a free subscription to the Unimog E-News.

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