The art of engineering and a pioneering spirit.

1946–1955 | The Unimog – the initial years and the first successful models.

For 75 years now the Unimog has stood for efficiency, flexibility and legendary off-road capabilities like no other vehicle. Resourceful engineers whose goal was to make the best possible use of the Unimog vehicle's versatility laid the foundation for this success story.

The birth of the Unimog.

Albert Friedrich is one of the Unimog vehicle's founding fathers. Immediately after World War II the former head of Daimler-Benz aircraft engine production recognised the enormous need that small and mid-sized companies working in Germany's agricultural sector had for tractors. In addition to off-road capabilities, there was great demand for a vehicle that was simple to convert for a range of very different tasks.

From 1946 a dedicated team headed by the engineers Albert Friedrich, Heinrich Rößler and Hans Zabel developed and tested the first prototypes for such a commercial vehicle on the premises of Erhard & Söhne. It was Hans Zabel who took the somewhat cumbersome project name "Universal-Motor-Gerät für Landwirtschaft" (Universally applicable motorised machine for agriculture) and created the succinct abbreviation "Unimog".

The Boehringer Unimog goes into production.

By the end of the development phase the team had created a vehicle with all-wheel drive, differential locks and portal axles which met all the demands regarding transport volume and tractive force but was still capable of driving 50 km/h. In addition implements could be fitted on all sides – a clear advantage when compared with the classic tractor to which implements could only be attached at the rear. The engine was a Daimler-Benz OM 636, a robust diesel engine which guaranteed cost-efficient operation.

In 1948 the Unimog was presented to a professional audience for the first time at the trade fair in Frankfurt organised by the German Agricultural society. There the response to the vehicle was very positive, not least due to its impressive driving characteristics both on the road and in difficult terrain, its easy operation and great versatility. That year, the Unimog also went into series production for the first time at the Boehringer factory in Göppingen which had already delivered cast parts for the prototypes.

The hallmark of the very first 70200 model series, of which around 600 vehicles were built, was the ox-head logo. Today there are still around 120 of those Boehringer Unimog – and many of them are still in operati

Gaggenau becomes home to the Unimog.

As demand for the Unimog grew, not just in Germany but increasingly abroad too, production capacity at the Boehringer factory was soon insufficient. A take-over agreement was signed with Daimler-Benz and in 1951 production began in the truck plant at Gaggenau. The vehicle was still sold under the name "Unimog 25 PS" and with only small modifications to its design it was possible to produce considerably more Unimog from the new 2010 model series thanks to more rational production processes. Thus in the first seven months of 1951 just over 1000 Unimog were produced in Gaggenau.

Improved power take-offs opened up the possibility of new applications in the forestry industry and in field work. Suddenly work that had previously required many hands could be done by one person. Very quickly further areas of operation were discovered for the Unimog as a support vehicle in the fire service or in road construction.

The Unimog U 401 and 402 model series.

From 1953 Daimler-Benz manufactured the new Unimog 400 model series in Gaggenau. While the wheelbase on the U 401 was still 1720 mm, the U 402 was introduced as an extended variant with a wheelbase measuring 2120 mm. For the first time both models were available with a closed cab. With its striking headlamps the series was soon affectionately known as "Frog eye". The vehicle also sported another new feature: the Mercedes-Benz star was now mounted on the bonnet instead of the ox head.

The cab was now closed and it was possible to fit a dumper flatbed operated with compressed air so that not only construction firms, the post office and the rail company were interested in the Unimog, but local authorities too. After all the vehicle wasn't just suitable for various tasks during the mild seasons, but could also be employed as the perfect snow-clearing vehicle in the winter. An even greater range of implements and trailers could be operated thanks to the compressed-air system.

The word about the all-round vehicle's excellent quality spread: in 1954 the Unimog was given the coveted forestry badge for its operational capability in forestry management. And that marked only the beginning of a very long list of awards and recommendations from a range of very different industries.

The Unimog U1 prototype with a front-mounted mower and a rear-mounted plough was designed for agricultural operations.
Unimog U 25, 2010 model series as a tractor unit with Haller semitrailer for emptying mud boxes for drains.
The semi-automatic potato-planting machine at the rear of a Unimog U 25 was one of the most popular implements during the Unimog vehicle's initial years.
The Unimog 70200 model series proved its worth as a fire tender with Metz equipment attachment and front-mounted pump during fire-fighting operations.
A rare exhibit: a 402 model series as a tractor unit with passenger transport semitrailer on the airport apron.
This Unimog U25, 401 model series bears the iconic Mercedes-Benz star on its bonnet.
Unimog U25, 2010 model series (left with side-mounted wood chipper and loading trailer) and 401 model series (right with beet harvester) save time and labour during the beet harvest.
The Unimog U25, 2010 model series with trailer transporting split logs.
An expert in transportation, the Unimog U25, 2010 model series transporting a bulldozer for the city utility company in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1954.
A force to be reckoned with on the construction site: the Unimog U25, 402 model series as a tractor unit version with a Donges Unikran crane.
Advertising in 1951: even then there were a great many arguments in favour of the Unimog.
The Unimog U1 prototype with a front-mounted mower and a rear-mounted plough was designed for agricultural operations.
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The beginning of a success story.

In its first ten years the Unimog was able to convince people of its worth with the very arguments that make it stand out even today: the combination of impressive off-road capability and comparatively high speeds on roads, its broad range of applications with numerous body and implement options as well as the high quality and durability of its parts.

Originally intended for agriculture, the Unimog was quickly put into operation in many other industries, shaping the fleets of towns and communities as well as those of contractors and forestry management. Today, many of the customers dating back to those initial years have remained loyal to the Unimog over generations.

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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