Performance strength and winners’ podium.

1976–1985 | Continuation of heavy-duty Unimog model series and rally successes.

The successful story of the Unimog began 75 years ago. A good opportunity to look back at the allrounder’s milestones and key developments. This part of the series is devoted to the fourth decade from the mid-1970s, which brought some new model series and further developments.

New models with a rough-and-ready profile.

In 1976 Daimler-Benz AG celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Unimog with the star on the bonnet. Nearly 200,000 vehicles had been produced since the start of production in Gaggenau. In September of the same year the new 424 model series, also known as the "heavy-duty model series" was launched with the U 1000. Its unmistakeable hallmark: the distinctive side protrusions on the bonnet, underlining the boxy appearance of the hugely popular model series – particularly with towns and municipalities. Outside of Europe, too, the Unimog continued to prove very popular, for example for special applications in development aid as a mobile medical practice.

In total, by the end of the 1980s eight models with a different engine output were developed within model series 424 and 425 – from 95 hp to 150 hp. But the crowning glory when it came to performance was achieved by the U 1700 L from model series 435, whose 6-cylinder engine with an exhaust gas turbocharger boasted no less than 168 hp and thus had a payload of up to 5 t. Perfect for especially high-power tasks in agriculture and forestry.

Model series 435 with a crewcab.

The 435 model series, with 30,726 units built, was the most successful "heavy-duty model series" and was shaped to a large extent by the U 1300 L, which is still optimally suited to hobby conversions to this day. The long wheelbase of 3250 mm is the main feature differentiating it from the 425 model series.

Alongside the high-performance U 1700 L, as of 1983 the all-terrain U 1300 L was given spacious crewcabs from the manufacturer Wackenhut from Nagold. These cabs, particularly popular for expeditions and research trips, offered room for up to 7 people in the cab. Most of the specially equipped Unimog models were used in the construction trade and industry.


The 250,000th Unimog: a U 1250.

A further model established in the 1980s was the Unimog U 1250 specially developed for municipal use. It belonged to the 424 model series and also had the longest wheelbase; 3250 mm. On 12 September 1984 there was every reason to celebrate the successful model. For this was the day when a U 1250 rolled off the production line. It was the 250,000th Unimog to do so.

Mercedes-Benz Unimog U 1300 L, 435 model series as a rally vehicle in the 1985 Paris-Dakar Rally.
Karl-Friedrich Capito’s team in the Unimog won the truck competition in the 7th Paris-Dakar Rally.
The Unimog impressed above all on the last leg of the rally, in which challenging off-road sections had to be negotiated.
Mercedes-Benz Unimog U 1300 L, 435 model series as a rally vehicle in the 1985 Paris-Dakar Rally.

Legendary rally winner.

The most punishing desert race in the world took place for the seventh time in 1985: the Paris-Dakar Rally. The infamous off-road challenge took its intrepid drivers across 14,000 km from Versailles to the beach at Dakar. And in the lead: two converted Unimog U 1300 L models. At the helm: Karl-Friedrich Capito from Neunkirchen, together with his sons Jost and Volker Capito. Whereas the finishing line had been missed by a whisker in 1984 due to a minor defect, the U 1300 L was completely overhauled the following year in Gaggenau.

The outcome was impressive. With an engine output of 180 hp, a reinforced cab plus roll bars, the vehicle from the 435 model series was transformed into a robust racing Unimog, which was optimally equipped even for the night-time legs, thanks to its six additional Hella headlamps with 750 watts.

Pendulum tube axles with helical springs as well as its low unladen weight also enabled the U 1300 L to manoeuvre through the scree desert of the southern Sahara at high speeds. But it was the low construction height that brought the decisive advantage. Whilst some other drivers were forced to stop in the jungle and move branches blocking their path, the U 1300 L was able to pass through that section swiftly due to its compact design.

In the end the Capitos were rewarded with the well-deserved first place. A crowning glory to the fourth decade of a continuing success story. That of the Unimog.

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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