The Mercedes-Benz Unimog – the Success of an Idea
May 23, 2011
1951 to 1963: Additional models widen the product range
  • 1951: In June, start of series production in Gaggenau
  • 1955: Unimog S (product range 404), all-round for offroad work
  • 1956: Unimog product range 411
  • 1957: New closed driving cab
On 3 June 1951 the production of the Unimog was taken up in Gaggenau, still with the old ox-head trademark and without the Mercedes star. The compact, just 3.5 m long vehicle still managed to get by with 25 hp. Although just as simple as ever, the very ingenious construction had long since proved its amazingly strong work potential.
Efficient production in an automobile plant
From then on, Unimog production and sales really took off: the sales division taken over from Boehringer was gradually integrated in the Daimler-Benz set-up – although agriculture meant a completely new field for them. The more efficient production in an automobile plant lowered costs, making it possible to have more competitive prices on the market. However, it was not until May 1953 that the Unimog was able to wear the Mercedes star on its radiator grill and another three years passed before the Mecedes trademark replaced previously-used ox-head in 1956.
However in the long run the original standard model was simply not enough. Further developments led in 1953 to the introduction of a new Unimog product range, the 401/402. From now on, as an alternative to the angular cab with the convertible-type roof, a version was on offer with a closed cab. Here the production was taken on by Westfalia, known later mainly as a manufacturer of camper vans.
Unimog S attracts a lot of customers
After this the Unimog took great strides forwards with its innovations and improvements. In 1955, Daimler-Benz produced the first Unimog S (product range 404). It had a longer wheelbase and was predestined for offroad operations. In the background were the requirements for the German Federal Armed Forces, which were set up in 1956, and during the long career of the Unimog S – it was built for a quarter of a century until 1980 – they turned into a major customer for this version.
The Unimog S carried the typical oval radiator grill with the round headlights used by the other Daimler-Benz commercial vehicles of this period. Its cab was timeless and attractively designed. In comparison with the original Unimog, the wheelbase grew by about a metre first to 2670 mm (8.8 ft), then to 2900 mm (9.5 ft). Under the bonnet of the Unimog S there was no longer a diesel engine as in the original Unimog, but a modified petrol engine from a car. At the beginning it had 82 hp with 2.2 l (2200 cc), later as an alternative 110 hp from 2.8 l (2800 cc).
Engine performance improves and additional versions are built
The basic Unimog 401/402 was also not one for marking time: In1956 its engine performance increased from 25 to 30 hp; its classification changed to Unimog 411. And not only that, a second, longer wheelbase was also available. One year later the Unimog could also be ordered with an optional synchronised gearbox instead of the dog clutch transmission used up to then, by 1959 the new gearbox was standard.
Also the exterior was undergoing changes: in 1957 the closed versions with a long wheelbase were given a new cab. With all these innovations and diversifications, success came knocking at the door: In May 1961, the 50,000th Unimog rolled off the assembly line in Gaggenau. The original Unimog, however, was still the production mainstay for the Unimog range right into the seventies. Above it, from the sixties onward, the range of Unimog vehicles fanned out widely.
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