At 20 ft. long and 9 ft. high, weighing 15,500 lbs., and rated as a Class 6 or 7 vehicle, the Unimog is a formidable machine that is as capable in the field as it is on the highway. Indeed, its ability to run at .8 mph or .08 in crawler gear through any boggy field in the back forty, then move capably to highway speeds of 70 mph, cuts unproductive road time and the need to transfer loads from a field tractor to a road machine.
The Unimog has been a Daimler Benz, now Daimler Chrysler, product since at least 1950. Conceived in 1942 as a forward-control all-wheel-drive vehicle, the Unimog became the first agricultural tractor with synchronized transmission in 1959. That year, 50,000 rolled off the assembly line. By 1994, 300,000 Unimogs had been produced. Daimler Chrysler introduced new model Unimogs in 2000 and announced plans to distribute them in the United States through its Class 8 subsidiary, Freightliner Corporation of Portland, OR.
Freightliner is marketing the newest incarnation of this do-everything vehicle to commercial markets ranging from utilities to fire trucking to farming. The retail price will be about $90,000.
As a farm tractor, the Unimog features a Central Tire Inflation system, making its footprint as soft as it needs to be for harvest, spraying, seeding or spreading (see “Tire trends,” page 40). It has six reverse gears and 18 in. of ground clearance. A 3-pt. hitch and rear PTO will be available next spring.
In the fallow months, the Unimog can become a profit center. It can plow snow or be used as a utility vehicle. It can cut brush or run any number of hydraulic tools either from the outside or using a cab-mounted joystick.
In Salt Lake recently the Unimog cut wood with a hydraulic chain saw fitted to one of its hydraulic stations and pumped water from a 550-gal. tank fitted to its flat bed from a rear station.
It also has a front-mounted mechanical power takeoff for running implements with higher power ratings than the three hydraulic power options can handle. The PTO will run equipment with power requirements up to 150 kW. This unit will turn as fast as 1,000 rpm and deliver just a hair over 200 hp. In short, if you can buy an implement, the Unimog will run it.
Powering this multiuse work platform is the Mercedes Benz OM900, electronic, 6-cyl. diesel rated at 230 or 280 hp. The transmission is a high-tech electro-pneumatic eight speed with optional 16-speed deep reduction. Merely moving the shift lever backward or forward signals direction. A readout on the dash indicates torque and correct gear as the driver accelerates and rpms climb. Depressing the clutch and flicking the shift lever activates the gear shown on the dash, or the driver can manually select.
Perhaps the most surprising feature among many is the variable steering system. The steering wheel and dash can be slid from one side of the truck to the other to accommodate working from the right-hand seat.
On the highway, the Unimog is comfortable although a little noisy given its typical off-road tires. But you can work it all day, all night, all year and not be ashamed to drive it to church on Sunday.